#35 – Bike Tour, Santander to Biarritz

Day 2

I think it was around 7 when I woke up, with a shade of red scorching the sky again like it was on fire. I could have easily carried on sleeping but wanted to make use of the cooler morning to get some distance under my belt, as tough as it felt like doing at the time. I opened the valve of my travel air bed and lay there as the air flew out from underneath me. Thirty minutes later I was all dressed, packed and saddled as I headed for my intended goal of Bilbao, which was around 100km away.

I stopped at the first café I saw, which was only about an hour down the road in a quaint town called Argonos. After sitting down, it struck me that it was nearly Irish themed and a cosy place. It had everything I was after, some coffee, food, toilet and some Wi-Fi to let the family and dearest know I was alive. I pointed at some delicious looking tortilla, which I ordered 2 of and slammed down with a gloriously tasting coffee.

As I rode on I noticed a number of signs for the Santiago de Camino, along with the near-death looking (mainly older) crowd that were attempting it. Sticks in one hand, often hobbling their way down a road looking in agony, a number of them barked some words out to me, checking they were on the right track from what I could make it. All looked scornfully on when I said I didn’t know.

Just from watching these suffering fellows made me feel better about my own vocation of cycling instead. I was getting enjoyment out of this, were they? Perhaps it’s not about enjoyment for them, being a pilgrimage for many.

As I was busy contemplating this while also trying to cut out the stench of fish from the industrial part of Argonos, when I realised that somehow I had ridden in a circle and was now back on the road I came in. Cursing myself, I checked the GPS on my phone (which was to become a lifesaver on the trip) and I had indeed missed the turn off in town that I needed. Painfully retracting the 3km back into town was a demoralising way to start the day. There is just something about retracing steps that I hate.

After eventually finding the right turning, it was amazing to be free of the fish stench of Argonos and I was on my way, making great progress. It all seemed to be going too well, as it always does. The first minor blip cap when looking at the map and trying to cross a bridge that was under construction or repair. The way around it was a sizeable detour, made worse that the majority of it being uphill.

The next blip, and one that was more of a major incident, occurred on the N-634 somewhere around Iseca Vieja. As the sun continued shining I felt entitled to a quick break and cold drink, as I pulled into a small village petrol station. I grabbed a cold bottle of water and a beer, smashing them both down by the roadside petrol station. The bike felt strange as I went to pick it up again; I instinctively looked down, which revealed a flat front tyre to my dismay.

After Dad had revealed to me that the inner tubes on the bike were bought from the pound store, I had braced myself for a puncture or two, so it wasn’t a huge problem I reasoned. I whipped the pump out to see if it would go back up, perhaps it was just a slow puncture. For twenty hot and sweaty (even in the shade) minutes, I wrestled with the pump, trying every possible way of using it do its one function of inflating a tyre.

I had brought my tried and tested pump from Canada to England to use on the trip and inexplicably chosen to take this piece of shit over it? I was furious with myself, especially as I hadn’t tested it before setting off, nearly breaking it in my frustration.

Perhaps it was the inner tube that was at fault, or there is a hole right next to the valve I thought. I whipped out the spare inner tube but the pump would barely work on that, managing the tiniest bit of air but not able to get it any further. The petrol station didn’t sell pumps, but fortunately they did have an air machine, so I was able to blow up the old tyre to find the puncture.

I say puncture, but really it wasn’t. These cheap inner tubes, on closer inspection, looked like pieces of rubber hastily joined together to form something resembling an inner tube. The points where the pieces joined were semi-circles along the tube, with one of these already coming away. I doubted there was anything that punctured it, just bad manufacturing.

I pumped up the spare inner tube (still one of these shit dollar ones) and asked where the nearest bike store would be. Not wanting to backtrack, I had 40km to make Castro Urdiales, where the next bike shop was situated. However, I no longer had a working pump and was running on pound store inner tubes.

I rode around for a few moments and then sat down for 10 minutes, waiting to check that new inner tube wasn’t going to suffer the same fate immediately, leaving me stranded. Still angry at myself for not buying my own inner tubes and a bike pump that didn’t cost less than half a pint, I took my frustration out on the road as I bolted towards Castro.

