April/May 2006

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South Spain - France - Switzerland with a bike

From 28.April til 28.May 2006 ( Km 2731.84)

My way through Spain,

France and Switserland

The journey is my goal

First something about the weather, so I won't have to mention it every day. At the beginning of my journey in Alicante approx. one hour rain, a few days later one morning between Consuegra and Toledo. The next rain, after 3 weeks was in Pontarlier, 20 km. before the Swiss border. The customs officer insured me that it would be better in Switzerland from now on. Nevertheless the last 40 Km. it didn't stop raining until I got home. Three days rain out of four weeks cycling isn't bad. Unfortunately I had head wind continuously until Pontarlier.

Alicante - Novelda 28.04.2006 (Km.33)

Two and a half hour flight from Zurich to Alicante. Returning by bike, I will need at least one month. Before landing the pilot warns by loudspeaker that the plane could shake a little due bad weather. The thunderstorm makes me feel like the whole airplane will blow apart. I'm relieved to be back on terra firma and see my bike and luggage on the conveyor.

At about 16:00 my bicycle is ready to start my journey, handlebar straight, pedals screwed on and luggage bags on the right place. I cycle inland to Novelda the first overnight stay. I need my poncho and galoshes for only one hour.

Novelda - Jumilla 29.04.2006 (64.39 Km.)

Via Monovar to Pinoso I take the country road. Suddenly the road has developed into an "auto+via" (CV83). It looks like a motorway (separate travel direction and an approx. 2 meter broad hard shoulder, permitted for cyclist.

After Pinoso (province transition from Valenzia to Murcia) it is again a country road. Where bicycles are not permitted, it is well marked by prohibiting signs. A varied stretch with little traffic (because it is Saturday I suppose) follows.

I am early in the wine capital of this area Jumilla and have the whole afternoon for a city-stroll with my bike to make some pictures. Like e.g. the Cason, the Eremita de San Augustin and the Arco de Roque o Puerta de Granada.

Nature finds its way

30.04.2006. Jumilla - Albacete (101.69 Km)

Sunday and I'm nearly alone on the road. Left and right grape vines, olives, and peach trees. After Tobarra I see the first cornfields. An indication that Castilla y Mancha isn't far away.

On a stretch of 27 km. I meet 3 cars, 1 motorcycle, and 1 touring bus. I allow myself to take of my helmet with this heat (28 degrees in the shade), but where Albacete is in view I put it on again. When I reach the city, I ask a couple "do you know a hostel, which you can recommend?" He says, I'll go ahead and you follow. I cycle behind his car and try to follow as fast as possible. I would like to put up my tent but the problem is, there aren't as many camping places in Central-Spain as on the coast site.

Cornfields arround Albacete

Irrigation

Against these Windmills Don Quijote would have fought also

01.05.2006. Albacete - Ossa de Montiel (98.58 Km.)

On May 1st all shops are closed except churches and restaurants. In Munera all three restaurants are overcrowded. I would have to line up to get a place. (That isn't my style). So I decide to make a picnic outside the village.

When I arrive in Ossa de Montiel I find everything. A campground at the lake and a restaurant nearby. I spend the evening with a Dutch family and enjoy speaking in my mother tongue again after a long time.

Wine and olive fields become fewer and fewer

Munera far away from tourist

Tey probably use less chemicals on cornfields than on wine-growing areals.The flowers are grateful

This river could use a little rain

Home of Don Quijote

Picnic place between flowers

02.05.2006 Ossa de Montiel - Consuegra (Km.129.80)

The valley of Ruidera (national park) is fantastic to cycle through. Sometimes it is a river and sometimes a lake. At the end of the ravine the country gets flat and I see the first windmills. Now I am in the country of Don Quijote, who fought so heroically against his enemies.

After lunch, in Campo de Criptana, I cycle to the highest point. There are many windmills to photograph. In Consuegra there is a camping place marked on my map.

Ruidera is a beautiful valley. Initially I drive along the lake, later I have a view from above

The first corn mills of Campo de Criptana appear

03.05.2006 Consuerga - Toledo (Km.67)

Yesterday was a wonderful evening. I walked up a hill where windmills stood in a row. The campground closed a few years ago, but the only Hostel of Consuegra has a room for me.

To Toledo it's only 67 Km. and I'm at the youth hostel by 12 o'clock, just in time to participate in lunch. The afternoon and evening are intended for touring the town. The city is on a hill, the streets are very steep, unsuitable for cycling. In the afternoon I meet a Dutch couple from Middelburg and we decide to have a break over a cup of tea.

David, a room colleague from Chicago (also biking through Spain) is fiddling on his adapter to load his computer. Suddenly there is a bang and half the youth hostel is without electricity.

Cosuegra

Don Quijote

Evening atmosphere in Consuegra

Rio Tajo in Toledo

Toledo

Youth hostel in Toledo. The oriel-window with view over the city was my bedroom

04.05.2006. Toledo - El Escorial (125.90 Km.)

This day will stay in my memory with all the flowers along the road side. The right month in which everything is in full flower. I cycle west of Madrid via Camarena, Aldea del Fresno to San Lorenzo de El Escorial. El Escorial is one of the many highlights of my trip. I think it is worthwhile to stay one day, to have enough time to visit this building with over 300 rooms.

