Montserrat to Barcelona…The End



I awoke and jumped out of bed at 5.57 am this morning. Very precise I know, but the bells had started tolling next door at the Basilica. Call to arms! It was still pitch black as I opened the shutters to peer out to see what was happening.

The bells tolled again off and on for the next hour and I did tape some on my iPad, as I did in Florence with the early morning Duomo bells.

We really did have a magical view out our bedroom window didn’t we!

Breakfast was a busy affair as this is a large hotel and we mixed it with other guests queuing for coffee ( so I grabbed two large ones for myself!)

Independently of each other Tony and I had decided we wanted to ride with all/some of the other riders today. Each day we were 1-2 hours ahead of them so had not really ridden with any of them.

Waiting patiently. That is Martin getting ready in the background.

It was quite misty looking back up the mountain.


Finally we were all ready and had a last day photo.

Great bunch of people!!

We started off with a descent down the mountain. I dropped my chain and needed to stop and then the same thing happened to Tony. Bit weird!

Nice descent!

Passing through Monistrol de Montserrat at 9.3 km we passed under a railway as we headed out of town.



We stopped for an early coffee at Olesa de Montserrat in the company of Jamie, Barbara and Martin.  We headed off together but with another hill climb remaining planned to wait at the top.

Looking back we could see where we started the day at Montserrat.


The next chunky riding was more traversing busier, built up areas which is not particularly relaxing, but a necessity.  There were an incredible number of non synchronised red lights we stopped at.

We entered the final climb of the day, and this tour.


I think the town where the flag below was hanging was Sant Bartomeu de la Quadra. This weekend there is to be a referendum held in Catalonia, the Spanish state we are in. The vote is about seeking independence from Spain. Certainly there have been many “SI” flags flying in the last week. Spain do not support the vote and we have been advised to be vigilant on Sunday and Monday.


As in Tasmania, there is a 1.5m rule.


As we climbed to Collet de L’Espinagsa we had some nice views despite the increasing air pollution.



Once at the Collet we waited for some of our riders as we were now only 6 km from our accomodation. While we waited we noted this site overlooking Barcelona.

That is a huge church with an even bigger antenna in front of it.


We could not help but to notice this dog. We asked the owners about the shoes and they said it was to protect his feet from stones.


So we took a few photos whilst waiting.


Waiting for cyclists to appear 



Three turned up so we descended into Barcelona.


Checking out the view.

The last few km were horribly hectic and we were relieved to arrive in one piece.  Then we had to start the cleaning and strip down of the bikes ready to transport back home.

We have been out for a walk to check out the more immediate vicinity and have some thoughts about the next few days including, guess what? Yes we are going on a bike tour of Barcelona with a few of the other riders! Just for something different!


Can’t keep me off anything resembling a bike for long!  


Solsona to Montserrat

Second last morning of riding.

Looking out the window at Solsona on what is to be our second last day of riding. Barcelona looms, and realistically today will be the last day of feeling ‘free’ as riding through urban conurbations is somewhat stressing.

I had slept badly with bruised shoulder and hip making for uncomfortable sleep. I had arisen during the night to take some pain relief.

We had our fourth hearty Spanish breakfast and hit the road promptly as today we needed to cover over 91 km and climb around 1500 metres.

We headed back into town and followed the old town around the edges before veering off through undulating farmland.

Open farmland just out of Solsona


We started climbing and then undulated along the top of hills before turning to ‘El Miracle’ a historic abbey. from the road it looked ‘plain’ compared to others.

El Miracle

However the information board shows that there is more to the place than meets the eye.


The road then descended from El Miracle and undulated through woods and fields, rejoining the main road. A few km later we turned off the main road again.

Nice little farm

The topography was starting to dry out more and there were some really old looking structures such as the one behind me in the photo below.


At the 46 km mark we rode through the reasonable sized town of Calaf, with lots of navigational instructions. We had decided to look for a coffee at the next town of El Prats de Rei. I think we found the only place open there and for 4.80 Euro got 2 coffees, and 3 snacks. Bargain.

We started a 8 km gentle climb.

