Into the Basque Country!
And slowly but surely the landscape is changing, the pines forests slowly disappeared to be replaced by beautiful oak forest and the terrain started offering up some gentle climbs and descents. The local architecture started changing too and road signs now sported both French and Basque.
I arrived in Bayonne and this is where I decided to leave EV1 and head for EV3, which meant heading east to Urt. I was still a relative newbie to the joys and perils of google maps navigation and after finding a camp site in Urt, I kicked off the navigation feature and set off, smiling happily…onto a busy road…not so happy, oh, we´ve got a turn onto a dirt track, I like this, smiling again…oooh a nice canal…riding along, path gets super rough, being bounced about in the saddle like mad. Decide to check navigation, seen I´ve missed a turn, too busy hanging on for dear life…turn around, back over the rough stuff, bouncy bouncy, and find the turn off…erm, hells bells, I´m looking down a dark forest path, with the trees hanging close over a muddy, muddy track, this is where werewolves and dark things be…bravely I crack on and slither through into the dark heart of this French jungle, to be attacked by mosquitos…starting to swear now…but I push on, only 2 or 3km to my destination, can´t get any worse surely…haha, surely no, ahead of me a ridiculous, unridable rocky path going UP and who knows what percent gradient…who rides here? How google, how?? So I push up this rocky, slippery path, the mosquitoes can´t believe their luck and they´re tucking in, gorging, their proboscis´ humming and buzzing in bloody glee…but I finally push out, onto a road and suddenly there´s light, those buzzing basterds are gone and I´m back on tarmac…hell, it works I guess but lesson learnt! So I ride on and into a nice camp site and with a table and a chair!! Happy days, luxury!
I ended up staying 2 nights as I wanted to rest and explore the surrounding hills to get a taste of the hilly country to come. Ended up doing an 80km rest day ride with over a 1000m elevation…but, after that day, I was ready. Pyrenees, I am coming for you!
Urt to hillside wild camp, and a surprise thrown in! 02/09
So, Eurovelo 3…hahahahaha. Technically it doesn´t exist…I followed it as best I could, the path used to exist I guess but was so overgrown I was effectively bundu bashing through grass and thick blackberry brambles, which was to be my undoing…my first puncture…no big deal, I kind of actually celebrated it a little bit, 2000km is not bad without a single puncture and considering where I was riding now, it wasn´t a surpise. I happened to break down in a really peaceful spot so I got onto the job of repairing the punture, taking my time, checking the tyre for the cause and extracting a small blackberry thorn. Once done, back on my way…but, haha, another puncture…ok, all good, same again, repair, check tyre and no evidence of any thorns or whatever it could have been…hmmm.
So back on the road again…it´s now getting late so I´m low on water and looking for a spot to camp…find a cemetery for water, top up and find my back wheel is flat…shit. So I pump it up and decide to find a camp and then see if I can repair it…so up the hill I ride as my tyre slowly, slowly deflates.
It´s then that I top a hill and slowly freewheeling down, looking at this beautiful Basque landscape trying to spot a place for the night, that I see a small tent on the hill side up to my right…and standing next to it, a bicycle…what´s this? Maybe I can join this person for the night, so I head over. I come to a wide gate set in a blackberry hedge and I can see a guy having a bath outside his tent, so I wait for him to finish up then call out, “Bonjour missuer”…and he looks over and says, “Karl?!?!?” and I say “Adrian?!?!?”.
So after we´d gotten over this ridiculous coincidence I got my tent sorted out and Adrian kindly cooked dinner while I tried to repair my back wheel, but once again, after thoroughly going over my tyre checking for the cause of this repeated puncture, I was unable to find anything.
It turns out Adrian had spoken to the farmer and asked if he could camp on the pasture which the farmer allowed. It was a beautiful spot, overlooking the countryside with a clear view of the night sky which shone with stars that night…one of the best spots so far, and also to spend time with another rider was great.