Day 1

St Jean pied du Port to Pamplona (Cirauqui)

Covered 123km today. Due to the height of the Pyrenees St Jean Pied du Port stays a little darker in the mornings until the sun clears the mountain tops, this meant we knew we’d be setting off in the dark. However, at 5am I found myself watching a pretty large electric storm over the pass.

The sky was lit every few seconds and it was very close. We decided to delay for an hour and then another as there was no let-up. When I went to the reception to pay other pilgrims were there booking another nights stay. When we did arrive at the pilgrims office with the bikes they told us that they were advising everyone to stick only to the road, and only leave if you had to. So as we climbed out onto the pass it was getting light, we’d lost two hours and the lightening was still overhead.

We climbed out of the rain by sun up and found ourselves sandwiched between cloud layers. Climbing up into the second layer of cloud and the rain was torrential, that stayed with us into Pamplona. Navigating through the city was perfect with the GPS and we stopped at the old town albergue for a sellos (stamp for the credential) we cleared Pamplona about 3pm. Today we managed a lot more distance than I thought we would. Glen has had bike trouble and fell off twice (very low speed) but we found a nice albergue in Cirauqui.

Cirauqui is a town on a steep knoll. It’s surrounded by steepness and has steep engraved into its streets. It wants you to enter slowly and leave qqquuuuiiiiccckkllyyy! But the albergue we found at the top opposite the church (which uses its bells to remind you it’s there all through the night) is more than worth the (steep) climb. As we approached there appeared to be an open air living room going on at first floor level. The people sat up there raised the albergue owner who opened up and told us to bring our bikes straight in. My kind of home owner! We leaned our bikes near his little library and he stamped our passports. He then talked food. I have no idea what he said but he used the most beautiful words you could imagine. I nodded and kept saying “yes” in Spanish. Especially at the point where he was appearing to indicate portion size with his hands and things were getting larger. Either that or I was in trouble. Before long this massive meatball sandwich appeared and made my day really lovely.

At some point in this food related higher state a new friend rolled onto the scene (well, as much as gravity would allow) Myles Schnorbus. More about him tomorrow. I don’t want to detract from the loveliness of the sandwich

Glen’s Journal:

———– Day 1 -24th October 2012

5.49am I woke up… feeling still a bit rough and icky from illness but tough.. this was a journey we had planned for months.. (tony doing the most planning im so grateful now and should have spent more time researching)  ok I was hoping we would stay dry yesterday but we woke up to thunderstorms and constant rain..

The thunderstorm was huge.. the lightening would light up the sky and the ridges of the pyrenees.. it was amazing to watch.. i put my water proofs on from the outset.. I had a number of flap jacks and cereal bars for energy to start..and at 7am it was time to get moving.. panniers taken to the bikes.. and bill settled.. An american couple in the bar were like you can do this on bikes.. contemplating getting bikes and they said theyd spend another night there to let the weather ease.. we were like we have no choice… the challenge is on and at 7am we set off… We carried a pilgrims passport we got this stamped at the hotel and the pilgrims office in st john pied de port… tonys garmin set and off we go after our second stamp..

It was raining… but we were fresh… weight of my pannier hanging on my mind… but pedals turning and our ascent of the pyrenees begins…. we climbed and climbed the roads swayed in s bends as we ascending.. it wasnt cold,  just wet but cycling all day thats enjoyment to me… The bike at this point was holding up well the Michelin tyres were smooth… and we cycled to the top of the pyrenees. .photo moment… at the sign indicating top…

As we reached the top we knew it would be then a good descent…. I remember seeing the sign I saw on the film the way… santiago over 800km.. just after the towm of Ronscaleves… Tony was a head of me and as we passed the sign I couldn’t shout tony back to see it… On the way down to pamplona… we were in tandem with another set of cyclists jockeying back and forth… till they stopped and we carried on…

On the descent… first mechanical failure my cleat wouldnt disengage from the pedal.. the screw had totally sheered from in my shoe… out comes tonys pliers and I was unclipped…. I was thinking theres only one set of holes for my cleats…panic again.. shoe off… and thankfully two set of holes… phew… cleat fixed to the second set of holes.. back in action.. and to pamplona we headed… it was like an industrial area were this happened.. trucks passing alot… but they gave us room..

We arrived at Pamplona. .and got our pilgrims passports stamped… we arrived just before siesta…. and we pulled In at a little patisserie. ..at this point I was starving… coffees pastries and a big loaf of bread shared…. we were lucky to find somewhere open before siesta as we hadn’t accounted for it… we were fed and refuelled and ready to go…

We were aiming for estella but we knew it was a step to far… so Puerto de la reina.. 5.30pm we got there filled our bottles up at a pharmacy…. as we pulled into Puerto de la reina we found an albergue just off the main road recommended to us by a group of walkers.. beer a euro… sounded like a party atmosphere…. one person looked at Tonys bike inquisitive  as to why it only had one fork… I  looked at Tony and both of us on the same wave length lets  move on… ok me and tony are so alike when it comes to our bikes…. we dont let go of them unless their chained to an un move able object…

We arrived at the next town found an albergue note on the door stating albergue check in at 2pm we thought at first that check in was only before 2pm however it transpires that they wouldnt allow check in until 2pm… but there was no answer…

Fell of my bike in this little town caught the grid path causing me fall off very slowly but enough to shock me… I thought I had damaged my front derailleur but it was fine just another anxiety thing… kept saying to myself it was cause I was tired but kept kicking myself as I knew I couldn’t stop concentrating on this trip as it leads to myself falling off.. and theres no hospital like home out here… This was my second fall of the day first fall was in a place called cizur menor.. I fell on this occasion as I tried a u-turn… I tried to unclip but couldn’t unclip I was going to slow and ended up on the floor… this was a minor little fall… luckily it was only these two falls for the entire trip…

Tony kept me going today… picked me up twice literraly.. top bloke..

Kept going to the next village a village on top of a hill Ciriuq…. it is a climb up to the albergue… I remember the steep hills as clear as day.. cobbled narrow streets..  climbing to the top hoping for a open albergue. … and at the top a small albergue with a balcony across the top.. knock knock and owner invites us in… 4 euro a night… sold. .. a warm bed and the offer of warm food… meatball sandwich creme brulee and a beer.. heaven after a rainy day climbing and descending the pyrenees…. This is were we met myles… an american completing the same route as us but on a longer period of time…. A now facebook friend a top person who joined us for the next two days… he looks a tad like kevin Costner in the film American Flyers.. an old cycling film

I worked out that today we did 123km and about 2500 meters of climbing… first day of cycling… I was thinking 680km left about (I was wrong about the distance left… we had 722km left to go)

I wrote my notes before bed and wrote ‘felt so free today.. I do worry alot and panic about things I need stop this’.

Goal set for the second day off cycling Burgos… a good distance to aim for…

This blog: Tony Hemans and Glen Eccles cycled the Camino Frances from St jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela covering 845km in 6 days in October 2012. If you are trying to get fit, planning an adventure, long distance cyclist or just curious about my mid-life crisis then subscribe and share!

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