Just leaving El Prats de Rei

The navigational notes stated that the top of the climb was by the wind turbines. There were so many in the area. Good to see Spain making use of its natural resources.



Just past the top of this climb the real ‘fun’ for the day started. Now I am not a big fan of riding on gravel. I have come off my bike twice this trip on gravel and sporting a very sore shoulder today. So it was somewhat a surprise to discover we were going to be riding 14 km off sealed bitumen on our road bikes!

On the plus side, the views were great, the sun was shining and I managed to stay upright! I found this part of the ride a real challenge mentally and physically though!

That big rock lump was our first view of Montserrat, today’s destination. At this point still over 30 km away.



This is a nice, solid section of the road. Much of it was not as solid, and was quite steeply undulating!

This next view is looking back to where we have ridden.


Montserrat was always in our view and kept our focus!



Carefully goes it!
Here I am descending towards a village…unaware of a nasty loose gravel climb ahead!

As we entered the village of Sant Pau de la Guardia there was sealed road! Celebrations! We stopped and had a snack as it had been quite taxing riding 14 km of gravel. We were met by the village friendly and happy dog!


Happy dog bounding up to welcome me.

We were back onto a beautifully bitumised road but nervous about the next direction “road climbs through rocky scrub”. Surely not!!??

Fortunately it referred to the roadside vegetation!

It was nice to start the final climb up towards Montserrat.

Our first Park sign for Montserrat

The temperature was now around 26 degrees and we were working up quite a sweat on the climb, but the views were great.



You pass through two tunnels on the climb up to Montserrat and we had so many buses descending past us.

Still climbing up through the long car park I had a tourist bus up my clacker! I was not moving and held my position! He did overtake me but then had to sit behind Tony but only for a short distance as there was a barrier preventing the bus from going further.

Omce amongst the tourist throng we needed to get off our bikes and walk as they were walking oblivious to everything.

We were the first to arrive and we checked into the hotel, keen to store our bikes and start exploring.

Today’s route
Todays elevation graph

We decided the first thing we would do was purchase a ticket for the furnicular to the top of the ‘rocks’

Above the hotel (right) and to the left of the blue crane is a white line in the crevice which is where the furnicular climbs.


Here is a closer shot. Can you see it?

Once at the top there are multiple walking trails that you can take to ancient abbeys and hermitages. We chose the Saint Joan walk. The following are some of the views.


In this photo you can see the remains of the hermitage from the 1400’s.
Looking back down along some of the walking trail
Just below the hermitage is this little church
Heading back down to ‘catch’ the furnicular

Back down at the base, we found another view showing the furnicular tracks.

The dual track section is where the ascending and descending pass each other. All carefully timed!

After a tough day on the bike we were starting to get sick of walking, so headed straight to the Basilica.

After entering the complex you arrive in this square and the door you enter is the central blue door.


Certainly the interior is incredibly ornate.

The priest and the maintenance man were having a lengthy conversation

I was particularly interested in the organ. What a treat it would have been to listen to it. I was particularly intrigued by the protruding pipes looking like a series of car mufflers.



Upon leaving there was a grotto with many sections of coloured candles that you could purchase for 2 or 3 Euros. Amazing how much warmth there was in here from the candles.


As I write this blog, I am listening to the Basilica bells which have been ringing regularly since 6.30 pm. This reminds me strongly of our stay in Florence, where our accomodation was directly opposite the Duomo.

Tomorrow will be bitter sweet. It is always nice to achieve your goal, but there is also sadness that it is ‘over’. There will be ‘farewells’ with fellow cyclists we have really enjoyed the company of at breakfast and dinner, sharing our days tales.


Standing at the front of the Basilica, that is our hotel on the right

Coll de Nargo to Solsona

This was my first view out our bedroom window this morning.


It was overcast in the direction we were to ride. Firstly though, more important matters. Breakfast. I love Spain! 3 days running we have had a great breakfast!! Good fuel for the climbing ahead.

Leaving the hotel we headed back towards Organya for 2.4 km before turning right and crossing a small river.

Looking back towards Coll de Nargo

A little further up the road we could see Coll de Nargo more clearly, perched on its rocky outcrop.


