Day 4 Biarritz – Luchon

05/08/10 (323 miles)

“…Helen doesn’t do cornering well….and I’m scared of heights! So, what the hell are you doing in the Pyrenees, I hear you chuckle?! The answer is a resounding, ‘wish I knew too mate’.”

The big one today! We were planning on trying to make it across France, via the ‘quieter back roads’ to our resting place of Llavorsi, near Andorra in the Pyrenees in one go. We did however underestimate how technical the roads would be, let alone how much traffic there to encounter!

breakfast at Biarritz

Having rained again during the night, we had a slow morning having brekkie of croissant’s and coffee while trying to speak broken Italian/English with a couple of young new arrivals from Turin. He rides a Dominator and was impressed (amused?) with our plans. Away by 11am to a clenched fist salute from our Italian friends 🙂 straight out onto the N117, heading east t’Pau, but No China In Our Hands this time (gettit!?)

A road too long…

The roads were lined with acres of agricultural fields growing maize predominantly, wild flower meadows and semi-derelict picturesque villages. We reach Pau in good time and have lunch by the Gare de Pau, Jurancon. We decide not to ride the full Stage 16 of the Tour de France running from Bagneres-de-Luchon – Pau, as it would take too much time up, so decide to head on the D937 to Lourdes and Bagneres-de-Bigorre, where we would head south on the smaller D935. At Ste-Marie de Campan we took the easterly split and avoided the famous Col du Tourmalet heading to Col d’Aspin instead.

At this point most bike riders of any variety would be relishing this prospect would be chomping at the bit to get blasting along the twisties heading high into the mountains, in the dry, sunny weather. However, for us it was a bit of a different prospect. Helen doesn’t do cornering well….and I’m scared of heights! So, what the hell are you doing in the Pyrenees, I hear you chuckle?! The answer is a resounding, ‘wish I knew too mate’.

Col d’Aspin…

The climb started well enough, climbing slowly on bend after bend, hidden from the true heights by the pine forest around us when we eventually slipped out of the trees near the top and I had a wobbly moment when glancing downwards at the view below. Both glad to get to the top at 1489m on our first experience of Pyrenean twisties for a rest and enjoy the jaw dropping views (running out of superlatives already here)…before noticing the road down on the other side! No trees to hide behind….accompanied by no barriers on the edge of the road between you and your final destination, with camper vans, cars and even coaches coming at you….on a single track road. marvellous.

Needless to say the journey down was as scary as predicted (yes I know most people reading this will disagree) but thankfully there were no coaches encountered on the ride, while we reached dizzying speeds of up to 30mph. We continued on the D918 to Arreau (stunning), and through on towards the D618 to Begneres de Luchon. We had a break mid route, when Helen had a go at me for not stopping at Arreau to camp, as she was beginning to run out of steam by now. I kept watching for H in the mirror to make sure she was coping. But while riding a thumping single 400cc motorbike, it’s not the smoothest ride ever, so I was unable to spot her frantically waving her leg or arm in my shaky mirror. So I need to start keeping closer in front from here on in.

Col d’Peyresourde…a shaming…

We continued on and upwards (again) this time to Col d’Peyresourde at 1565m which thankfully wasn’t as heart-stopping on the descent. Now, here I need to come clean and mention the most embarrassing moment in my bike riding experience. Over the 15 years I’ve been riding bikes, I’ve competed in Rookie Supersports with BEMSEE racing club, where I’ve been lapped by many a rider (and had some decent results), I’ve failed miserably at being a wheelie god on my Fireblade, I’ve ridden many an MX track on my dirt bikes and had 10 year olds flying past me in the air while adjusting their goggles with one hand, been overtaken by ladies in 3-hour enduro races, tried to ride off from outside a pub with the disc-lock still in place resulting in being trapped under the bike while gathered drinkers sat and chuckled, and evendropped my brand spanking newly sprayed CBR bike on gravel while parking. There are a few other examples of equal un-macho like two-wheeled behaviour lost in the mist of time, however I still find this hard to accept….

While descending from Peyresourde at a slow rate I kept turning round to check on Helen’s progress, when around a corner from behind appeared a cyclist. I continued on my  downward descent for a couple of minutes more and once on a straight, turned around again to see said cyclist fast approaching me. It suddenly dawned on me that, the lowest of the low to happen, would happen…shortly before the ‘cyclist overtook me, while riding a motorbike’! I lost my breath while blood flushed my face. The shame I tell you was hard to take, and I considered steering straight on at the next hairpin bend to meet my maker, but thoughts of Helen’s safety were paramount, so I rode on… weeping into my goggles, swearing an oath to the racing gods never to admit this in public. oops.

Road to Luchon…

We soon made it to Luchon and eventually found the campsite hidden away from the town near an industrial estate, were we were positioned at the far end of the site beside another british group. H was now at an all time low from the culmination of being in such a crap campsite, having not stopped in picturesque Arreau, and tired of endless corners and basically hitting a mental wall with steering the bike. We pitched up, then rode into town (2 minutes) to get bread and wine, to have with our pasta. H only manages a glass of wine (she MUST be poorly), so I do the decent thing and polish the rest off while writing up my journal. My toothache was beginning to annoy me a bit too much now too.

Day 5: Luchon – Llavorsi

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