Montalivet les Bains, France to Estella, Spain

08-05-08 Thursday – Montalivet-les-Bains to Lacanau-Ocean
4 hrs. 10 min. 14.2 Av. 59kms Total 1243kms

Woke up at 08:00 and were on the road by 09:00.
We were so tired last night after a long day on the bike and a good steak with several beers to wash it down that we just went straight to bed. We couldn’t take a shower anyway as there were no lights in the building.
This morning we just took a nice shower and left without even a cup of coffee. The route was easy going through pine forest on a perfect cycling path.
It was a good decision to take this route along flat pine forest and next to the sea as preparation for the Spanish hills.
We rode from town to town looking for a good campground so we could chill for a day.
At Lacanau-Ocean we stepped into the tourist office for some information and they had a pamphlet ready with pictures of the different camping in the area and we chose one about 500m outside of town on the North side.
It was very well organized and priced OK but don’t try and buy anything at the camp supermarket as its very expensive. Even the bar charged €2.20 for a glass of beer, now that is shameful.
The camping has its own path through the sand dunes to the beach, and everything is kept real clean. Overall a nice place to stay for an extra day.
After setting up the tent we went to check out the town (about 500m from the camping). The town naturally is geared for the tourists and also the prices. It’s OK I guess but I wouldn’t want to be here during high season with every family of France here on holiday.

2008050801

Monique tearing up the road. This section was silk smooth.

2008050802

The whole area is really geared up for the tourists with every junction signposted.

2008050803

Finally the beach.

2008050804

The happy couple on the Lacacau-Ocean promenade.

2008050805

Looking south along the coast.

2008050806

And looking north.

2008050807

Many surfers out on this calm afternoon.

09-05-08 Friday- Rest day Lacanau-Ocean

Did pretty much nothing today. Almost slept the clock around and when we finally got up we went and did some chores.
After doing the laundry and a few other things we walked into town for an expensive or I should say overpriced launch and on the way back to camp I spotted a bike shop and walked in to ask if it was OK to borrow the proper tool to check Monique’s front hub.
Back at camp we had a very good siesta got on our bikes and headed for the bike shop in town. Took care of business with the front hub went into the supermarket and got pasta salad, bread, cheese, dry nuts and a bottle of wine. And after having dinner we went over the sand dunes to the beach and enjoyed a very beautiful sunset with a bottle of wine. I had been dreaming of this moment for a long time and we made it happen.
We were also glad the weather was still nice but after some asking around found out that the forecast for the next several days is rain, rain and more rain, oh what fun.
Tomorrow we try for Mimizan plage at around 100km but it’s an open plan we go as far as we can and look for a camping, there seems to be many along the coast.

2008050807a

The beach at low tide near our camping. Click to view larger.

2008050908

It wasn’t really necessary, but it’s nice to have a peace of mind knowing it was properly tightened.

2008050909

Got the vino and snacks for our picnic on the beach.

2008050910

When we got to the beach the surfers were still out in force.

2008050911

And our long awaited sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

10-05-08 Saturday – Lacanau-Ocean to Sanguinnet
6 hrs. 14.1 Av. 85kms Total 1328kms

Woke up around 07:00 and we took our time getting ready because we needed to wait for the reception to open at 09:00. We should have paid the night before but…. Wine on the beach was more important.
The day started out great, cycling through seemingly endless pine forests on very smooth cycling paths, but after Lege-Cap-Ferret it was riding through endless suburbs. Good cycling path but it was several hours of looking at people’s backyards.
After the 25km run through the suburbs of Bassin d’Arcachon the situation got even worst as we had to get on the very busy, fast and no shoulder  D216 to Sanguinet. Now I have to say to anyone thinking of riding around here to avoid this road, it was not a pleasant experience.
We wanted to go further today but just before Sanguinet we felt some rain drops and decided to just find a camping here for the night.
It’s still early season here and some camping’s are just opening up, meaning no mini market anywhere.
As soon as we set up our tent the sun came out and made us feel bad about stopping so early.
Another downer for today was when we checked our schedule we found out that we’re way behind and most like not make it to Finistare, Spain. We were hoping to but it would take an extra three days. We never thought that we would fall so far behind. Our main goal was to make it to Santiago and everything else comes second.
We will see how it goes through the Spanish hills all we know is that we need to be in Porto on the 30th for our flight home.