The road was very quiet and serene.



We travelled along this road for some distance before descending and then climbing along a gorge and through several short tunnels.


We past two small villages of Alinya and Les Sorts before climbing to the top of our first Col for the day, Coll de Boix (1320m). No sign, so no photo!

After a short descent we started climbing again out of the village of Cambrils. We found these couple of friendly guys (?) on the side of the road, with dreadlocked manes.


The spectacular views continued with amazing rock formations.


In this photo you can see a lower road that we had ridden up. We looked hard to see if we could see any of our other riders.



We passed through another tunnel and continued climbing and then descending near this cafe.

Casanova was not home!

Beautiful views!

Hardly seems likely territory for cows!



At the 33 km point we found this natural spring. Two old guys were filling their water containers up. The water was very cold and very nice so we filled up our bidons.

This old guy was amazed that I had cycled from Coll de Nargo up all those hills!

We continued to climb up and around until we reached Coll de Jou (1480m). These are photos from this section.

An old fortification at the top of the hill


An old structure built at the cliff base


Coll de Jou

From the Coll the road descended and continued undulating along the top of rocky wooded hills, before climbing steeply up another small 2 km section.

From the top of this climb Tony shot off down and around a bend and as I followed him noticed he had pulled off the road to take a photograph. So I slowed down to pull off and ended up,underneath my bike! Most importantly the rear derailleur is ok! Me, well I knocked the scab off my knee, and have matching bruises on my right hip and a very sore shoulder!

As we descended further down we were amazed by the geology of the area.


Amazing rounded structures

This was our final view back to where we had ridden during the day! The Pyrenees certainly have been a highlight and we are now farewelling the amazing area.

The last of the Pyrenees, but not climbing for us!

Today’s route and elevation data.



We are now in Solsona, a quite large town. There is an ‘old town’ section which is medieval. We went for a wander but it was all closed for the siesta, which goes from around 12 noon to between 4-5 pm! It was like a ghost town!

This used to be the main entrance to the town for nobles
Quiet, narrow streets
600 Euro if you don’t pick up your doggy poo!
The Museum
One of three remaining water fountains in the old town that used to provide fresh water
Interesting stone carvings
The Cathedral. Closed for siesta until 4 pm but obviously that is not strictly adhered to as it still had not reopened by 4.15 pm. Parts of this church go back to the 10th century,


So we are nearly at the end of this cycling odyssey, sadly! 2 more days of riding are left. Tomorrow we climb again this time to Montserrat and then the final day, with more climbing and the urban necessity of riding into Barcelona!

Sort to Coll de Nargo

As has been standard the last few days, we immediately encountered a climb. Today was a 19.6 km climb up to Collado de Canto at just over 1720 metres. A 19 km climb is solid with little reprieve so it is vital to have a positive mind set.

This view is in the first few km
That is Sort! We have already climbed up a few hundred metres
Looking back down the valley towards Sort
Tony acting strong on the climb, or did he just find a new bike behind the bushes that left us both with cuts on our legs whilst admiring the valley views?

Thank goodness we were off the road admiring the valley views when around 20 Porsche cars came screaming around the bend. They were on a mission.

I can understand also why Spain has so many ace motorbike riders. I have never seen as many motorbikes as what I have experienced in the last few days. Everything from quad bikes, trail bikes and sport touring bikes.

Porsches using the road as a racing circuit. They do make a nice sound!
Some of the switchbacks we have already ridden up

Finally we are at the top after nearly 1 hours 5o minutes climbing the 19.6 km. The area is part of the Spanish National Parks.


The ubiquitous Col photo

Gilet and arm warmers back on for the descent. We did stop a few times at viewpoints such as this one in the following photos.


We descended through a number of villages including Pallerols, Avellanet, La Parroquia D’Horto and El Pla De Sant Tirs. the roads had become increasingly busy.

We had been warned about a 600 metre road tunnel we needed to pass through. There was a safer option of going behind the safety barrier and using an old road around the side of the hill. It was really pretty as it was a small carved gorge.

