The morning dawns cold and damp. So itís on with the rain suit again. It takes me a while to get back to main roads, due in no small part to the fact I donít really know where I am. Finally Iím oriented and heading ever south. Iíve elected to use the Aragnouet/Bielsa tunnel. I think itís the second highest pass into Spain. Please donít go on to me about passes such as the Tourmalet, - theyíre higher but they donít go to Spain, they stay within France.
But first I have to suffer murder attempt one of the trip. Heading at a reasonable speed up a clear straight road a young chap in a post van is compelled to overtake me and strains past at full throttle. His rear bumper has just passed my front wheel when he simultaneously slams on the brakes and indicating right veers across me. Yes heís turning right down that side road that weíre almost upon. I manage to haul on the anchors and avoid the inevitable, just. On a trip like this you have to reckon on a few mad moments, so I just have to reflect that this was one of them and I survived it. On we go..
Once past Lannemezan the road starts to rise and snake and the villages and surroundings start to take on an alpine feel. In the damp and mist they are brooding and atmospheric. I stop at Arreau to picture the general feel and the meltwater swelling the river, even this early in the year.
Before long the last French village is left behind and now the hairpins are getting tighter Ė soon Iím down to first gear at each corner and the angle of the bends are matched by the vertical radius. Itís testing stuff to go round one whilst a Spanish lorry is bearing down upon you from above. Fortunately this only happens once as the road is practically deserted.
Higher and higher and now Iím into a full snowscape, luckily it is meltwater coursing down the road towards me, much preferable to it being covered in ice, though Iím surprised itís not, - for it is definitely chilly and my fingers are feeling it. Rather than stop and put on extra layers I press on hoping that Iíll be over the other side before I freeze solid.
Iím up at 1800 odd metres (Ben Nevis is 1344) before I spy the tunnel entrance. Itís very long and uncompromisingly built. It has a constant gradient, losing 200m over 3km and is made from two arrow straight sections connected by a small kink. I trundle into the tunnel and burble down the whole length in fifth on the overrun, flipping the visor to hear the exhaust burble off the walls.
Coming out the other side itís another country but feels more like a new world. I continue burbling ever downwards and before long the rain is gone, the sky lightening and the temperature easing considerably. Everything including the topograghy and flora are typically Spanish and just so strikingly different from what I was in before I entered the tunnel. It could have been a looking glass.
So I wind down the mountains, happy as a lark and singing ďsheíll be coming round the mountainsĒ with made up verses that donít bear repeating here.
From time to time I pass by pretty villages, with all the trees bearing the bright green message of spring
In other place the river is filling flood plains with beautiful torquoise floods fresh from the mountain slopes
An hour or two more of joyful trundling and Iím in the Catalan city of Leida. Iím visitng the HU contact for the area Luis Oromi. He has an impressive BMW and Harley dealership and is a devoted motorcyclist, having crossed Africa in 49 days on a Beemer. Amongst other things he helps me with a screw for one of the carburettor dashpots
and finally leads me out of town to the C-12 road to the coast, on which he and friends bike down to the coast on a Sunday to Amposta to lunch on the best seafood paella in the whole country, before the glorious ride back home. Thanks for your help Luis!
Before I reach Amposta itís drawing late and I pull over in a town, find a bar and ask around for a hotel. The result is less than impressive but adequate and looking on the upside the cheapest accommodation Iíve had for a while. Itís also the first night I donít feel comfortable enough to leave some of my gear on the bike so off it all comes. Before I crash out for the night I resolve to arrange my next nights accommodation in the morning before setting out and to make sure itís a classy joint..
Posted by Rob Hodder at April 21, 2009 09:49 PM GMT
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