Although I’m sure not scientifically accurate, I figured if I got my head down and pummelled my way to Castro as fast as possible, there was a less time frame for another puncture, though in reality I knew I would be covering the same amount of ground. I was also worried the bike store might close, as it was getting on for 4pm.

Luckily I made it into Castro without any further issues and had directions from a local to the bike store. It looked like my worries of the bike shop being closed were coming true, as I enquired next door if there was another in the area. The man looked at me confused, and it took a while of dodgy Spanish before I understood that the shop would actually open again in an hour. It was siesta time! Of course! I didn’t know people actually still did this in Spain, but evidently so! The bike store was re-opening at 5pm.

That gave me enough time to grab some food from the supermarket and relax, as I sat in a shaded area by a beach. As I started to make my ham and cheese baguettes I started to feel queezy, my eyesight failing a little while experiencing a severe case of hot head, along with cold flushes. I made sure to drink lots of water, but in effect I felt partly paralysed, similar to the stage of drunk just before blackout mode. After an hour or two I started to feel normal again, probably a combination of dehydration and over exertion in hot weather, and headed back to the bike shop.

I bought a mini pump and a new inner tube from the shop and was on my way. It felt much better knowing that I had means of inflating my tyre if I had any further issues. The terrain was more hilly then I had expected as I pedalled on, taking its toll on my energy. I was roughly planning to reach a place called Pobena, where it sounded like there was a nice beach from reading the goof’s write up. A beach is usually a good spot to find some secluded camping, so as I approached it late on in the evening, I started to keep an eye out for a good spot.

Pobena, however, was more lively then I thought it would be. There was a nice beach, though in the background lurked some dark clouds that were getting darker. It was now past 8 and I knew that I should be setting up camp soon, for it could rain at any moment and light was quickly fading.

Although there were a few possible spots, there were still many people out and about. Being situated at a busy area, I thought there was a high chance of it being patrolled or me being told to move on. I decided to keep going, reading from Goof that there was a bike path for 11km leading up from the beach. I managed to find it without too much trouble and it was indeed a glorious surface.

Great I thought, this will surely take me into the countryside where I will easily find a spot. In hindsight, the first few spots that I saw as I rode the opening couple of kilometres would have been the best choice, however I pushed on with the hope for a perfect site. It was a bad decision, as the perfect spot evaded me as the sun continued to set on the day.

Another 6 or 7km came and went in the next hour of slow but steady ascent, with a camping spot still evading me. There were still many cyclists on the path and every potential camping spot seemed to have a negative point, or looked to be impeding too much on someone’s land. I couldn’t work out if anyone lived in these properties or whether they were just holiday homes, either way I didn’t want to feel the wraith of the Basque, so I pressed on in the dying light.

Becoming increasingly nervous about where to camp, I noticed it becoming better kept and slightly more urban. I checked the phone and I had likely passed the best spots to sleep for the night, regardless I pushed on until I reached the end of the paved cycle path. Still nowhere looked plausible, as I ran up verges and checked over fences. It was now dark as I climbed a big hill, only to see what looked like an abandoned building, almost in the style of a temple. It overlooked a graveyard and there was also a building with high-walls that appeared to be an animal testing centre, by what I could make out from the graffiti outside. This may have done, but it was just too eerie a place to sleep and if there any dodgy figures they’d most likely be in this area.

I retraced my steps and went around in circles, no longer able to go forward as it was now a road that was unsafe to ride at night. Regrettably I came to the conclusion I would have to go back where I had came if I was going to get any sleep. A couple of roundabouts with bushes caught my eye as I continued to scour the horizon. I was tempted with the roundabout idea but in the end I forced my way back along the bike path I had come up, this time in the dark. For another hour I was searching for a place to stop, with a number of occasional lights and also a half moon providing some form of navigation.

Worryingly, my front tyre had become increasingly loose during my search and no matter how tight I clamped it into place, it still wobbled left to right as I rode. It felt like every few seconds I was riding over a large bump, but thinking about it now was almost too much to bare.