2008051012

Great cycling in the beginning of the day.

2008051013

Just loved cycling here.

2008051014

Finally out of the sand dunes and pine forests, now began riding through the 25kms of suburbs. Also began to see more of these blue yellow Camino signs.

11-05-08 Sunday – Sanguinet to Dax
7 hrs. 10 min. 15.8 Av. 114kms Total 1441kms

Woke up at 06:30 and were on the road by 08:00.
We got some supplies in town and got on the D46 to Parentis-en-Born, Pontex-les-Forges, Escource.
This morning we met this Dutch cyclist who was doing a solo tour from Malaga, Madrid, Santiago and finally Dan Haag. Now there is a name for this route but after some research I could not find out what, I’ll keep looking.
Late on we met this other Dutch guy (50ish) that was doing the Camino for the second or third time so he said. But the guy looked like a creep (eyeballing Monique all the time) so we didn’t bother with exchanging cards.
From Escource we got on the very rural D140 to Onesse than just +/-5kms after Lesperon we got on the D10E which runs right next to the E5.
This whole route all the way to the E5 was very nice indeed, we were riding through pine forests all the way. The fresh air and quietness of the area was great and we did good time.
The D10E is silk smooth but just before Castels we finally got rained on again, it was only a local shower and after just a few minutes we were already dry.
We continued on the D10E all the way to Magescq were we got on the D16 for the final 15kms to Dax where we looked for and found this camping near the river Adour. The camping was OK but again no mini market open. When I asked the girl at the counter she said the mini market is closed on Sundays ?!? on a camping?
Also when we went to set up the tent guess who was there already, the weird Dutch guy we met on the road, great, we had a little chat before getting some dinner and going to sleep.
Also have to remember to use some suntan lotion that I’m carrying around, especially on my head which I managed to fry today.

2008051115

Early morning on the D46 heading to Pontenx les Forges.

2008051116

At the cross roads in Pontenx-les-Forges.

2008051117

Back on the road after getting some more supplies. The sun came out, Monique was smiling what else could one ask for.

2008051118

Cantaloup, one of the many rivers we crossed in this area.

2008051119

Another lonely stretch of road between pine forests. Just a great day to cycle.

2008051120

We stopped to take a picture of this sign when this other tourist stopped by.
He took our picture and we met up with him again in Dax, but it was something strange about this guy so we kept at arms length.

12-05-08 Monday – Dax to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
8 hrs. 13.2 Av. 104kms Total 1545kms

We woke up at 06:30 and on the road by 08:00. We knew this day was going to be long and we wanted to get an early start.
After the initial wrong turn we doubled back about a km (uphill of course) and found the very nice rural D29 which we followed to Peyrehorade on the Adour river. It was on this road that we met another two Dutch cyclists doing the Camino, but these guys were riding very light and staying in hotels. Also found out later on that the son of one of them was going to meet them later on in Spain and take all of their luggage by car for the rest of the way.
At Peyrehorade we stopped at a bakery for some supplies and continued along the river Adour to Carresse were we crossed the river and continued on the D29 to St.Palais were we switched to the D8 following the river Bidouze to its source. Now this is not the easiest route because after the D8 turns into the D518 it begins to get tougher where it finally reaches the Col des Palombieres at 337m with the last bit at 16%. We just couldn’t ménage this climb and had to walk the 16% bit, it was just too much at the end of the day.
When we finally reached the D22, it probably was the hills and the afternoon sun combined, but I chose the wrong way and after a couple long down hills I noticed my compass pointing North instead of South, what a bummer, we ended up double backing to the D933 which was really tough now. We were really glad we had a couple Red Bulls in our panniers just for these occasions.
We followed the D933 for the few kms to St.Jean were when we stopped for a minute on the river Nive we saw these two Dutch cyclists (that we met earlier) having a beer on the patio of Hotel Central right on the river. Well it did not take long to convince us to take a room also, especially after a day like today and after a quick shower we were sharing a beer with the Dutch guys. We also wanted to celebrate crossing France as this is going to be our last evening in this wonderful country, tomorrow is a long climb into Spain.
After a couple of beers we split up, they wanted to have dinner at the hotel and we wanted to check out the town before deciding where to eat.
While looking around town we noticed a Pilgrims restaurant near the hotel where they had a couple different Pilgrims menus for €9 and we chose the Paellas which I might add were very good, and we washed them down with some EKi beer from the area (pretty good also).
We also met up with this walker who started walking from Le Puy, and was having dinner with a couple friends that met up with him at St.Jean. Great people we had a nice chat before we returned to the hotel where we slept very good after a day like today.

