• AndyAsh

San Sebastian, and into France

Santo Domingo la Calzada to San Sebastian

When we got up at the hostal, there had been fresh snow overnight and it was hovering around 1 to 2 degrees. The manager was waiting for us and told us that the best thing was to get the bus. The bus is not practical with our set up; we thanked him and set off cycling to Miranda de Ebro to try to catch a train across the mountains.

We had a great 50kms of pretty easy cycling before we eventually landed at the train station. We were always just below the snowline, but it couldn't be described as fun, despite spectacular scenery.

In Miranda, we had no problem booking our bikes on the train, but they wouldn't fit in the allocated space. Many shenanigans later, we got them unloaded and bungeed to the carriage, just in time to load them up again to get them off the train. Looking out of the train window, we were very glad we were on the inside looking out rather than in the murky, snowy winter Cairngorms scene outside.

Two weeks ago it was 25 degrees!

Once in San Sebastian, we wrestled our bikes into contortions to get them into the lift, and popped out right next to the Hotel Terminus. The reception we got was great, for the first time a little English was spoken and our bikes and our persons were accommodated in warm, comfortable rooms.

Special mention goes to the Hotel bar, which was really nice, and opens out onto Platform 1 of the station.

I wasn't madly keen on chips and egg again, so we headed into San Sebastian for some great spicy noodles and real fresh vegetables.

San Sebastian to Capbreton 86 km

After a great breakfast experience in the Hotel bar, we set off into a rainy bleak morning. Luckily it was about ten degrees warmer than yesterday’s start, and so it didn't feel too uncomfortable.

Approaching Irun, the rain became heavy, and by the time we crossed the border into France, it was extremely heavy. The border to France went unmarked and virtually unnoticed, until the first block of shops had a “magasin du presse.”

After some wet cycling, the heavens really opened and we found ourselves in what could only be described as a deluge. It reminded us of our days in Kathmandu, when the monsoon rains came down and the streets were gushing with water.

We took refuge in a bus stop for a few minutes as pedalling uphill through deep water was so disorientating that it was difficult to stay on the bikes. To make things worse, the brakes completely failed on both bikes as the brake pads crumbled like a digestive biscuit dipped in tea too long.

Annette decided enough was enough and pulled off the road. She barrelled straight into a pizza parlour, and ordered two pizzas. Before I had sorted the bikes out she was stripped off and her waterproofs drying over the back of a chair. It may well have been the best pizza I ever had, and may well have saved us as we still had some twists and turns to come.

About 70 km or so in, we had another Google maps meltdown; the upshot of which saw us pushing our bikes through ankle deep mud and foul smelling water to reach a cycle path. Neither the bikes nor us did well. The bikes were wrecked, and we were like two angry wasps; dying to blame each other, but unable to because for the other 364 days a year this track would have been great. This day however, it was like trudging through pre-digested porridge.

We put our stings away, and luckily, we found the last 15km or so on great cycle paths, a little bit of a sweetener. It also stopped raining quite as heavily. We were nearly happy!

When we arrived in Capbreton, our target hotel was closed due to laziness and the owner being too work-shy to stay open all year! Luckily, we found one that was open, and a hotel owner who wasn't too upset at the prospect of letting two sorry, very aromatic individuals into his clean hotel. Big thanks to the Hotel du Cap, and a friendly and understanding manager.

Unable to get warm enough to go out to buy food, we ate the remains of what we had in our bags, surrounded by wet and smelly clothing hanging all over the room. All in all – a challenging day!

Capbreton to Mimizan Plage 84 km

It was raining heavily before we left the Hotel.

Having just got our clothes dry, it was an unpleasant prospect getting them wet all over again. And wet they were within minutes. We followed the well-marked and very friendly Eurovelo 1 all the way from Capbreton to Mimizan Plage. It was a shame to have such a thoroughly pleasant ride affected so badly by the weather.

It really was a beautiful ride, but the memory we will take away, is one of cold and discomfort. We stopped at 35 km to drink a quick coffee, but after that found it impossible to stop. Whilst we were moving, it was possible to stay at least not too cold (warm was fairly and squarely off the menu aujord hui).

Because we couldn't stop, we couldn't eat, because we couldn't eat, we couldn't keep warm. It was a vicious circle.

The forecast was for the rain to stop for a few hours, and when it did, we got excited. The excitement didn't last, as just a few minutes later it started to hail. Fantastic!

It was a strange mixture of funny and not funny; something like those TV programmes where somebody falls off a rope swing into a muddy puddle, or it’s somebody’s wedding video and the groom faints or something. you know it shouldn't be funny, but it is.

We were unexpectedly pleased when the hail turned back into just cold rain again…thankful for small mercies!

With only one and a half kilometres to go, Annette couldn't go any further without eating something. I sat freezing cold, impatient, and grumpy, while we ate a quick sandwich. Annette seems to deal with the cold much better than me; it is not pleasant for me, but there's not much that can be done.

We met a young Belgian tourer, heading south on an electric bike, with a GPS. He had much better clothing and equipment than us, and looked much more comfortable. He passed on some good information, and then set off again, smiling; keen to put some more kilometres on the clock. I felt a bit amateur looking at him…and a bit too cold. I had huge annoying pangs of jealousy...he was having more fun than me!

No photographs today. I didn't dare take my phone out, and also my fingers had stopped working early in the day. At the hotel I had to take my gloves off with my teeth.

Still pointed north!

Mimizan Plage to La Teste De Buch 74 km

We left the hotel reluctantly this morning. It was raining stair rods, and the whole town was shuttered up with not a soul to be seen. The sea was angry and violent and we could hear it as clearly as we could the night before, despite the thumping fat rain. I must admit to feeling a bit despondent, as I felt as wet after a few minutes riding as I had the night before.

Within an hour or so, the rain stopped and we were left with a bitterly cold and damp day. That of course cheered us up no end, as we swapped cold and wet for just merely cold.

While Annette nipped into the supermarket, I had a great chat with a little old lady with a big sense of humour. With a twinkle in her eye, she told me what she thought of Boris Johnson, and what she thought should be done with him. My French is not great, but it seemed to involve violence AND humiliation. She cheered me up no end; I hope I can hold a grudge as well as her, if I get to reach her age!

After the early deluge, the day was unremarkable. As we cruised along arrow-straight, flat, and seemingly endless roads, a headwind saw us working just hard enough to keep warm…ish, and as I took my turn to pull, I switched off my brain. In the depths of my imagination, I had an imaginary conversation with an equally imaginary Nepali taxi driver, in Nepali. Inside my head he waited patiently for minutes at a time while I thought of Nepali words long forgotten.

We arrived at Teste de la Buch and decided to stay there, as there is a Decathlon, where we could buy some more clothes. Annette did well, as a seasoned shopper, but as I am neither small, nor extra, extra, extra large, there was nothing for me apart from a pair of gloves, and a lesson in managing frustration.

We have come to the point where we need to leave the Eurovelo route, at least for the time being as much of the route is closed due to the storms. We will need to be a bit smarter with our navigation, but we’re not sure how yet.

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