It was now midnight and I had been on the bike for well over 14 hours. I was knackered but knew that the chance of even a half-decent night sleep was slim. I contemplated putting up the tent in one of the picnic areas along the bike lane, but had a feeling the locals around here would not be a good group to mess with.

In the end I found an underpass tunnel on the bike pat, and set about preparing myself for the night. I got changed and ate and drank what was left in my bag, before slipping into my warmer gear. I opted for a bank just to the side of the underpass, and although not flat it would provide at least some shelter from passers-by. As I put the tent up and tried to enter it, I started to slide slightly down the bank before being stopped by a branch.

Although it didn’t look a huge angle, it felt like being on a cliff edge inside the tent and there was little chance of getting any sleep as I tried to prop myself up. I opened the door to take a final slash before attempting sleep, though I attempted so in just my socks which the thorns and nettles and all sorts below, ripped me apart on each step.

I fumbled back into the tent, which now started to slide downhill again, back over where I had just urinated. The situation was becoming dire as the tent came to a stop against another bush, though still at an impossible angle to sleep. I tried to get out of the tent to set it up right, though having still not put any shoes on in frustration and haste, I stepped out to be greeted with the thorns and nettles under food, before I began trying to shake the tent into place. Somehow my bag came loose from inside the tent at this stage, rolling its way comically down the hill.

Bouncing as it went, my small laptop inside, I was ready to punch the nearest object to me, as it battered its way into a bush, rolling at least 10 metres down. I didn’t rate the chances of the laptop surviving but there was no way I could deal with finding out for sure just yet. I just wanted to sleep.

I grabbed the tent and walking all over the nettles, thorns and what was probably my own piss as I stuggled back down the bank to the mouth of the underpass. Furious with myself and how I had ended up in this situation rather then camping earlier, I threw the tent down in a far more visible but flatter area. It was far from ideal, nestled next to a lovely area of still water/sewage that was attracting all the flies and mosquitoes from miles around. I locked my bike up on a fence opposite and threw everything into the tent before closeing the door and saying fuck off to the world. I looked to my watch to set an early alarm, where it heartlessly reminded me it was late. It was now around 1am; it starts to get bright from 5am, so it wasn’t going to be much of a rest even if I did get to sleep.

Although more flat then the previous attempt, I still had to brace myself diagonally in the tent to stop any forward rolling down the hill, and with sheer fatigue I collapsed into an uncomfortable 3 or 4 hours sleep.

Day 3

I was in a terrible mood the next day as I woke naturally just before my alarm at 6, with the occasional flutter of rain dancing onto the tent. I peeled the zip down and it was still dark, so I let myself sleep 30minutes more before forcing myself up and packing away with the first light.

I had only finished packing my bag back onto my bike, and had moved onto trying to diagnose what was causing my wheel to wobble, when an environmental patrol car rattled its way down the cycle lane. Pondering if it was a regular patrol or someone had called it because of my camping escapades, it passed by largely ignoring me as I was bent over my bike. An extra thirty minutes of sleep would have likely cost me a few issues and perhaps a fine, I had been pretty fortunate.

I resolved to get to Portulegeta, which was a little further down the road and have some food before contemplating the state of my bike. I had around 4 or 5km of backtracking to do, retracing all of the places I had been scouring for a place to camp the night before.

Feeling battered and defeated I arrived in Portulegeta and hopped across the bridge that isn’t a bridge and found a café that was open at this early time. I grabbed some food and drink, as I sat down disconsolate, bemoaning my luck with the bike. I had self-diagnosed it as a problem with the bearings in my handle set, as it was identical to an issue I had experienced with another bike. Worryingly, I had left that one due to leaving the country, but the issue had only worsened and at quite a rate. I had a serious stretch of cycling to do today and the wobble was making it difficult and borderline unsafe, particularly in the descends.

Before leaving the café I booked a hostel in Leketio, where I had calculated that I could easily reach that day. Feeling good in myself that I was going to have a real bed for the first time in 4 days, I resolved to get the bike looked at before attempting the hilly but relatively short 65km to Leketio (estimated 5 hour ride).

