Early rise. Cool morning. Breakfast at the bakers. 2x pain raisin each. Thick and juicy. Packed with energy for the Col du Portalet. 29km to the top. Spectacular ride all the way. Gorges with torrents way below to the side of the road, cloudy mountains looming ahead.
It started steadily before becoming gradually stepper in the middle section. Beautiful pastures, the smell of pine. Two tanned mountain bikers, heavily laden came the other way. They had fleeces on and we were in t-shirts. Waved and smiled as they shot past.
Dan was ahead and I could see the sweat steaming off him in the cool air. Stopped to look at a helicopter hauling cement up to a high point on a mountain. Lots of people cheering us on and waving as we slowly climbed through the pass. Lots of walkers and recently built anti-avalanche constructions. Lovely, fresh air. Cooler than down in the valleys, spoilt only by fumes of passing cars.
Stopped near the summit to take a few pictures. A French cyclist passed us on the way and shouted a few words of encouragement. At last, after 29kms of climbing we were there. A car park, a hotel and shop on the French side. Trippers wandering about but we were pleased by our effort and not just the view.
I had a few francs left so I spent them in the shop buying coke, orange juice, danettes, shortbread and biscuits. I presented the girl in the shop with a fistful of change and she helped me to spend it. We then went onto a patch of ground with a bit of shelter and ate lunch.
Shortly, we were waved through Spanish customs and we were on the way down into Spain. Goodbye, France. Two mountain bikers were coming as we descended with big smiles on their faces. A strong head wind and a bad road surface prevented us from going very fast. Passing through gorges and a tunnel. Warm but bearable. 1st puncture. Dan’s rear tyre went soft so on went a new tube.
We carried on until Sabiñánigo. Dan took money from a machine to buy food. Carried on and camped wild. Drew water from an irrigation canal. Wonderful day.
Distance 92.7 kms Average speed 8.4 kmh Time 10 hrs. 55. Total distance 1257 kms
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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