We rode through Organya only 4 km before our destination and whilst quite a busy town decided to knock off the final few km before seeking sustenance.

What an impressive last few km! The rock formations are simply stunning and reminded me of the rock formations viewed from Torbole on Lake Garda ( Italy).



Today’s route
Today’s elevation graph


We arrived in Coll de Nargo well  ahead of the other riders and van. The village is perched precariously on a hilltop so we decided to cruise around and check the small village out.

We found this old 10th century church.


We found one place open at the top of a very steep laneway. The baker here is from Estonia. I enjoyed a very unusual dish that was predominantly spinach with a few raisins. Odd combination that tasted very nice.

Brilliant bakery.

We returned to the hotel and sat around the pool eating our lunch. After the van arrived and we checked in, showered and laundered clothes we set off on a walk to the highest point of the village.

This photo shows the road we rode in on
Views from our walk
Intricate stone work on top of existing bedrock
Narrow laneways with houses either side

So another day done and dusted and only 3 more days riding to reach Barcelona. We have plenty more climbing in each of those days!!

Contemplating all those Cols still to climb!



Salardu to Sort…oh Spain!

What a time we have had in Spain so far!

We went out to tea 50 metres from our accomodation and dinner was not starting until 8.30 pm! We could not last that long for food so chose cold tapas. Exquisite food!!

I met and befriended Marco, a free spirited Italian cyclist just doing what he loves. He became our newest best friend! He was such a happy and friendly guy, with a passion for cycling and zest for life that could only make you smile!IMG_2300

We were provided with free shots of the local liquor. Looked like cough medicine but wow!! I brought a bottle to bring home. My first alcohol since finishing London to Venice!!

There was live music and the guy could really sing! He belted out a great rendition of Roxanne. There were little kids that looked about 5 years carting huge beers outside to their parents.

It was a great fun atmosphere and the whole village seemed to be there. As we left I gave the owner a hug as it was just great fun and they made us feel so welcome.


Elizabeth with the shot glasses. Elizabeth was born in Cork, Ireland, lived in Glasgow, Scotland and emigrated to Ottawa, Canada around 30 (?) years ago.

Today shone brightly and we had the best breakfast yet. Scrambled eggs and a great variety of protein! Yes the ubiquitous carbs were there but at least there were options today.

As soon as we left our accomodation we climbed  and climbed and climbed. Already at 1300 metres we climbed to nearly 2100 metres to Port de Bonaigua. A really nice climb with great views.

Looking back towards Salardu
Leaving Salardu


Early in the climb
Start of the official 13 km climb
Series of switchbacks started half way up
At the top!

Very pleased to be at the top, we then donned extra clothes for the descent. We were a km or so into the descent when we had to slow down for horses that were in the road and verges. Some were even wearing cow bells.

They seemed fairly tame. This horse was quite ok with me being so close.

The descent was good fun! We got caught behind a motor home for some distance and Tony overtook it much to my horror. I chose to sit back behind, in a more conservative approach.

A section of the descent

There were great views but we did not stop a lot descending.


At La Guinguetta d’aneu there is a nice lake we passed.


We rode through Llavorsi at the 51 km point, crossing a river and following a gorge. Rafting was very popular with multiple groups on the river.

Rafting promotional signage
Rafting group downstream

We arrived in Sort right on midday and checked out the main street  where there was a political march occurring.


Today’s route skipping close to Andorra


Today’s elevation graph

We then headed to the hotel, well ahead of check in and the van! It was a beautiful day and look what we found!

I could not get my shoes off quick enough. The pool is not heated.

Anyway it got too much for me. I took my jersey off and….

Yes into the pool with my cycling knicks! Great way to cool off!

For tea we headed into Sort to try and find anything, anywhere before 8 pm. they really do eat late in Spain. We were with Elizabeth and Gordon and found a tapas bar where I tried cuttlefish for the first time. Very much like squid.


Bagneres de Luchon to Salardu

Today we climbed out of France and dropped into Spain. Sounds simple but it was actually quite hard work! Some cumulative tiredness along with continuing poor nutrition at breakfast and the start of a head cold and back spasms made it quite a challenge.