I had spotted a bike shop on my way in, so after spending a couple of hours breathing life back into myself in the café and working out my route I swung by, praying that he will just tighten the handlebars and all will be fine. Almost immediately he moved the handlebars and gave me a grimace before advising it was the bearings of the headset. My heart sunk; how long would it take? and how much would it be? 54 Euros, and he could do it within an hour were the answers.

A painful chunk of money out of the budget, though I didn’t have a huge amount of choice. It would have been dangerous to keep riding as it was, particularly on roads where cars were travelling fast, so I pulled the trigger on the deal. I returned an hour later, grabbed the bike and headed away from Getxo.

It was queer that right from the Getxo, I disliked the place. There was nothing to dislike about it, I was just in a thoroughly bad mood from bike-woes. I had loved the cycling aspect, but didn’t plan on having to spend more time getting it to work then actually in the saddle, which was very frustrating. What I would have done for my beloved and trusty G-Fish to be by my side.

I got lost in Getxo for what seemed like an eternity, stuck going down the wrong way of busy one-way streets with people everywhere. After what seemed like an hour I was finally out of the town and on the right route. With a large degree of time ‘wasted’ It was now going to be fairly tight if I was to make it to the hostel for the 7pm check-in that the website advised. (it was to close after this time)

With time not on my side, not an entirely uncommon feeling, I made as quick a progress as possible, only stopping at the occasional bottom of a hill (I found more preferable then stopping at the top, why do you need a break at the top?).

This was meant to be a more relaxing day than previous and although the distance was nearly half, it felt much more tiring as the hills rolled up and down. On some nicely paved roads that wound its way through small villages, I sped to Mungia and then continued onto the climb to Gernika.

Eventually I crested a hill and looking around there was my first flat bit of road in over an hour. I let out a huge whoop as although there were other high points around, I really felt that the worst of this climb was over. I checked my GPS for the route, and it suggested that rather than continue along the BI-2121, which I had almost come to love and respect throughout this hardship, it was telling me to turn off on trail that looked more of a dirt road. The route via Google Maps was made for cycling in mind and it had been right so far, so why stop using it now?

The road looked fun too, and although it was rocky it looked more direct. Little did I know that I was accidentally stumbling into a mountain bike heaven, which I was going to make full use of. Which got me wondering how many road bikers using Google maps would have been thrown down this route (and probably got no further then 50 metres before giving up).

After a brief climb, the dirt path became even rockier and increasingly steep, as the mountain bike started to show its use. Without much experience mountain biking this would have been a tough challenge, particularly with the pack on the back making the bikes balance difficult. As the rocks started to become larger, I had a couple of near crashes until I decided that if this was to be done, it was to be done right. I pulled over, took a sip of gin as rain begin to splash down and moved my pack from the rack to my back, while also lowering the seat. I was in full-on mountain bike mode.

I remembered a playlist I had made for a previous downhill biking session, one to really get you in the mood. I found this on the iPod and switched from my chillout indie and folk, which as easy listening as it was, every song seemed to morph into the same ‘poor old me’ whinge about a woman breaking his heart. It gave me the burst of energy I needed as I sped off down the next stretch, flying down at the same speed I would have done on Bertrand (oh how I would have loved the bullet!).

I figured it was worth taking a potential fall to really have some fun with this route, particularly as I’d likely never be riding it ever again. Veering between flowing dirt and large rocky gravel areas, I could barely contain the huge grin across my face as I rumbled on. I flew passed a hiker walking up and with over-confidence (perhaps brought on by the gin), I jumped over a ridge between two mud banks, with the bike taking a pound as it went. I was certainly glad I got the headset fixed for this, I mused.

The dirt track continued for what was probably 10km of pure joy. What were the chances of stumbling onto such a sublime piece of downhill mountain biking? My adrenaline and excitement flowing through the veins as I carried on before being spat out near the town of Gernika.

Hours of uphill toil for a 15 minute joyride. Whistler Mountain Bike Park it was not – but I guess that is what purist mountain biking is all about!

