Updated: May 5
Stage 1: Hendaye -> Vitoria-Gasteiz: 140 km
Jet lag really is a nuisance, wide awake at 04:00; of course then slept in, and in the end didn’t push off until well after 9:00 but saving grace of at least mostly dry streets, overnight drizzle having let up. Pedalled across the same bridge into Spain as we’d walked ... 9 years ago.
By 10:00, I’m peeling off jacket... brilliant blue and cloudless Basque skies. Already warm and it’ll get hot. Scenery wonderful, smells rural, Oliver Schroer fiddle music in my head.
I really don’t know how a stranger could navigate these twists and turns without following a GPS track. But even then, I blundered off course more than once, the worst costing me ~5 km. I know we used to do it by dead reckoning and using the sun angles by daylight, stars by night (not to mention, stopping and asking locals for directions). Yet another skill lost.
Surprising amount of dedicated cycle paths, often split into pedestrian and cycling halves. Lots of roadies out and about, lots of walkers; both sets predominately white/grey hair. Only see one touring guy during the day.
Hills kick up in the first major climb of the day; 12-15% according a sign which I flashed by in the welcoming descent. Kilometres tick by, but slowly. I’m not used to carrying weight in these two bags (saddle and handlebar), plus the weight on the front makes it all more twitchy than I’m accustomed to having.
The ‘wall of hills’ ahead of me for some time, and which I’d been trying to see the clever route cutting through, turns out to have no such cleverness, and is merely a wall, traversed with switchbacks ... Eventually I have to come off bike at abrupt right-hand turn onto steeper cobblestones into small village. Walk the bike through and up. On road again, am off bike in moments at some of the steepest terrain I’ve experienced. Push the bike up a kilometre or so of shoulderless road, now with rush hour(?) traffic whizzing by me. But overall, very much politer to struggling cyclists than in North America.
Grade gets down somewhat, but road continues up. Eventually, near the top(?), my route tells me to slide left into the bush. What the heck; anything is better than this hill. This wooded byway turns out to be the old and now re-used Basque-Navarrese tramway ... mostly gravel double-track with a tricky median, buts its level! Followed that all the way into Vitoria-Gasteiz, maybe 20 kilometres. The path steadily improves as the town approaches, with lots off people out for evening constitutional.
Find my hostel, get re-hydrated.
A dinner consisting of the 4 remaining pintxos in bar washed down with inevitable Rioja; EUR 4.50 all up.