Monday, 8 August 2016

SADDLE UP FOR MORE RIDES

What do you do when you have cycled the Pyrenees? Where I live, Dartmoor and the South Hams has some amazing cycle routes. They are varied, have wild places and some spectacular scenery.  The problem is that I yearn for new places.  These are a few of my favourite places in south west England where I have cycled recently.

This is cycle route RCN51 where it crosses a ford beside an old packhorse bridge near Porlock on Exmoor that I visited a month ago.  


An old favourite is the Puffing Billy Trail at sunset on Dartmoor


This sandstone gorge is at Nynehead on NCN3 cycling north towards Taunton in Somerset


Cycling across the estuary of the River Erme in South Devon is just possible at low tide but it is not for
everyone


This cycle trail in Cornwall was even harder


The Cornish coast has some spectacular views.  This was from NCN3 in West Cornwall


And finally, it is Rio's turn for the Olympics. Here are two images from 2012 where The National Lottery encouraged lots of us to get inspired with Pedal On UK. Our group cycled from Newton Abbott to Bristol.



I am saddling up for my next rides where open countryside and quiet lanes matter

Friday, 17 June 2016

AND FINALLY

This was our route along the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, thanks to Dagmar's excellent navigation skills


These are some vital statistics:

> We succeeded cycling from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
> Distance: 1,146km (716 miles)
> Altitude climbed: 14,900m (48,887ft)
> Punctures: None
> Repairs: None
> Best scenic day: The ride to Pedroforca (day 4).
> Most memorable stop: Day ride from Ainsa (day 10)
> Best wildlife day: Everyday we could hear the birds singing and were immersed in wildlife rich countryside
> Best town/city: San Sebastian (final day)
> Any bad moments? Heavy traffic and heavy rain on the Corniche between St Jean De Luz and Hendaye
> Favourite overnight stop: Ainsa
> Route planning: All Dagmar's planning
> Quality of cycle routes: mostly quiet lanes but some off-road terrain and occasional main roads.  The Spanish drivers were mostly very good.
> Comment on hills: completely different to UK. They are very long, often with hairpin bends but the gradients were shallow by UK standards. My longest recorded hill was 50km (31 miles), in this case going down.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

HENDAYE AND JOURNEY'S END

Last night, we arrived at Hendaye and this was our journey's end. It was 39 miles and there were two colls but they were getting smaller. The excitement of our achievement was subdued because it was raining hard and we were soaked. Also the traffic on the very beautiful Corniche from St Jean de Luz was relentless and many cars overtook missing us by just a few centimetres. So here is the end point at the Atlantic Ocean.


My thoughts on this journey across the Spanish side of the Pyrenees are remembering children and families playing in the squares of the towns. The evenings seemed to be times for families to go out. Sometimes they were playing football, others on their bikes but always the cafes seemed to be places to meet and talk.  I was frustrated at being unable to speak the language.  Dagmar can speak some Spanish and did very well.
While cycling, birdsong and colourful wild flowers were always with us while the farm animals could often be heard by ting a lings from the bells around their necks. I loved finding the old towns where the church, a cafe and the square were the centre pieces. Motorists did not demand the roads and it felt safe and enjoyable in all these towns.
None of the hills were steep by British standards but they were often very long with many hairpin bends. In many places people were on motorbikes.  They too were careful with cyclists and on several occasions we talked to motorcyclists.  We marvelled how they had to wear such enormous and very hot leather gear while we were in shorts and tee shirts.
Today we left our bikes behind and travelled by train to St Sebastian, European Capital of Culture for 2016. We discovered a city where the streets were filled with inquisitive people and, like elsewhere in Spain, it felt safe to walk and discover its beautiful old world charm.  People were encouraged to come by bike, bus and train so the roads were not busy.
Dagmar and I are already making plans for our bike adventure in 2017. This is her story

Sunday, 29 May 2016

JAURRIETA TO ELIZONDO

This was our penultimate day in the Pyrenees. We cycled 54 miles, climbed 1,280m and dropped over 2,000m. We could no longer see the snow line and our route included one of the harder climbs.
We departed from Jaurrieta before the mountain bike event started but there were some early arrivals for the juniors.


Our route today crossed two trails and we stopped to talk to some interesting people. Better known is Camino de Santiago, the Pilgrim's Trail. The other is European Cycle Route EV 1
We saw many pilgrims walking the trail and this man was from the USA.


