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Spain - Day 23 : Lourdes

In the morning, we again heard wild animals around our tents. Bram saw a deer standing 20 meters away. The grass was wet from the dew. It wasn't as cold as yesterday.

wild camping in France

Our campsite in the morning

We were just outside Lourdes. Via a bicycle path running over an old railway track, we arrived. In the touristy center, with many souvenir shops, we parked our bikes. Hopefully, they would still be there by the time we returned. At a bakery, we bought some pastries. At the souvenir shops, you could buy everything you could imagine. Before we got there, I already joked with Bram about how we should buy 'I love Lourdes' t-shirts so we could wear clean clothes on the bus. Before we had walked 10 meters, we already saw some. They also sold Maria-shaped water bottles to fill with holy water. There were thousands of crosses, medallions, chains, and candles. The thousands of Maria statues looked just like toy armies. I looked for a medallion of Saint Christoffel, the patron saint of travelers. There were so many kinds that I couldn't find any.


We walked towards Lourdes' cave, where you could bathe in holy water. It was very crowded. Although there were many people it was very calm. There was a church service going on in many languages. You could light, which we both did. Not that we are very religious.

lighting candles in lourdes

Candles in Lourdes.

Some candles were 30 cm in diameter. We took a peek inside the large cathedral. There was a church service going on.

Cathedral of Lourdes

The large cathedral

We returned to our bikes, which fortunately were still there. On our way out, we took a picture of one of the many souvenir shops.

souvenir shop in Lourdes

Crosses in all sizes.

We remembered a few large supermarkets along the road running out of Lourdes. Soon we found a Lidl. There was a man at the entrance. At first, I thought it was a backpacker. He had a backpack and green clothes and looked reasonably clean. Only then I realized he had a box with money in front of him. We bought a lot of food, since 3 o'clock yesterday we had only eaten a pizza and some bread.


Once we got outside, the sun was shining hot. The only place in the shade was against the store's facade. That did mean we needed to eat next to the homeless person. We sat down and started to eat. The guy started talking to himself and got increasingly angry. I only understood half of it because he spoke French, but I am pretty sure he mentioned tearing our bikes apart. He said a hundred times over that we didn't understand. We did, but we also needed a place to eat and were not in the best shape either. He started talking with another homeless person that arrived. He told him that he thought we were tourists and therefore didn't get it. 

Then something funny happened. A lady left the store. She took two euros out of her wallet and walked towards us. Apparently, we looked more homeless than an actual homeless person. The guy told her, 'No, they are not homeless'. We couldn't help but laugh. Then he said something like 'I don't think it's funny'. He must not have had an easy life, but he seemed to be making a good amount of money nonetheless. When we were ready to leave, Bram wanted to give him the 10 euros worth of change he had been carrying. We weren't sure how he would react, so we first packed our bikes and made sure we were ready to cycle off. Bram gave him a big pile of coins. Luckily he seemed happy with that.


In Lourdes were much fewer cycling vacation people than we had expected. Maybe those all went to Santiago. In Tarbes, we drove via the city center to the road leading to Capvern. We followed the same road as yesterday. With 20 km to go, we took a break. We weren't tired, but this was the first time in the entire trip that we felt we had time to take breaks. There was a fun fair that would start later that day. The longer we sat, the more tired we felt. After an hour, we were utterly lethargic and unwilling to cycle. The last 15 km would be all uphill, so we didn't look forward to it.

We continued the last 10 kilometers, I was full of energy and happy that we were almost there. Those kilometers were easy. In Capvern, we first searched for where the bus would arrive, so we were sure we could find it. Then we went for groceries. The center turned out to be very small. There was only one bakery which was closed for another 1,5 hours. We didn't mind waiting 1,5 hours in the shade. I dried my socks and tent in the sun.


We noticed a lady who was on cycling vacation all by herself. Would there be actual cycling vacation people on the bus after all? She entered the bar with two bottles and left half an hour later. We were only 20 meters away, but she didn't see us. After waiting 1,5 hours, the bakery was still closed. Several people were waiting for its door. Another man arrived by bike, would he be on our bus? At the bakery, we bought two bottles and each two pastries. It was 15 euros. We thought that was wrong. Indeed, it was 12 euros. Those drinks were expensive. 


We had planned to sit on a terrace and drink beer before the bus arrived. There was a cafe-restaurant, but it wasn't open yet. I washed myself a little bit in their bathroom. On the other side of the parking lot was a railroad track. There were people working, and we watched them the entire time. They were just walking back and forth a bit. One man didn't do anything useful in the several hours we were there.


After another hour, the cafe owner arrived so we could finally order a beer. It was about 17:00, so we needed to wait another 5 hours before the bus would arrive. Time was passing really slowly. We had little cash left, so we couldn't buy much. The nicest thing about the bar was that the radio was on. Around 20:00, the workers came to the bar to eat. There were also a few truck drivers who would spend the night there. The sky turned dark, and it started to rain. 

The bus would arrive at 22:00, so we headed over to where it would stop. At the parking lot, I checked if the plastic bag with magazines I had placed in a nearby tree three weeks earlier where still there. They were and were still dry. It had gotten dark, and the truck drivers went inside their trucks to sleep while one kept watching us through a gap in his curtains. They didn't seem to trust us. Another one asked why we were there. When I said we were waiting for the bus, he didn't seem to believe it.

Around 22:10, the bus finally arrived. We had been waiting for 7 hours. It was only half full, so we quickly threw our luggage in. We needed to twist our steering handles 90 degrees, there would be 15 other people joining later, and otherwise there wouldn't be enough room. These drivers were just as inconsiderate with our bikes as the ones on the way out. One said, 'Come here with those old wrecks', combined our bikes cost over 5000 euros. He also scratched Bram's front fork against an iron pole. 

We got on the bus. It was full of washed and shaved people who were not wearing bicycle clothes. We weren't washed or shaven, and Bram was wearing clothes that hadn't been washed for three weeks (and 3400 km). I was wearing a reasonably clean shirt and shorts, which I had only been cycling for three days.

Al the people on the bus had gotten on in Argeles-Gazost, where we were this morning. It seemed better not to tell them. We didn't remember the details but were pretty sure the bus would arrive in the Netherlands at 12:30. 

As it turned midnight, the rest of the story continues on the page about day 24.


The route of day 23

Distance cycled : 64.59 km

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