Today was hard work but ultimately a great day of not just cycling but simply travelling. The weather was very similar to cycling day 13 earlier this week and the arrival in Pamplona as wet as my arrival in Salamanca last weekend (cycling day 10) but my mood is very much different. Have a look at this:
It’s the elevation profile generated by the Cyclemeter app that I use to track all of my cycles. Don’t get too impressed with the peaks and troughs; the scale on the right makes clear that they only fluctuate between around 370 metres and 680 metres (if you have the time, go back and look at some of the climbs I took on back in 2013 in the Peloponnese, Albania and then Mont Ventoux in France where you will find a far greater spread of altitudes)… but do note the chronic up and down nature of the day (not just the big peaks, the small ones too), especially in the first 65 km. 1,013 metres of ascent and 964 metres of descent by the time I arrived in Pamplona. It can be dispiriting stuff to put the effort into climbing only then to see it fritted away on a short descent. I could have felt that way for much of today but I didn’t as the environment through which I was cycling was at least rewarding me with some cracking scenery. The photos below make that abundantly clear. The dark clouds add a dramatic touch to the already great views.
Once again I’ve been following a route that has brought me into contact with the pilgrims (religious or not) on the Camino de Santiago although today I stuck to the roads for all of my journey. There was no incentive not to do so as the N roads were, just as they were along the Via de la Plata, almost empty of other traffic. Again a motorway – in this case the A12 – sucked away all but a few tractors and cars flitting between towns not served by the autovia. There were lots of cyclists heading in the opposite direction on the roads today. Not so much the day cyclists travelling light and Lycra-clad as the touring cyclists following the Camino. They must have only been into their second day on the road but had clearly already taken the wise decision to follow the Tarmac rather than the official walking route. I waved but didn’t speak to any of them until I met two Spanish guys at the top of the long climb towards the end of the day. The conversation went loosely as follows (in pigeon Spanish on my part, fluent Spanish on theirs):
Cyclist 1: Where have you come from?
Cyclist 1: Goodness me, that’s impressive, I must shake your hand [which he did]
Cyclist 2 [just arrived at the top of the hill]: I must shake your hand too! [He did, too]
[Assorted chit chat followed about our respective cycles]
Cyclist 1: Don’t forget to wear your helmet
Cyclist 2: If the Guardia Civil see you not wearing it they will fine you €200
Me: Lots of them have passed me in their cars and not stopped me.
Cyclist 1: [Bent double laughing pointing at cyclist 2] He’s a Guardia Civil officer!
Cyclist 2: Well, err…
Me: Please don’t phone your mates and tell them to be ready for me in Pamplona.
[More shaking of hands etc…]
On a serious note he did confirm what I had been told back in San Pedro by the guy who runs Yep Bikes; they are obligatory in the countryside but not in urban areas. I’m not going to get into the helmet argument here but I do wear one when I think it is necessary. Usually this means when it’s very windy or raining. It was slightly ironic that within a couple of minutes of my chat with the two cyclists near the Alto de Perdón that those two criteria arrived simultaneously and I donned my helmet for the final 10 km of the ride.
By the time I arrived in Pamplona it was bucketing down. I joined the A12 autovia briefly in order to access the centre of the city (there were no signs telling me not to do so) and after some educated guesses as to where I should be going I found the middle of Pamplona, cowered in a bar and found some accommodation; a three star place just off the main square. More of Pamplona over the next day or so but first impressions, especially of the food, are good, despite the rain.
One other thing to note today: the Basque graffiti (see example below). Officially this is Navarra, not Euskara (the Basque for Basque) but clearly the separatists are not inhibited by notional regional boundaries. Some further research is required.
Here is today’s gallery. Queue the Vision On music (you’ll be humming it all evening now…):