I enjoyed my short time in San Seb but got up early to get away. I had a long journey ahead of me which was a journey into the unknown after the ease of cycling through France.
Tim – my companion in France had had trouble during his first day in Spain (or should I say the Basque country). It really feels like a different country and as you’ll see, there is some question as to whether I should now call this the 5 Country Challenge.
Jose who helped me get my legs back in check said that he would ride the first 30k with me. His friend Yolanda (may be Jolanda) also came along. I was so glad of their local knowledge as we pressed out of town towards Tolosa. Yolanda and Jose were used to riding on roads at the weekend like many of us in the UK and we used a variety of roads some of which were very but riding with the two of them gave me confidence on the most busiest of sections that I certainly wouldn’t have ridding without them.
Eventually it was time for them to head back. I am really grateful for what they did – it helped me get out of San Sebastian quickly. I used local knowledge to validate my routes today and local insight to get out of town. Couldn’t have been better. From Tolasa I went to Beasain where I had lunch and what the tour with the locals. I stopped at a bike shop to see if they had any panniers as on eof mine is starting to hear out. I didn’t fancy the ones with pick flowers so I politely declined. They advised me on the way out of town “a beautiful but long climb” – which it was. Segura, Zegama following the GI2637 to Etxegarte. Really enjoyed it and although long and steep in parts in got up it – no trouble. The Garmin was confused all the way up – it cant reconcile local knowledge with it pre-programmed knowledge. After coffee that was adorned with photos of skiing from 1944 which I assumed was around that mountain area and references to Cavendish and Froome from the locals, I descended and as expected came across the N1 – sort of an A38m (think spaghetti junction into Birmingham). Now the locals know that civil engineers have to watch the pennies and as such don’t often cut new routes through the countryside. Instead they often follow existing paths and as a result there is typically an old road that follows the new fast and busy route. Garmin cant work that logic out – or if it can I don’t know how.
The consequence was that we (the Garmin and I) both got extremely confused. I felt like I was going round in circles. the Garmin wanted me to go 135km’s for a 37km journey. I stopped two local cyclists but the language barrier was such that I just couldn’t make myself understand or be understood (the value of listening in French and Spanish lessons?). Altsasu was the confusing town having already seen signs to Anduaga, Altzaga, Alegia, Anoeta etc. I was screwed. Garmin confused, local help that couldn’t be understood – I just couldn’t work it out. The thought of been stuck in the Spanish wilderness was just too much to chance. I then came across the sign for “estacion” which I followed. Nightmare – it appeared to be a goods yard. I found a guy who sent me to the next “estacion” which only had 4 trains per day in my direction. It was a disaster. The station wasn’t manned and periodically an automated announcement would be made. I turned to Lou for help – we thought the announcement said “the train doesn’t stop here”. I panicked that the station was closed and I was doomed to a night there or worse – contemplating a ride on the N1 – in the dark.
I put my helmet on to leave. I wasn’t sure in what direction – but there were no trains coming or stopping in my mind. Then out of the blue a girl arrived at the station. It transpired she’d lived in Ireland and so spoke good English. She confirmed that he train was definitely coming and what’s more it stopped at my intended destination. Perfect I thought – something was going right. What are the chances of that? Like the good Samaritan. Just perfect.
I hopped on and for 6 euro’s and 40 minutes I’d arrived. I’ve had to sacrifice not cycling the whole way for being sensible – but that was the deal that I agreed. No point being road kill.
I’ve spent the evening re-planning. It will be what it will be tomorrow. Whatever the Garmin says goes! So up early and 90 miles.