I had arrived in Gernika, though it was already 4pm. With the thought of a shower and bed if I arrived by 7pm and around 2 and half hours to go on my reckoning, I raced on barely stopping. The long and slow climb to Lekeitio started to occur, which I knew this was coming, but it never seemed to stop. Bend after bend I thought this must be the top, but time and again it tricked me. I was thankful that at least it was deceitful; as if I had rounded a corner and saw one long descend for thousands of metres I might have been too much.

There was only 5 songs from the downhill playlist still playing in my ears, which I must have listened to 6 or 7 times each, helping to get me through the worst of the ascent. The bike in its very lowest gear, me struggling to turn even that as it switched back further and further up the mountain.

I thought back to when dad and I were reading Goof’s write-up in the hostel in Littlehampton when he had mentioned the ascent of 270m. This seemed like nothing at the time and I had even laughed at him calling that a tough ascent, but after a day cycling and no sleep with the added weight of a backpack, it was seriously challenging. I wasn’t laughing now!

Just as the uphill started to give way to occasional flat areas, I knew the hardest part was over. By my calculations I was going to make it by 6:30pm at the latest, when suddenly I thought how cruel it would be if I were to get a puncture at this stage. No more then 10 minutes later, on an uphill section of narrow, unsighted road my bike started to wobble. I looked down and the back tyre was almost completely flat. I was in a terrible location so whipped out the pump, gave it a few strokes and tried to ride until there was somewhere safer to pullover, but no luck as the tire was completely gone.

I quickly hobbled with the bike until a driveway and cursed my luck again. I changed the puncture in what was probably my quickest ever time. Again, the issue being the shit inner tube coming away where it had been joined. At least now I could put a real inner tube in the back tire. All in all, with the annoyingly time consuming task of unbungeeing the back, installing a new inner tube and then re-bungeeing the bag, I had lost maybe 20 minutes or so. It was now back in the ‘in the balance’ territory of if I would arrive before the hostel closed, and again I took this frustration out on the road, thrusting my tired legs into every uphill with an angry determination.

The road turned into a windy descent, and although I was still confident of making it, there was no saying that I would be problem-free for the last hour. Fortunately for me it was, as I arrived at a town I thought must be the one before Lekeitio, believing I had another 15 minutes of cycling at least. It was almost anti-cliamtic, as I realised I was actually in Lekeitio and had made it! and with 30 minutes to spare.

A friendly local guy showed me where the hostel was, though worryingly it was closed. I thought I perhaps I could have the wrong hostel, as stupidly I hadn’t written down the name, I just knew I booked it through Hostelling International. Panicked, I walked around in a circle, seeing if there was another hostel nearby, until a man pulled up in a car.

I don’t know why but I just knew this man worked at the hostel, to which he nonchalantly said ‘sure ,just give me a minute’. I unpacked the bag, still unsure if I was at the right place and not wanting to get charged for 2 places, I quizzed him if this was the hostelling international hostel. There was lots of confusing conversation back and forth, wither neither his English or my Spanish being good enough to fully understand each other.

I had a feeling he was trying to con me into staying at this hostel, when actually my reservation was for another. Particularly because I couldn’t understand why he needed my details if I already had a reservation, but equally didn’t want to provide them because I wanted some proof I was at the right place. I then tried to get the Wi-Fi to check, all the time the minutes counting down to the 7pm deadline of whatever the hostel was that I was booked in for.

Eventually he turned his computer to me and it showed my name in the system. Perfect, I was in the right place! We laughed about the misunderstanding and hopefully he didn’t hate me too much. Then I read a notice in Basque and Spanish that said reception is open from 6 – 9pm. I was too tired and relieved to be angry, I needn’t have rushed like a madman at all – well at least it pushed me on to get here early.

Now was time to take a hugely needed shower and slip into some non-cycling clothes. It felt amazing, as I strolled out of the hostel down to the port of Lekeitio. An awesome little place, it was buzzing with activity on this Friday evening. What I especially loved about it, was that it seemed the whole town of all ages were out enjoying themselves, with live music echoing from one corner. Groups of families were drinking openly in the street with wine glasses and bottles, as the police walked passed in a friendly manner, with kids playing down in the courtyard.