2008051221

On D29 in the foothills of the Pyrenees after Dax.

2008051222

The Gaves Reunis river in Peyrehorade.

2008051223

Looking back on some of the beautiful countryside we rode through. Click to view larger.

2008051224

Around late morning it really began to warm up, so I took out the anti sunburn gear, long sleeve t-shirt, expedition hat and plenty of sun block.

2008051225

Looking back from the top of Col des Palombieres. Click to view larger.

2008051226

And looking forward. Click to view larger.

2008051227

Looking upstream on the river Nive in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

2008051228

View from our room. Click to view larger.

2008051229

Enjoying a well earned beer on the terrace of Hotel Central.

2008051230

Our view of the D933 bridge from the Hotel Central.

2008051231

Having a walkabout in St. Jean.

2008051232

The old part of town.

2008051233

Another view down river Nive.

2008051234

EKi a suprisingly nice Basque beer.

2008051235

After the beers it was time to head back to our room it has been a long day.

19-05-08 Tuesday – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Pamplona, Spain.
6 hrs 50 min. 11.3 Av. 77kms Total 1623kms.

Woke up at 07:00 and were on the road by 08:30. This day we knew what we had to do and were to go so there was no guess work involved, we got on the D933 and started to climb.
The climbing started out OK, a few up and downs but the further we went the tougher it got. We were getting tired before the first switchbacks started and then the hard work began, at places it was a steady 10%. We stopped many times for water and to take pictures.
A few cyclists past us and we met them a few times during the climb because they were going so fast and were running out of energy.
We also met these three cyclists from Canada, well two of them blew past us very fast and later on when we stopped for a break we saw this other guy crawling up the hill. He stopped by us and asked for some water which we gave and also complained that he had a problem with the breaks rubbing on the rim and his friends had the tools, nice. I adjusted the breaks for him and he continued on.
Soon afterwards I had a good laugh as Monique went behind these logs to take a pee and heard this very loud hissing from under the logs and came out running scared. I have to say it was entertaining.
We also saw a check point (which moved further up the road a couple of times) with about 10 police officers holding automatic weapons. We thought about it for a while before we figured out this is Basque country and something had happened with some terrorists earlier in the day.
When we reached Puerto de Ibaneta at 1057m we saw the three Canadian kids again and the one having problems was laying in the grass with a swollen knee. He was riding what looked like a supermarket bike which really wasn’t up to the job and he looked like he was in pain, we offered him some medicine but he refused, oh well, after we took our pictures we continued on downhill, we never saw them again.
Now on the N135 (in Spain) we had a nice downhill but knew that we had two more climbs before we reached Pamplona, Puerto de Aurizberri at 922m and the more difficult Puerto de Erro at 801m.
After the third pass we reached the river Arga still on the N135 were we had a very nice ride to Pamplona.
The camping was a bit difficult to find but after asking around a bit we managed it easy enough. The camping at Oricain is OK and if anyone is going in this direction the easiest way to get there is when you find the river that runs through Pamplona, just follow it (NNE) and you’ll find the camping.
We also met this elderly Dutch couple also doing the Camino but backwards, touring with this really big canvas tent I did not want to know how heavy that thing was but it sure was not made for cycle touring. It looked comfortable but man it had to be over 10kgs.
As soon as we set up camp it started to rain and it kept it up all night long.
We decided to check out the kitchen here but the lamb chops were really small, but the price was also low so OK I guess.