Lovely first km heading out from our hotel, just before the climb into Spain

The Spanish/French border is located at the top of Col Du Portillon at 1293 metres, according to the sign at the base of the climb.

The sign at the base of the climb

A series of switchbacks commence just after the 3 km point. The climb was really scenic passing through lush green woods.

Early part of the climb

The switchbacks provided some nice views. I was passed by two other cyclists from Wales on the way up and both were encouraging.


A nice stone cottage on the climb.


Just before the summit there was this magical view back over France.

Au revoir France!

As you approach the summit is this sign.


Tony waited for me just before the border. Here I come!!

I can see the border at this point

The two Welsh cyclists were at this sign waiting for their two mates who were still climbing. One of them kindly took this photo.

Glad to be at the top of the first climb for the day.

We had a lovely chat with the guys swapping tales. Turns out we have ridden in their area on our LeJog trip when we rode through Chepstow to Tintern Abbey and the Wye Valley in 2013.

My new Welsh cycling buddies

This is the view only a couple of km into Spain.


4 km down the descent is a viewpoint overlooking the valley and celebrating Spain’s success in the Tour de France.


Spanish TDF winners
TDF statue. This photo was taken by a friendly Spanish motor cyclist I had started a conversation with.

Once at the bottom of the descent we rode along a river valley and crossed the Garonne, the river we had followed extensively around Bordeaux, where it is a wide and very muddy river. Here it is crystal clear!

Garonne River

The second climb of the day was required to take us off the busy main road. We crossed over the river and climbed steeply through a series of switchbacks to the village of Es Borders.

We continued to climb out of the village and continued through woods, adjacent to the river. The following sign ensured an expletive. 16.1%!!

16.1% is tough!

This is a section of the wooded forest.


The beautiful river we followed.


Here I am ambling up a slope.


This route  did offer some great views.



We ultimately descended into Gausac, an architecturally interesting town with winding, cobblestoned laneways. Next thing we were in Vielha a large, busy town.

We could have stopped for refreshments here but noted on our route that there was a third climb. I am not a fan of climbing with cold legs so we just idled through the valley spinning our legs in low gears as we continued climbing through Betren, Escunhau, Casarilh and Arties before arriving at our destination in Salardu.

We started this morning 700 metres above sea level. We are now at 1300 metres. tomorrow we are over 2000 metres before heading into Sort.

Todays climbing graph
Today’s route map

So following our usual routine of showering and washing our clothes we went wandering around Salardu. It is a small village set on a steep slope. It is a ski village.

We were really on a mission to find food!! Eventually we located somewhere very close to our accomodation. It looked closed but upon entering I think the entire village was in there, spirited away in a series of rooms all stone walled and seemingly underground.

A fantastic first meal in Spain!

Now to rest a little.. not too long mind you! But just a little given I am succumbing to a head cold.

Finally here are three shots from around the local village. The church goes back to the 12th century.

All the houses are constructed of stone with slate roofing.
Tucked up in the hills
A beautiful vista. 

Rest day – Superbagneres!

Today was scheduled as a rest day, but for anyone who knows me, they would know that term does not sit easily with me. I can’t do nothing!

Originally we had hoped to do the classic Tourmelet climb, weather permitting. Thunderstorms were forecast to hit Bagneres between 12 noon and 1 pm rendering this ride and climb as being in the ‘ not too sensible’ bucket.

Instead we opted to do the Superbagneres climb which starts right in Luchon.

Luchon is another spa town so you can guess what breakfast was! Yes, bread only! Hardly the food for a cyclist! So I supplemented this with some coconut cream I had purchased from the local supermarket.

We dropped the paniers for this ride given it was an out and back ride.

The views were simply stunning!

Below are a range of photos from the climb.



The climb is 17 km long. At the top is a currently closed ski village. Great views over Luchon. I managed to fall off my bike whilst sticky beaking and now have quite a nice range of bruises on both legs and gravel rash on my buttocks and thigh! No photos, ha ha!

I am concentrating on the descent!
Today’s route
The climb

It was a very fast and fun descent back into Luchon where we went straight to a creperie for a nice galette and coffee.