It was a very family friendly atmosphere, as the bars played host to a variety of ages. It would be hard to imagine finding somewhere in England where such a mixture of ages would mix on a Friday night. I caught the opening Euro game in one bar, as I sat eating a huge portion of potato bread washed down with some cold beer (What local beer would you recommend? ….. Heineken… oh.. local beer? Wine? Oh… Heineken then please).

Although it would have been a lovely place to stay, that morning required an early start to push on for what would be another long, hilly and potentially wet day. With a couple of missed turns heading out of the town (a standard procedure it seemed), I was eventually on the right track and progress went well until Google Maps suggest I take a turn down smaller looking road.

It hadn’t let me down yet, so I followed it around as it started to wind its way up a huge hill, with dense forest surrounding me on either side. Then the descent came and I was flying down towards a number of small farm looking buildings, with a couple of bemused looking faces watching on from above. As I wound my way down, the road turned into a small gravel path rising back up towards what looked like an unending forest in front of me. No wonder they were looking bemused this was no route to take a bike!

I had covered a great deal of ground in a short time, and the thought of going back on myself to the main road was not an option, so I tentatively started cycling forward. As the gravel gave way to a bumpy walking/logging track, I spent the next hour pushing the bike up the huge, unending hill, barely able to keep my footing as I entered deep into the forest. After around an hour or so of sweaty and painstaking bike pushing, along with a few lucky guesses on which route was the correct path, it began to flatten out and it felt like I was nearly back within reach of humanity.

I breathed a sight of relief as I spotted a small road which intersected the path and joyously rode off on the flat surface. I had lost nearly an hour of time following that route, but it was a change of scenery at least, as I raced on.

I was aiming to get to Zarautz, which sounded like a nice beach town which I was hoping would have some quiet and secluded areas for me to put up the tent. On the way through I passed the fascinating city of Ondarroa, with its narrow, winding streets. On the approach I had likely taken a wrong turning, getting myself off the main road and through a back entry of steep and windy roads, that suddenly shot me out into steep vertical drop and into the city.

Lost, I cycled around and was met by a lively and buzzing atmosphere. From the outside, the town of Ondarroa may have an industrial feel but once nestled within its core there were dozens of bustling bars and restaurants. Short on time from my forest detour, I only grabbed an ice cream and a big bag of crisps, which I scoffed next to the river like an animal. I was deep in Basque country, which was evident from the amount of street art, which was fascinating to look at

As another tough but very scenic day in the saddle was nearing an end, I was close to my target of Zauratz. The patches of sun had brought out the motorbikes in their full force and there were patches of the road where I would be praying they wouldn’t catch me going around the corner at their blistering speed. Rolling along the coast and flowing down through small bridges cut into the rock, I rounded one corner and spotted the beach front of Zarautz sprawled out along the horizon in front of me.

Worryingly, the first impression of the beach from afar looked like it would offer little concealment for camping, as it seemed to have shops and restaurants lined all along it. Id worry about that later but for now there was some football to catch.

As it turned out, I had arrived just as a large triathlon event was in its final stages, with the city rocking from the atmosphere. It was also full of students out for a big weekend, which must have coincided with the end of term or exams. It wasn’t the quite town I was banking on, though it did look like fun.

On the 5th pub I entered searching for the football on TV, I stroke lucky and was able to watch an engrossing second half of Wales v Slovakia, before refreshing myself with a kebab and a long sit down. After watching the first half of the England game in a real dive bar, I ventured further into town and found a large bar facing back out onto one of the many squares.

I managed to bag a small table in front of a big screen and a few beers just before the place got rammed full of people. I had to endure a gutting last minute goal from the Russians before leaving to try and find a place to sleep.

I cycled to the very end of the beach, but there were still one or two people milling around, even in the dark. There wasn’t a chance I’d get an interrupted night sleep around here, so I locked the bike up and started walking off along on a board walk that led to the start of a cliff that would overlook the beach.

The walk was far longer then I had first assumed, and it soon became apparent that on the other side from the sea was a golf course. I knew I was going to have to settle for a very suspect camping spot, with the tent being clearly visible in a number of directions. I started up the walking route of the cliff and found a relatively flat area, slightly obscured by a bush.