A Pilgrim's Pension is behind and I liked the boots hanging from the balcony. We spoke to others from Germany and the USA. It seemed that all were hiking 800km over 5 to 8 weeks. We saw many cyclists also, mostly road bikers but there were some long distance tourers. This couple were German and were cycling EV 1 from Faro in Portugal to Bordeaux.  They said that they had experienced many hills. I thought that we had too.  In fact I could not remember any flat cycling


This coll, although lower, experienced a tough climb and massive descent. The low level countryside was in many ways comparable to Dartmoor with its rushing streams, steep slopes and woodland. However on the north side, the architecture was completely different to what we have seen before


This journey continues to be an uplifting experience and the regular protests from the legs are kept in check by many coffee breaks and soothing words.  This is Dagmar's blog and also my twitter

Saturday, 28 May 2016

ARRIVAL IN NAVARRA

We asked for sandwiches for lunch today and were given gargantuan fresh baked rolls each half metre long filled with bacon. This was food for lumberjacks and into the bar walked a man with muscles that oozed strength. It looked like we were eating his snack. As usual, the cafe was on top of a hill in the old centre and this time we were at Vidangoz, a little village not on tourist trails. The cafe looked like a house but the bar was full with locals talking away.
We cycled 90 miles over the last two days and climbed 2,400m over hills that just kept coming. The bike continued to go well but the brakes were squealing on the downhills.  I could not see anything wrong with them but kept my speed down just in case.
We arrived at our destination, Jaurrieta, to find a bike race in progress. It was the Vuelta a Navarra.




This started at 1pm and the riders had covered 125km by the time we saw them at 5.30pm. Tomorrow, a mountain bike event starts here.
On route, Dagmar encountered some cattle and we found a street market in Jaca's old town selling plants


We have two full days left on this tour and, when done, we will have cycled Coast to Coast from the Med to the Atlantic through the Pyrenees. We have already started planning our tour for 2017.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

THREE DAYS IN ARAGON

We left Tamarite de Litera 3 days ago and are now in Sabinanigo. On route, we spent two nights at Ainsa, a pretty town on the south edge of the Pyrenees. We followed a farm trail out of Tamarite through poppy fields.


The problem with this was that our average speed was just 8mph.  After 5 miles, we joined a tarmac road and headed north. The road was very quiet and the hills started to reappear. After 2 hours, it was time for coffee and we discovered the best coffee stops were always at cafes in the old part of towns.  In Aragon, the old part is always on top of a steep hill. This morning a stork looked down at us from its nest in the church tower.


I tried to photograph the stork flying but failed. Our route back down to the road was so steep, we had to walk. When we met the road, a shepherd was leading his flock of sheep. They were so well behaved and I was very impressed. In Britain, dogs would be needed to keep control but not here as they just followed.


We met two German motorcyclists at lunch and fell into amicable conversation about the open road. Somehow being British with three German people felt very normal and I enjoyed the experience. After 3 miles, my bike reaches 30,000 miles. Dagmar and I wanted to celebrate with champagne but we only had water.
We cycled 54 miles to Ainsa and, as usual here, the old town was on top of a steep hill. We met the German motorcyclists again.
We stayed two nights in Ainsa and Dagmar found the most amazing circular route. Let me set the scene? there was one hill 22 miles long that almost reached the snow line. The was one hill back 31 miles long. One hill in Britain does not take long.  Here, it might take 3 hours to climb it. This one was through one of the most stunning gorges that I have ever seen.


At the top of the 22 mile hill, we hope to find a cafe in the village but there was none.  Instead a local person offered us a cigarillo and told us that sport is good for you. We enjoyed a break in the tiny square


Today, we cycled 51 miles from Ainsa to Sabinanigo.. We crossed a coll at 1,291m and continued to marvel at the wildlife.


Every day, I enjoy the wildlife. The flowers are everywhere and very beautiful. Everyday, we hear a cuckoo and most days we see vultures. Birds sing all the time and strange looking butterflies flutter in front of us. Surely this is what cycle touring is all about?

Monday, 23 May 2016

FINAL DAY IN CATALONIA

My bike continues to purr along on this trip. Today a dark shadow moved across in front of me.  I stopped.  I looked up to see a vulture flying low.  Higher in the sky flying gracefully was a stork, all shimmering white in the sun with its long neck outstretched in front.  More vultures were gently gliding above us.
I was on a long straight road that stretched almost far as my eye could see. The scenery continued to be magnificent but my mind wanders on roads like this and I became conscious of a deep drainage gully beside me. I would do serious damage to myself if I carelessly moved to my right. My attention is grabbed by a motorist going in the other direction who waves cheerfully as if encouraging me on. He did not wave at Dagmar who was a long way ahead. This was probably because his girl friend in the car would have given him a smack.
This was not the only motorist who has given signs of encouragement.  Three times motor cyclists have raised their hands as if saying "respect". Riding bicycles and motorbikes share a common theme with love of the fresh air on the road. I just happen to think bicycles are best.
We cycled 55 miles today into Aragon and our destination was Tamarite de Litera. Here are a few images of today's journey


This is the long straight road with few cars and Dagmar is just a dot in the distance


Dagmar's navigation skills are excellent on this trip and her device which she calls "her little lady" is very accurate. Tomorrow I will sit in my saddle being guided by the "little lady" and at lunchtime I will watch my bike's odometer click to 30,000 miles.