Being our third spa town we thought we had better visit one and see what all the fuss is about.  15 euro for us into the level with an extraordinary sauna network in a cave that was founded in Rome an times. There is a network of 150 metres in the cave.

After extensive showering and cleaning procedures you enter the complex tunnels where the humidity is 100 percent with air temperatures of between 38-42 Celsius.

You find a seat somewhere in the darkened chambers and sweat profusely. back out for showering before entering the jet pool. We did this cycle 3 times and decided we could not cope with a 4th session in the stunning and incredible cave.

File photo of part of the cave

We then caught up with Annie for coffee. We met her in Tasmania a few years ago when she was doing a ride around the state with Prickles. They are about to head off to ride together for 6 months! Annie is now based in Luchon.

On the way back to our accomodation we dropped into a small restaurant recommended by Lisette and Sumi. What an extraordinary hour we spent there.

Bruno is the owner and chef. He was very loud and very, very drunk. He was very keen to impart many thoughts with us. It was difficult to get away from him, but he had a kind heart and although he is jaded with the politics in France, terrorism and yearns to live in a chalet in the mountains, he is a good cook and we had a nice meal!!

Very sober Sharron and very drunk Bruno. What is not showing in the photo is that Bruno is caressing my hands endlessly!!

So tomorrow we say au revoir to France as we are only 10-15 km from the Spanish border.

I love this photo! Hence it appears twice so that it is the lead photo when I “press” this to Facebook !! 


St Gaudens to Bagneres de Luchon

What another brilliant day! But before I get into that, a few little oddities from our accomodation in St Gaudens. The accomodation was run by two very strict ladies. You darned not cross them. They swore prolifically in French. They had unusual taste in light fittings!

There were a number of these! The big fluffy balls were ‘curious’

They also win the prize for the smallest bath award:

Yes I know you bath with your clothes off but this photo was merely for ‘illustration’ purposes only.

Notwithstanding that they did take good care of our babies:

Yes the bikes are in their breakfast room.

I think they may have underestimated the eating power of cyclists. We were strictly allocated one croissant, one piece of cheese, one slice of ham, one tub of natural yoghurt, 2 pieces baguette. I did manage to obtain a second coffee but that was because I had not had orange juice. I noticed the older lady carefully counting grapes too… but they were a bit soft and most of us passed.

When we packed up our room to depart, this was the view.


We left St Gaudens via the same roads we had entered and headed off towards Valentine. It was cold at 9 degrees and we had bare legs, but well rugged up on our top half.

We ideally would liked to have dumped our front paniers for today’s climb. However it was an unknown factor as to whether the van would be at the top for us to grab warmer clothes for the descent. So we erred on the conservative side and chose to carry provisions for the full day.

We rode through Valentine (6.1 km), Ardiege (8.9 km), Cier de Rivière (9.8 km) arriving at Col de la Hountared at 12.6 km.

We turned right climbing through woods ( what a surprise) but what a nasty little climb this turned out to be, with a 17 % section!

That is me climbing the last hundred metres or so.
A close up would show me grimacing!!

Around the area of Labroquere (17.1 km) we noted the old Roman funeral pile looking more like a section of a fence.


Saint Bernard de Comminges was an impressive village with a cathedral overlooking ancient roman ruins.

Remains from an ancient Roman village
Just over the road, unexcavated Roman ruins

We continued through a number of villages including Sarp (21.6 km), Aveux (22.7 km) travelling through narrow wooded valleys along the side of a river.

At Mauleon Barousse (29.1 km) we stopped as the Bike Adventures van was there. After a chat with Andy we motored on as I was not keen for my knee to cool down.


We turned right at this village and came across this sign, indicating the commencement of our 19 km climb.

The sign indicates that our current altitude was 576 metres but we were heading to 1775 metres over 19 km of climbing

As with all climbs, Tony has a leave pass to do what he wants. I like to climb on my own, cognisant of my knee and asthma. Today it was to be my back though that would cause me pain!

