The Great Pyrenean Adventure - Day 13
Thursday 25th September - St Etienne to Ainhoa 35 kms.
"We're all off etc...."
Two cols today. But this was going to be pure pleasure. Both small and gentle, no need for first gear and some fun on the way as at the top of the first was the Spanish border and a weird bar/come supermarket come restaurant where we were going to eat.
We troughed Gateau Basque and coffee for breakfast in a little bar then set off up the Col d'Ispigy. This is one of the nicest cols of the Pyrenees. At only 672m it's short and you never really need first gear but the scenery is a great swansong for the Pyrenees with the road winding up and up to the head of the valley, visible all the way up. You really get the impression of being exposed on a mountain with little of the effort. It was a day of relaxed climbing, chatting and a lot of photography as everyone said goodbye to the last of the Pyrenean cols.
At the top, the aforementioned bar was packed with the most amazing collection of souvenirs and food, from huge dried hams to tins of anchovies. Here I bought presents for my two boys, a bullwhip for Arthur (10) and a baseball bat with 'Basque' painted on it for Sam (8) - I know my kids...
The beer was so cheap I bought a round and we then sat down to another BIG meal:-)
Then down the other side and at the bottom began to climb the second col, another gentle climb, I'd not even call it a col, to the 690m Pueto de Otxonto.
We all waited and got together for the final col photo of the trip and then sadly turned downhill for the 10km to the border and the campsite. The descent was great, a sweeping smooth main road devoid of traffic where you could really let the bike go, and I did. Thus I arrived ahead of the others at the collection of huge supermarkets that sit just on the Spanish side of the border and sell the French Spanish goodies.
After a perfect day something had to go wrong... I knew the campsite well and knew it was right on the border, but the supermarket area changed day to day and is better described as a massive construction site so I wasn't sure what the lay of the land would be. I'd told the others "not to cross the border under any circumstance" - that way they couldn't get lost. Foolishly I swung into the campsite and pitched camp and waited for the others. Ever had a little voice in your head saying "bad idea"? Kate and I call it a 'should've' voice - should've done this, should've done that - now we both tend to listen to it. Well I had a 'should've' voice as I peeled off to the campsite up a little backstreet way I knew from before - I should wait for the others...
But I was too happy and in a 'they'll be alright' frame of mind.
They all rolled in one by one having got to the border with no sign of the campsite, and only then seeing the only campsite sign actually next to the border post. But not Rob and Allister. Nope it seemed they'd gone right past believing the campsite actually be in the village of Ainhoa.
After a lot of milling and panicing they'd turned round and of course found the site on the border but they weren't happy, Rob especially had been all for continuing all the way on to Biarritz... Sorry guys, next time I'll lie in the road.
More mayhem as after showering we went on a food hunt to find that this buzzing metropolis of consumerism shut down at 7.00pm to become a food-free desert. Luckily (for me) the campsite bar also did food, and despite being loaded with us at no notice and at 8.00pm at night did us proud as we sat outside under the lime trees and ate ANOTHER HUGE MEAL:-)