Pics and video link below
Into Navarra, Basque Country 03/09
Had a good nights sleep that night and in the morning after breakfast we took a walk up to the little chapel up on top of the hill we were camping. It was right on the Camino and a few pelegrino´s were already on the move. It was a beautiful little spot overlooking the Basque country and we soaked up the atmosphere for a while, relaxing in the morning sun. Eventually we set off with the border about 40 km away.
Had a huge lunch later that day, the last one in France, huge baguettes with avocado, jamon and all sorts then a sweet coffee for dessert.
The border crossing was uneventful and somewhat anti-climactic. Not sure what we were expecting, flags and boards announcing Spain or something, but none of that, just a board saying welcome to Navarra. So, over the river and into Spain we went! We both decided to stop for the day so we rode down a side road and right on the river there was some open ground on which we could pitch tents. We rode up to the farm house and asked the ladies there if we could camp, sure no problem they said – they spoke Basque, some Spanish and some French and we got to practice our first words in Basque – Kaixo (hello) and Eskerrik Asko (thank you), they were very impressed!
So we put up our tents and then had a bath in the river that forms the border between the two countries, super cold dip but hey, what a feeling!
I then did the dinner that night and slept a good night´s rest because the next day, we had a climb to get stuck into!
Border camp to Fort camp 04/09
A good breakfast and coffee and we were off, first order of the day, climb the mountain pass, and no messing about, straight into it…Adrian pulled away as he had a lighter load than me haha and I took my time in low gear easing up and up…it was hot and it was humid and sweat was pouring. The road bent left and right a few times and finally I crested the top and took in the amazing views and enjoyed the moment.
We then free wheeled down the hill through pretty Basque villages stopping to refill water and have a look around a few times.
We stopped for lunch at one of the villages as my tyre had again gone flat. I was tired of fixing it by then so said f**k it, lunch first, wheel later…and it was a sweet lunch in a nice restaurant, we each had a steak and Adrian, I owe you lunch!
After lunch I got to fixing the wheel which was behind the restaurant and the chef must´ve seen us because he came out, said hello and asked what was happening. After we´d told him he said “Follow me!” and he walked across the road and entered the yard of one of the houses and opened the garage. It turned out to be his house and he turned out to be one of the mountain rescue volunteers in the town and had a 4×4 quad bike parked there with a full tool bench and pressurised air! Brilliant. Using a pair of his pliers I again set about finding the cause of my flats and eventually after carefully removing the inner tube, marking the puncture point on the tyre we prised from the rubber the 3 of the tiniest pieces of thorn…aha! Finally! Put everything back together, couple of toots on the pressurised air and I had a fully inflated tyre…and too this day (June 2019) not had an issue since!
We then cracked on, heading further south deeper into Navarra, the landscape changing once more. We decided to take an alternate route as we had time and targeting a river and lake we set off and entered these amazing canyons, with the road running along a big river and vultures circling in the skies – it was breathtaking.
We cruised through these valleys and after dismissing a few potential camping spots, climbed another hill, rode through a tunnel and after exiting the tunnel we free wheeled down the hill and spotted to our left, a lone church on a small hill and an old building just below it in amongst a grove of trees with a river running beside it…there were some people having a picnic down there so we thought we´d go have a look…we found a gate and went through, over a weed infested bridge and onto the field with the church on the hill in front of us. We approached the people and asked if it would be a problem to camp there – not at all, they were just about to leave but said it shouldn´t be a problem. It turned out to be the site of an ancient Roman fort, the old building in a somewhat delapidated state being the old fort.
Once the tents were setup it was time to take a bath in the river and we saw several large trout hunting in the flowing water. Was tempted to try catch them but we had food. Was one of the best wild baths I´ve had so far. I could imagine the Roman soldiers living there and using the river for water to drink and bath. What that must have been like!
Into Iruña (Pamplona) (05/09)
Woke up to wet tents in the morning as it had rained a little bit over night. We packed up our damp kit and headed for Pamplona, a short 40km away and it didn´t take too long to get there. We rode into town past the bull ring and checked out the town before having our first pintxo´s at a bar in town.
We then headed north up to a campsite on the edge of town where we camped for the night, having a few beers at the bar before cooking dinner under the eaves of the outdoor kitchen while it rained. We were joined by 2 other lads, one guy from Ireland touring on his motorbike and another guy from Holland who was there with his family and did some cycle touring in his time. They supplied the beers and we hung out talking most of the night.
Goodbyes on the road (06/09)
And so it was the day that Adrian and I parted ways – him due west along the Camino de Santiago and me angling north and west up towards Arrasate, my destination, my new job!
The rain had stopped and the sun had come out so we slowly got out things together while letting the tents dry in the sun. We set off after a last coffee and rode together for a few kilometers before we saw a church up on a hill where our paths were to split. We stopped up top there and brewed a last tea. We eventually said our goodbyes and Adrian cycled off, tooting his bike horn of course haha!
And then I was on my own again. Deep breath. Take in the air. The view…breathe…the quiet…feeling the warm sun…and push away, gravel crunching under the wheels. Smiling.
And I enjoyed each moment that day and the following day as I neared my destination, the first leg about to finish…
To end the day I had an amazing climb up to Urbasa, climbing a winding road, clouds being whipped up along the cliff face by a decent wind, being watched over by roosting vultures. I camped up top for the night, all alone in the wide open camp site, holiday season over.
Video on YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/R2jiwi9Zmuo