The views were great

As you climb it is important to stay mentally focused. Each km there is a sign indicating what exactly average incline is for the next km. The first few were only 3 -to 4 percent. Then they increased to 7,8,9 and 10 percent!

About half way up a couple of ‘young’ cyclists from Canada passed me and cheered me on, in French. Around one of the hairpin bends Tony was waiting to take photos of me grimacing!


I must be hot as I have unzipped my clothing. Sorry Hannah!! Modesty goes out the window in favour of ‘comfort’

I followed Tony for a bit and we came across these cows. They were so cute, with the adults having bells that were ringing. It explained all the cow pats on the road that I had seen too. They seem to just wander and go where they want.

Also note the TDF road markings


Nice view looking back 
Can you see me? I am a speck climbing up

This next photo is as I entered the last km of the climb.


Looking back down 
Only a few hundred metres to go
Made it! 

I was very glad to get to the top. My back had been having muscular spasms for over half the ride. I lay down on the grass and did some stretching.

There were numerous cyclists at the top all congratulating each other!

Time to descend. More clothes back on as it is always colder when descending.

The view on the descending side



Some friendly random cyclists who were also descending
View from one of the villages descending 

We had a fast descent into Bagneres de Luchon. We were the first of the cyclists to arrive and knew we had a bit of time to kill before the van arrived. We stopped at a restaurant and had lunch and then pootled to the accomodation where we did some bike maintenance and enjoyed the sun.

Tomorrow is a rest day. The weather forecast is not brilliant putting a dampener on our previous plans, but we will wait and see what the day brings!

Today’s climb
Today’s route 




Marciac to Saint Gaudens

What a brilliant day in the saddle! It was a day full of “oohs” and “wow”! It was not an easy day riding up and down hills, ending up 300 metres higher in altitude than the start.

It was only 9 degrees Celsius  when we left Marciac. As we climbed out of town, the mist was rising above the paddocks.



As we climbed a little further and rounded a bend, our first BIG wow occurred. The Pyrenees were straight ahead, snow capped and very inspiring!


Still a fair distance away, but we will be there within two days.

We past through many heavily wooded forests today, always climbing. Spinning in our small chain ring, constantly thinking about the days that lay ahead, conserving energy and my knee as much as possible.

We past through villages of Mazous ( 21.7 km), Estampes (24.3 km), and Estampures (27.4 km) and Mazerolles (29.5 km) all very quiet and sleepy.  I think we had seen 3 cars at this stage, and about 8 barking dogs!

At 38.6 km we rode into Trie-sur-Baise a large bastide village. We felt it was too early for coffee but picked up extra water and some Lindt 90% chocolate!

Trie-sur-Baise, from outside the supermarket!

The road descended and it was great to ride on some flat!


We crossed the river and climbed into the woods, arriving at Campuzan (49.2 km) to then descend.



At 51.3 km we crossed another river and rode past this flash looking chateau.

Flash looking chateau!

The omnipresent Pyrenees kept us very focused view wise! They are getting bigger!! All the time I was wondering which bit we would be climbing through.




Leaving Lassales at 61.2 km we rode up the steepest pinch of the day with a short 20% incline! Nasty! Granny gear engaged!

Brief deviation: Here is a photo showing page 3 of our route notes from today. Leon, who works with Tony at Caterpillar, asked why my km overall each day are less than Tony’s. ( He has noted this from our strava file uploads, being quite observant!). The answer is simple. It is to do with navigation. We are using my Garmin to try and match route notes. That means if we deviate off course ( eg in a village looking for food, drink, just looking around), if that is not in the course route, I will stop my Garmin and start again when on route

Look at all the ‘climb into woods’

Below is the church at St Plancard. We stopped just around the corner and had a light snack before yes, climbing into the woods.

St Plancard (74.8 km)

Another inspiring Pyrenees view!


Far less inspiring, me having just climbed out of the woods!
The view I had after climbing out of the woods! This is why I ride my bike!

We eventually ran out of woods to climb, arriving in the very busy town of Saint Gaudens. We are now happily ensconced in our hotel, having arrived quite early. Fortunately we were granted an early check in.

