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Spain - Day 22 : Hautacam

In the morning we noticed that the Pyrenees were much more humid than the south of Spain. Everything was wet from condensation. At night it had also been pretty cold. I had slept well, which was probably because I was so tired. The sun wasn't up yet at the camping spot. We put on warm clothes and walked through the wet grass back to the road, where the sun was shining. My socks got soaking wet and didn't dry for another two days. In the sun the cold was just bearable. Breakfast again could have been better, one baguette for the two of us.

 

We were close to where we would take the bus, Capvern. Today we would pass Capvern on our way to Lourdes. Near Lourdes was a famous mountain, the Hautacam, which we planned to climb today. Tomorrow we would look around in Lourdes, a famous pilgrimage place. Then we still had until 22:00 to cycle the 40 kilometers back to Capvern.

 

The first 10 kilometers were very cold. We weren't used to temperatures below 25 degrees anymore. After the sun came out, we slowly warmed up. Via a large road, we ended up in Lannemezan, where we found a bakery and a store that doubled as a bar. This time the oranges were of satisfactory quality. We each bought a piece of cake at the bakery, or so we thought. It turned out to be a lump of egg, flour, and fruits, but it did have many calories. We ate sitting on a wall near a church. We always ate on whatever surface was easiest to find. Last year had been the same. Initially, we would still put the effort in to find a bench. Later on, a wall was enough. Near the end, we would eat while sitting on the nearest curb.

 

After Lannemezan, we quickly arrived in Capvern. From there, we took the same route as at the start of this trip. The first 15 kilometers were all downhill, it didn't feel great knowing we would have to climb all the way back up tomorrow. We saw all sorts of things we had already forgotten. Like the town of Ozon, where we passed the ozone layer for the second time. The route was much hillier than I remembered. Likely the hills felt easier back then because our legs were still fresh.

It took a while before we arrived in the large city of Tarbes. From there, Lourdes wasn't far anymore. Before we left, we saw a supermarket. I was starving, but Bram said he was fine. We each ate six mini Magnum ice creams, two apple turnovers, six prepackaged chocolate croissants, and two bananas. We had to make sure we ate well, otherwise we couldn't enjoy 'the view'. After that snack, we searched for the way to Lourdes. We ended up on the emergency lane of a busy road that was also marked as a bicycle path.

 

We passed through Lourdes on our way to the Hautacam. The climb started after 10 kilometers. Along the road were signs indicating how many altimeters we still had to go. I had a theory that on a cycling vacation, we always climbed around 400 altimeters per hour. It was 16:30, and we needed to climb 1000 meters. I started telling Bram what time we would be at the top, but Bram didn't believe me and said those numbers were never exact. The Hautacam was a typical col for the Pyrenees. It was very steep, with some level sections thrown in. It was a relatively minor road with many turns. While planning the route, Bram wanted to take a detour through Andorra and climb the Hautacam. I had felt more like getting a beer and exploring Lourdes. However, today I was better rested than Bram and felt good. At one moment, Bram told me to take a picture of the view. I looked, but there was nothing interesting to see. Still, he insisted that we needed to stop to 'take a picture of the view'. He just needed a break.

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Me demonstrating the 'pretend you are enjoying the view while you are doing something else'-tactic

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The view actually wasn't bad
 

After a ten-minute break we continued. There were many cyclists on this mountain. We were sweating like crazy. In Spain, we hardly did because the air was so dry. After an hour of climbing, we took a second break and lay down in a meadow. While I looked at my GPS, it turned out we had already climbed 500 altimeters. So my theory seemed incorrect, which Bram didn't fail to let me know. However, if we rested for half an hour, we would still be at 400 altimeters/hour. We ate a bit and enjoyed the scenery. Even then, there were people waving and honking at us.