I lay there for a little while, assessing when to put the tent up before I saw a headlight starting to walk follow me across from the board walk. I put my head down into the undergrowth and waited about 5 minutes, before taking a peep. The light wasn’t anywhere to be found, perhaps I was being a little paranoid that it was someone on patrol to stop me camping, so I started to unpack the tent and then heard another noise of someone walking passed me.

They must have spotted me as they grunted something as they passed. I was unsure if it was a greeting or not, as I lay motionless in among the undergrowth not wanting to move or make a noise. It actually felt quite comfortable, I thought, and in my tired state I knew I wasn’t going to find any place better, so I unpacked my thin fleece and all my warm clothes and buried myself into the undergrowth for the night. The stars were out and it looked a fine night to be sleeping out amongst the stars.

It was probably around 1am when I fell asleep and after a couple of hours I woke up with the clear sky gone and it feeling much colder. I was in a real spot of bother if it started raining, so I wrapped myself in the tent as a blanket and tried to get some more sleep. I nodded off for a couple more hours before the sound of someone walking nearby woke me up.

Day 4

The sun wasn’t yet up, though there was enough light in the sky to signal it would be peeking its head soon. I quickly gathered my things and walked back down to the bike, tired but glad the night was over. The front tyre felt a little flat, as I attempted to give it a bit of air.

To my anguish it wasn’t doing anything but letting the air out, no matter what I tried. It was only around 6am and I was desperate for an early start. I pumped and pumped, trying all different types of techniques. I tried taking the tyre off, trying a spare innertube, but no – the new pump just wouldn’t work either. Never had I ever had a problem pumping a tyre and then two pumps in a row won’t work on me. It was enough to push me over the edge, especially with the lack of sleep bulding up in the last few days. I turned around a punched a nearby tree, instantly cutting a couple of my knuckles. I collapsed dejected, before eventually locking the bike up and going on the hunt for a petrol station to be my saviour.

Luckily there was one within a 10 minute walk, so after finding where it was I reeled my bike over to it and after a couple of attempts was able to inflate the tyre. Overjoyed at now being able to depart, after 2 hours after trying to give my tyre some air, I was finally off and on my way to France.

The riding was less hilly on this leg, as I again took out my pump-related anger on the bike and launched myself towards France, where I knew I had a few days out of the saddle to rest. I flew through San Sebastian, which looked a lively and interesting place though much busier and more touristy then anywhere else so far. It even had the first McDonalds I’d seen in Spain, with lots of English being spoken as I cycled through.

There was no time to stop though sadly, as I ploughed on. Thinking that there may be a slight hold up at the border it was completely accidental that I jumped across into France without knowing. Following a bike lane which led to a bridge that was barred off with a temporary metal barrier, I spotted one area that had been pushed over. Not wanting to leave the bike path or try another route, I ventured over, crossed the bridge and through a fallen gate at the other end. As I started to cycle on I noticed some French on a sign – I had accidentally jumped the border, whoops!

Looking back along the river I saw a number of other bridges, the ones I should have used, and although there were small check points on them nobody appeared to be getting stopped. The French roads felt immediately different to the Spanish, strangely less maintained, busier and with a far smaller hard shoulder. I hadn’t been beeped or shouted at for the entirety I was in Spain but within 15 minutes I had my first French honk (for not apparent reason).

I continued on for what was the least enjoyable bit for cycling reasons, towards Biarritz. The route took me along some busy roads, and at times along a couple of very main roads which were particularly unenjoyable. Perhaps there was a better route but I was sticking with Google Maps, which, albeit for a couple of cross-country excursions, had generally been very good to me.

I was able to find the campsite without too many issues and set up camp, before grabbing a long awaited shower. Dean arrived shortly after to find a very small tent, ominous looking clouds and also the news that there was no chance of him getting a tent or a bike today. France is closed on Sundays, as it happens.

After following in love with ‘Grimbergen’, a superb beer, we watched Germany edge passed Ukraine with half of Germany it seemed staying at the camp ground. We both crammed ourselves into my 1 person tent, as we left our bags outside under a nearby tree for shelter.

We would definitely need to get ourselves another tent.

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