2008051336

Early morning, the climbing begins on the D933, left of river.

2008051337

Entering Spain.

2008051338

Looking back at the village of Luzaide/Valcarlos, and the valley behind. Click to view larger.

2008051339

One of several switch-backs we had on this climb. Click to view larger.

2008051340

Monique grinding up the hill.

2008051340a

Looking back down the valley. Click to zoom in.

2008051341

Ah ha made it, but not without some sweat, check out my hat.

2008051342

Looking back at Real Colegiata de Santa Maria de Roncesvalles. Click to view larger.

2008051343

And here began a very nice downhill. From now on we counted down the kms on these billboards as we rode closer to Santiago de Compostela.

2008051344

Climbing along the D933 or the N135 in Spain, this time over the Puerto de Aurizberri/Mezkiritz at 922m

2008051345

Going over the second climb of the day.

2008051346

And climbing the last but very difficult hill of the day, Puerto de Erro at 801m.

2008051347

Monique going over the last climb of the day.

2008051348

Checking out the vista from our rest stop. We rode along the road seen center right of picture.

14-05-08 Wednesday – Pamplona to Estella
5 hrs. 30 min. 11.5 Av. 63kms Total 1686

Woke up a bit later today, 07:00 and were on the road by 09:00. It rained all night, not heavy but steady. We were glad it stopped by morning.
Getting out of Pamplona was a nightmare, it took us two and a half hours to get out, we had asked the receptionist about an easy way out of the city and were given a nice map. But even with this map we still managed to get lost. I really have to say that if it’s not necessary to visit Pamplona than stay away.
The main problem is that there isn’t any other camping in the neighborhood.
Anyway after we finally got out we met up with this elderly couple from New York, who were doing the Camino. The first thing I noticed was their bikes, they sounded like ready to fall apart, they really were not up to the job and really needed a thorough check up before continuing. They were struggling even on the easy hills and I knew there are some nasty ones along the Camino. We followed them along the wrong road the NA7010 instead of the NA7015 which follows the Rio Arga, and this road had a nasty hill at Puerto del Perdon at 679m, we left them before the hill and wondered if they ever made it over. Anyway I really have to remember to follow the map and not follow other people as the route along the Rio Arga was supposed to be very nice and easy.
We stopped to visit the very old town of Puente la Reina and then continued on the N111 hugging the A12 motorway. Right after Puente la Reina there was this really tough climb followed by a smaller one before we reached Estella.
In Estella we tried to find a super market but the best we could come up with was an old mini market, so we got some supplies and headed for the camping.
Now this camping was not that good at all but the only one so we just set up our tent and were lucky with the timing because as soon as I up in the last stake the sky opened up with thunder and torrential rain, I mean we began to get scared in the tent it was really nasty. Looking outside the tent we couldn’t even see five meters.
After it blew over we made some pasta to eat and washed up. But just before we went to sleep it started to drizzle again.
We really hope the weather improves a bit.

2008051449

One of many old bridges on the Rio Arga, Pamplona.

2008051450

A panorama from the banks of the Rio Arga. The beige building by the old bridge is a an old Monastry/Auberge used by pilgrims.
Click to view larger

2008051451

There is a lot of places with information along the Camino.

2008051452

Panorama of Pamplona we were very happy to have finally made it out of the city. Click to view larger.

2008051453

Pamplona could be seen in the distance.

2008051454

On the N111 looking back at the village of Astrain from halfway up the difficult climb of Peurta del Perdon. Click to view larger.

2008051455

An Auberge near Puente la Reina.

2008051456

We visited the very old church in Puente la Reina.

2008051457

Old bridge over the Arga.

2008051458

Leaving Puente la Reina on the NA1110

2008051459

There were more hills to climb before we reached Estella.

2008051460

Nearing Estella, tomorrow we have to continue on the N111 that runs alongside the A12 that can just be seen center of picture just right of light pole.

2008051461

A very old Monastery just before Estella.

Week 4 – Estella to Astorga