Saturday, July 30, 2011

Riding Through the Pyrenees

We decided to leave Barcelona a day early because we have learnt over the weeks of our trip that Google Maps and Via Michelin either give very ambitious directions or our GPS gives very scenic directions. Based on fiddling with some GPS settings it’s very possibly a combination of the two. Either way our trips are taking longer than planned and while we don’t usually mind, we had a lot planned for this leg.

We had a slow start to the day, not leaving Barcelona until lunchtime, and made our way through the highways until we reached the breathing point of our journey – the point at which the GPS tells us our next turn is 40, 90 or 150km away instead of 3 or 5. I don’t know if this was the GPS being funny or if it really was the only way through, but the breathing point of this journey happened to be the start of the Pyrenees Alps.

The next few hours were one of the best and worst rides of our trip. One of the microphones in our helmets is broken so I can give Courtney directions but I can’t hear when he talks back. We only use the headsets half the time anyway thanks to our never ending battle for power supply so we have a good hand signal system going and between one mic and one set of hand signals we figured it all out. Either way, with a microphone at my disposal Courtney knew just how freezing I was, because that is one thing we will never forget about the Pyrenees Mountains – they are freaking cold.

We reached higher altitudes than ever before and discovered they’re in metres, not feet as we previously guessed. So, many many metres in the sky, we discovered that summer isn’t always warm in Europe. Of course our linings and warm weather gear is in New Zealand so we battled it out, Courtney relishing the cold after weeks of warmth and me counting the kilometres until we made it out alive.

Aside from the temperature, the views were stunning. I don’t know how the crazy people that live in the villages of eternal winter do it, but I know why – for miles around they see valleys and lakes and mountains and cliffs and bushland. We drove through all of the above, including a gorge that reminded us of Karangahape at home, with rushing white water alongside the road and intensely green bush overhanging the cliff sides. We drove under overhanging rocks and through villages and eventually, as the GPS promised, we made it through the other side.

It’s far too difficult to take photos on a bike, but the beauty of having GPS on my phone means I do have access to the camera on it, and when it’s too bumpy to take photos, I can take bumpy videos instead, to remind us in years to come that we rode through the Pyrenees Alps. At least the videos will allow memories of the temperature to conveniently erode over time.

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