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Spain - Day 22 : Hautacam

In the morning we noticed that the Pyrenees are a lot 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 on 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 2 days. In the sun the cold was just bearable. Breakfast again wasn't great, one baguette for the two of us.

 

We were close to the place 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 well known place of pilgrimage. 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 temperature 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 a lot of calories. We ate sitting on a wall near a church. Eating during cycling vacation always took place on the places that were easiest to find. Last year had been the same. In the beginning we would still put the effort in to find a bench. Later on a wall was enough. Near the end we would eat 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 down hill, 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 Ozon, where we passed the ozone layer for the second time. The route was much more hilly 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 Tarbes. From there Lourdes wasn't far anymore. Before we left we saw a supermarket. I was very hungry, Bram said he was fine. We each ate 6 mini Magnum ice creams, 2 apple turnovers, 6 prepackaged chocolate croissants, and 2 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 lange of a busy road that was, however, officially marked as 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 much altimeters we still had to go. I had a theory that on 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 small road with many turns. While planning the route Bram was the one wanting to take a detour through Andorra and climb the Hautacam. I had felt more like getting a beer and explore 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, 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 would rest 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 full jar of mayonnaise I had eaten in the past two days. Hopefully it would be better two days from now, then 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 nearly exactly climbed at 400 altimeters per hour. The road to the real 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
 

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

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View from the bar
 

We stoped at the bar for a drink and started talking to two Spaniards, half in Spanish half in 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 just cycle to the nearest campsite, but we didn't have any food so 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 smart fo eat first, the campsite wouldn't move. We ordered two pizza kebab. I needed to give my name. After three attempts the receipt said 'Baft', 'Barte', 'Bart'. We went outside to wait. After 15 minutes they shouted the pizzas for Bart were ready, while there were only three other people there. The pizzas were really good. We headed over to the campsites, there were two next to each other. We picked the cheapest one, the man there immediately said they were full and the one next door 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 no showers we needed to sit in 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 corn field. 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 heared an animal less than 20 meters from my tent.

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Our campsite in the dark
 

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

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The route of day 22


Distance cycled : 161.93 km