Day 12 : Rain, fog and water
Col de Menté, Col de Portet d'Aspet, Col de la Core, Col de Latrape
On a cloudy morning we immediately started with the col de Menté. I hadn't heard of that one before, which we quickly found out didn't say anything about its difficulty. It was a 9 km long climb with 800 meter elevation gain. Some parts were over 10%. At the bottom was some fog, which got increasingly dense as we went up. Soon we were cycling in a thick cloud and it started to drizzle. Luckily we were working fast so we didn't feel cold. At the summit the sky was clear.
On top of the col de Menté
We had to get a stamp on this col as well
Going down through the fog was an 'interesting' experience. You can hardly see, your brakes don't work as well, it is cold, and the road is slippery. The first time I tried to brake it was a bit of a surprise to discover they hardly worked. Between the col de Menté and the next one were no villages. After cycling through a forest the Ported-d'Aspet started. It was only 4 km but very steep, as you can see here:
Climbing the Port-d'Aspet
It again was a bit foggy at the top. Just when we wanted to take a picture with the sign some cyclists came running out of a nearby mobile home. They were a father and daughter. He was around 60 and she 15. They also wanted to take a picture, which was a bit strange since they were just sitting in mobile home, even though they had bikes with them. I heard they were English and offered to take a picture so they could both be in it. He answered in French. I replied in English that they were standing at the 'unofficial' sign and the real one was around the corner. Then he started explaining in French how the camera worked.
In the descent we rode twice as fast as them, it was a pretty long one. In a village we found a sign indicating an 'epicerie'. We entered. The store was a room in someone's home filled with a few shelves of food. The owner came out of her living room to help. Fortunately she did have fresh bread. We bought a bag of chocolate buns and noticed again that a lot of things in those small stores were expired: two bags of chocolate buns, a pack of cookies, a bottle of lemonade. We weren't sure if that was because we tended to buy stuff that the French didn't regularly buy or the stores were just bad. After the Portet d'Aspet came the col de la Core. It again started to drizzle, which quickly turned into rain. At the summit we quickly took a picture before descending.
The descent again was long and very cold. I took this picture when we were halfway down:
In the descent of the col de la Core
We arrived in a village that gave us a '1984' impression. There was a broadcasting system throughout the entire village. Just when we entered it was announced that someone had to move his car. There was a bakery with a line going out of the door. We again saw the Bianchi German, this was the fourth time. We later went back to the bakery, after which it started to drizzle again. Now we only had to climb the col de Latrape, which wasn't super tough. We had been cycling through the rain the entire day, hopefully it would be dry tomorrow. Bram was hoping for something related. Before the descent we again put on our warmest clothes.
Col de Latrape
At the campsite we were placed at the field for 'randonneurs', cyclists. All our clothes were wet. Fortunately they had a hand and hair dryer in the bathroom, so we could dry our clothes a little. Dinner was our fifth meal of the day and we hoped we could eat it somewhere warm and dry. The owner had told us that there was a nearby area where we could sit dry. It turned out to be just a roofed square. There already were two people there and no extra chairs. We borrowed some lawn chairs from a nearby bungalow and squeezed in. The two other people were a French couple that was hiking. Over the course of 50 days they were walking from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic ocean, straight through the Pyrenees. They alternated between cabins and campsites. Yesterday they had hardly eaten anything. Now they had a large box filled with food. Tomorrow they would rest because the weather would again be bad. Bram could understand everything they were saying, but couldn't really reply in French. He didn't need to, because he was very busy checking the 'time' on his phone. It kept drizzling the entire night.
Daily distance : 102 km