 

We continued up the slopes of the Hautacam. Every two minutes, one of us needed to fart, so it was best not to cycle in second place. Maybe on my part, it was because of the entire jar of mayonnaise I had eaten in the past two days. I hoped it would be better two days later when we would be sitting in the bus. In the last part of the climb, we had to avoid a cow standing in the middle of the road. We were counting down the last few tough kilometers of this trip. The 'summit' turned out to be a parking lot. There was a road going up even higher, so at first we didn't realize we were already at the Col de Hautacam. I checked the time, it was 18:55. That meant that, including breaks, we had climbed at a rate of almost exactly 400 altimeters per hour. The road to the actual summit was another 1,2 kilometers of climbing and 100 meters higher. Of course, we couldn't pass on that, so we climbed up to the Col de Tramassel. There was a mountain cabin with a bar. This looked more like a real col.

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The Hautacam
 

The logo of the Tour de France was painted on the asphalt of the Hautacam.

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View from the bar
 

We stopped at the bar for a drink and started talking to two Spaniards in a combination of Spanish and French. One of them also cycled a lot. A few years ago, he had climbed the Hautacam four times in a row. When he lifted his shorts, we knew he wasn't lying. There was a perfectly straight tan line running over his upper legs. When we told him we climbed the Pico Veleta, he said he knew the mountain. The other man was inspecting our bikes and thought our hydraulic brakes were very interesting. We went down the same way we had come up while Bram took some pictures.

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Col de Tramassel
 

As the descent was the same as the climb, we went down over a narrow and steep road. This was the first descent in the entire vacation where we really needed to pay attention and brake a lot. Because of that, it was a lot more fun as well. While going down, I was stung in my leg by a flying ant. Bram was less lucky. An ant had flow inside his pants and stung there as well. Now he really wouldn't be able to sit on his saddle.

 

The nearest village was Argeles-Gazost, we discovered. Argeles-Gazost was another stop of the bus we would be taking tomorrow. So tomorrow, we would have to cycle 50 km from Argeles-Gazost to Capvern to take a bus that was likely driving from Argeles-Gazost to there just to pick the two of us up. On our way from Lourdes, we had already seen a few campsites. My GPS showed a bunch more. We first wanted to go to the supermarket, but everything was closed because it was past 8 o'clock. In Spain, everything was open until 9. Bram wanted to simply cycle to the nearest campsite, but we didn't have any food, so we needed to go to the village center first.

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I could still smile
 

We rode through Argeles-Gazost but couldn't find a store. Soon we passed another campsite. It was way too expensive and already full. Two kilometers further, we found a pizza restaurant and a campsite. It would be wise to eat. First, the campsite wouldn't move. We ordered two pizza kebabs. I needed to give my name. After three attempts, the receipt said 'Baft', 'Barte', and 'Bart'. We went outside to wait. After 15 minutes, they shouted that the pizzas for Bart were ready, while there were only three other people there. The pizzas were delicious. We headed over to the campsites, there were two next to each other. We picked the cheapest one, but the man there immediately said they were full, and the one next door was as well. That was three out of three. He started to tell a long story about how there was another campsite 10 kilometers to the south. We needed to go north, back to Lourdes.

We rode back over the bicycle path to Lourdes towards the three other campsites a few kilometers away. According to the GPS, there would be another bridge over the river we were following. However, it wasn't actually there. It would take a huge detour to get to the intended campsites. Instead, we decided to go to the campsite Bram had mentioned earlier. We drove through the village but couldn't find it while it was already getting dark. So finally we were in an area filled with campsites and half of them were full and the other half impossible to find. We decided to camp in the wild again. That meant that after sleeping in the dirt for two days and having no showers, we needed to sit on a bus for 20 hours. For us that wouldn't be so bad, but the other passengers probably wouldn't like it.

 

We found a nice meadow next to the bicycle path, but there was no place to hide our tents. Eventually, we found a spot behind a cornfield. Certainly, nobody would see us there. Just when we were about to sleep, we heard some animals in the forest 20 meters away, they sounded like hogs. Hopefully, they would leave us alone at night. Later I listened to an animal less than 20 meters from my tent.

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Our campsite in the dark
 

At night it wasn't cold, and I slept reasonably well.

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The route of day 22


Distance cycled : 161.93 km.

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