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Spain - Day 21 : Back in France

It was freezing in the morning. The sun hadn't risen above the mountains yet. While wearing all our clothes, we ate breakfast. Then we started climbing to the border of Andorra and France. We were curious to know how high it would be. There were signs along the way to indicate what elevation we were at and how tall some mountain was. We thought it was a different one than the one we needed to climb. After half an hour of climbing, we found a store. It was Sunday, so we needed to grasp any chance to buy food. They also sold souvenirs. Since the tray I had bought in Tarifa had broken, I had room for one more. Bram farted in the store, which we still smelled half an hour later. That didn't promise much good for the bus ride back.


The souvenir store lay somewhere on the slope of the climb that would bring us into France. All the climbs indicated were around 2400 meters. Last night's campsite was at 1000 meters. We steadily climbed up over the hairpin turns. A thermometer by the side of the road indicated 12,6 C. Was it really that cold? When we were a bit higher, we could see our breath condense.


Climbing the col in Andorra.

Port d'Envalira

Behind the village was last night's campsite

Port d'Envalira

During the climb, we met a man going downhill. He was on a cycling vacation with a three-wheeled recumbent bike. He honked at us with a horn on his handlebars, every holiday we forget to bring one as well. Another hour of climbing passed. The air was cold, but because of the climbing, we still felt warm. The cars could take a shortcut through a tunnel, but we needed to climb 400 meters higher, up to 2408 meters. After another hour, we reached the top. Because the climb was spread over two days, it had been relatively easy.


Bart on the Port d'Envalira


Bram on the Port d'Envalira.

The top of the col wasn't exactly on the border, for that we needed to descend a few kilometers.

Port d'Envalira

During the descent.

Just before the border was a touristy village where you could buy everything that is more expensive in France. There was an enormous gas station with over 20 pumps that all had long lines. We figured petrol was cheaper in Andorra. After the village, we ended up in a traffic jam. We weren't used to so many cars after two weeks in Spain. As best as we could, we overtook the cars on their right. We arrived at customs and already had our passports ready. This time we weren't stopped.

Now we just needed to descend for a long time. We were right in the heart of the Pyrenees. The route we were following would first pass through a valley, and then we would cycle around the mountains towards the west. For the descent, I put on my waterproof pants and jacket. Bram also put on his long pants and 'warm' jacket. The first 15 minutes were pretty cold. After that it got worse. Apparently, that's what happens if you cycle 50 km/h for half an hour while it's only 15 degrees. Many people were honking at us. After a while, we stopped at a picnic area to warm up.


We continued going down and quickly arrived at Ax-les-Thermes. We had descended for 30 km, so we actually made some kilometers today. From Ax-les-Thermes onwards, it was pretty flat. We cycled at a good pace. In Tarascon, I noticed a bakery where we bought the raisin bread we had agreed to buy as soon as we reached France. They were good ones. For a Sunday, many stores were open, but no supermarkets. We followed the route to Foix. On a roundabout, we learned we couldn't continue, the route changed into a highway. We had to backtrack, cross the river, and follow a smaller road. Luckily we found it quickly. On the small road, I felt my knee again. It hurt and I was exhausted, I think Bram was as well, so our pace went down a bit.


Although Foix is a big city we couldn't find an open supermarket. We did find a bakery to buy a baguette and sat down on a nearby bench. The bench was in the sun. In Spain, you wouldn't survive sitting in the sun in the afternoon. Here it was just bearable. While eating, we heard some dance music echoing through the valley. I recognized Daft Punk. I don't think they were giving a concert, because they were all different songs.


We continued while not very well rested. After the long descent we had earlier, we now needed to climb a little. To our surprise, we quickly reached the top of a col. Most of them were ten times as long. I pulled away some branches in front of the sign so we could take a nice picture. Bram was pretending to pole dance, but I was just too late to take a picture. When Bram was about to take a picture of me, I said, 'Well, I am very tired of this col..'. Bram managed to take a picture while I was joking around.

col del bouich

Bram on the Col del Bouich

col del bouich

I was tired

After this col, there wasn't really a descent. We continued over the large road with some hills in it. For the second time this vacation, some hot lady honked at us from their car. That was probably to compensate for the supermarket cashiers. We passed through a small village with an open souvenir store and bakery. They didn't have anything nice at the souvenir store. We bought some fruit and other things and continued.


We ate in St. Girons. Bram said, 'What kind of food do we have left'. So I unloaded my bag. I had two baguettes, a pack of cookies, two oranges, and two jars of toppings. That was just enough to eat once. We were in the middle of a park, but Bram needed to pee. When he was sure nobody was watching, he did so against a garbage bin. After we ate everything (the roll of cookies alone was already 100% of an average person's daily recommended calorie intake), I also needed to pee. I had come up with another pee tactic. You just need to pretend you aren't peeing. That way, nobody would notice. I just stood next to my bike and pretended I was searching for something. That worked pretty well.

After St Girons, the large road turned into a four-lane highway. For us, there was a very nice calm road to cycle over. It was nice to cycle the last 10 kilometers of today in peace while watching the sunset. Around 20:30, it got dark. Soon we found a good camping spot in a meadow filled with 'green grass'. While pitching our tent, we heard a dog bark from a nearby farm.

sun setting over a grass field

[After returning from our vacation, we got contacted by a media person. He asked if the world-famous (in the Netherlands) singer Guus Meeuwis could use the picture above for his next single. We agreed in return for a free copy. You can see the result above.]

bicycle with sunset
sunset over a meadow

Sunset from our campsite

The dogs kept on barking. At first, we thought it was because of us, but after we had been quiet for half an hour, they still didn't stop. The following day they started again.


The route of day 21

Distance cycled : 174.73. 

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