There is a very curious art ‘installation’ just outside our hotel. It is moving. Plank by plank this curious structure is moving with the aide of about 20 helpers!


Today’s route. 92 km and over 1600 metres climbing.

Finally, the view out our bedroom window is just awful! I am sure you will all agree! A reminder of what is to come in the next few days! Tomorrow is another tough day but the weather forecast is promising!!



Barbotan-les-Thermes to Marciac

The little blue squiggle indicates where we rode today in France


Barbotan is a thermal spa town full of ‘old’ people. Last year we stayed in another spa town in France, Bourbonne-les-Bains. That town also was full of ‘old’ people. I discovered another commonality today, they have meagre breakfasts designed for ‘old’ people, not cyclists.

Unfortunately not one healthy option available only high sugar cereals and bread and jams. I did ask for ‘fromage’ but got a big shake of the head!! At least the company was good!

Left to right: Martin, Mike, Lisette, Suni, Andy and Tony

We were first to depart the town riding down the main pedestrian strip. I was quite taken with this fruit and vegetable shop, particularly the colours and presentation.

The baskets of product front left are a type of dehydrated mushroom.

Riding out of town we rode past Lac d’Ulby where there were lots of people camping. We did not stop as the temperature gauge was showing only 9 degrees Celsius. Whilst we had plenty of clothes on our top half, our legs were bare and we were keen to keep them rolling over, albeit slowly as today was short in km and we could not arrive too early!

From the Lac we rode through undulating fields and vineyards. Grapes and maize were the main products.

Small quiet roads passing through farmlands.


More grapes, plus Tony

Villages past through included Cuxtan (9.0 km) and Ayzieu (15.8 km). The next two photos show the views in this area.


At the entrance to a chateau

One thing we always notice in the sleepy hamlets and villages are just how quiet they are. It is like the people have all been spirited away. They are often ghostly quiet. If the silence is broken, it is generally in one of two ways. The tolling of the local church bell ( and every town has an ancient church) or it is the local dogs we upset.


When the day is short ( km wise) and you can’t arrive at your destination too early you cruise on your bike. You also look for places to stop, take photographs, have a coffee. However today towns with coffee were light on.

The route continued to be undulating with a couple of shorter climbs having 14 percent pinches. That is when you would like to dump the extra kg hanging off your handlebars!

By about the 25 km mark I had dumped my long sleeve jacket and had arm warmers on! It was a balmy 14 degrees!! Ha ha. But the sun was nice.

More of today’s route

At the 25 km point we entered Ste Christie D’Armagnac, a small hamlet. The instructions said to “BL, road climbs through arch and then descends steeply (Caution rough lane).

However, the route was totally blocked with fencing closing the road. What to do? That is the advantage of having a Garmin satellite showing local roads. We re-routed and within a few km rejoined the original route.

We planned to stop at Aignan (38.6 km) hoping to find some sustenance. It did not disappoint. Aignan is another bastide town with the all familiar squares. I popped into the small supermarket and found some nice local diced cheese to nibble on. We sat in the sun!

Yet another 12th century church
The view from our spot in the sun

Leaving Aignan we noted the sunny blue skies had become ominously dark in spots, and rain was threatening. The wind had picked up as well.

The rest of the route was as it had been so far, undulating up and down with occasional shorter pinches.

I have just come out of one of those steep pinches here!

On the outskirts of Marciac is this lake.

Look at that dark cloud! It motivated us to move on!

We arrived in Marciac well ahead of the Bike Adventures van. We knew we would and had planned to kick our heels up somewhere! After a visit to the boulangerie, we sat in the square enjoying the sun ( that dark cloud having moved on).

View from the square
Marciac is also a bastide village
And again!

After showering and laundering we went wandering visiting the historical buildings.

Looks like I got caught reading about this building whilst enjoying the sun

We then wandered down to the second spire that dominates the local skyline. St Augustine was an ancient convent.

St Augustine

Enter the arch shown on the left and this is what we found!

An archeological dig with skeletons!
Broader overview of the dig

So another day done and dusted! Tomorrow gets a bit more serious climbing wise as we continue through the foothills of the Pyrenees to Lannemezan.