It is fantastic to see so many flowers on the side of the road

05.05.2006 Day of rest in Real Monasterio De San Lorenzo De El Escorial

In the youth hostel of San Lorenzo I have a lodging for two nights. From the "Habsburgs Kings" Philipp II is the founder of this monastery El Escorial (1562). As an extension the "house of the king", a Basilika as well as the Pantheon were added. From this place Philipp II governed his realm, where the sun never went down. He was king of Spain, Spanish America (the southwest of the USA also belonged to his Kingdom at that time), Neapel, Sicily, and the Netherlands (which he had inherited from his father, Karl the V). In the Pantheon four generations from Karl V to Alphonso XIII, are buried

El Escorial

Pantheon de Reyes. Tomb of four generations

06.06.2006 El Escorial - Segovia (60,97 Km.)

Today I have to cross the Sierra Guadarrama. There is a pass (Pt. Navacerrad) of nearly 1000 meters difference in altitude. It looks like a little pass in Switzerland. I go through pine forest and hear cow bells. I'm welcomed by some racing cyclists when I reach the top. Eyes are popping out of their heads to see such a heavy bike with so much luggage. Tey say this pass is a classic for Spanish cyclist with racing bike. I regard it as a good exercise for the Pyrenees.

From Pt.Navacerrad to Segovia it's a pleasure to cycle down with so many hairpin bends. In Segovia there are many historical buildings. I get the impression that it must have once been one of the most important cities of Spain. The most impressive is an aqueduct with a length of over 1 kilometer. It is amazingly well preserved. It looks like the "Old Romans" just got finished with it. All granite blocks stack exactly onto each other, and no cement was used. An impressive achievement, all hand made, 2000 years ago.

The summit

Retrospective view

Changing the land, Madrid - Castilla y Leon

Aqueduct

Cathedral in the early morning

Aqueduct from above

07.05.2006. Segovia - Aranda de Duero (121,62 Km.)

The landscape changes slowly. Castillien is the granary of Spain. Now everything is green. In the autumn after harvest the colour change in gold yellow with green cypresses makes such a nice contrast.

I cycle over country roads, through San Miguel de Bernuy, Turégano to Aranda de Duero. Pine forest increase. On the campground I meet a motorcyclist from Hamburg. He worked his whole life as sailor on a ship with a Spanish crew. His Spanish is perfect, which is very helpful in finding the desired dinner. He introduced a Spanish wine I didn't know, the "Ribero de Duero", very tasty.

Cornfields still green

Where cornfields, there are flowers

Water clear as glass

Unfortunately people still go to visit this bilding.

Through Aranda the river Duero flows, where good grapes grows

08.05.2006. Aranda de Duero - Burgos (134,32 Km.) including detour

The direct road to Burgos isn't permitted for bikes. They converted the national route into a motorway. That doesn't matter at all. Country roads are beautiful and calmer. But I like to put up a few hills for a calmer road.

At noon I'm in Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Silos. The Spanish have such beautiful names for little villages. Monasteries are often on a hill or remote area.

In Santo Domingo I meet a group of people with a strange hobby. They are looking for places where famous movies are made (mostly western). The goal is to find exactly the place where the film team shot the movie.

BU-902 is closed. That makes a detour of ca.15 km. In Cuevas de San Clemente I will make a coffee break. In the restaurant some people are having lunch. The fine smell from the kitchen makes everything clear, and after one quarter of an hour I get a wonderful meal.

Arriving in Burgos I see a nun waiting for a traffic light. This is the right opportunity to ask for the "Albergue de Perigrinos" The answer, a gush of words in Spanish. I understand three words (semalforo, segundo and la izquierda) that's enough to tell me where I have to go. I am now on the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. All 5 to 10 km. there is a pilgrim hostel on this route. 3 Euro is the expense for a bed and 1 Euro for the bike in a shed. You must have your own sleeping bag. Tomorrow I'll go the opposite direction of Santiago (where I have been twice) to Jean Pied de Port (France).

Somewhew between Aranda and Burgos. That was the detour because of roadblock

Sto.Domingo de Silos

Probably the most well-known pilgrim road

Burgos

09.05.2006. Burgos - Logrono (123,09 Km.)

Varied and interesting make the short meetings of bikers with the same attitude. I meet a couple from Holland cycling towards Santiago. They cycle for a good purpose, i.e. acquaintance and friends pay a certain amount for each kilometre they cycle. They hope to get 2000 Euro if they arrive in S.d.Compostela. The money goes to a Hospital in Africa.

Logrono

Cathedral of Logrono

Still in Spain?

10.05.2006. Logrono - Pamplona (116,70 Km.)

I cycle along the Camino in the opposite direction via Arcos, Estella and Puente la Reina. From La Reina I don't go straight to Pamplona but make a small detour, because I want to see the recluse of Eunate for once. The windows, even on the roof are of alabaster.

In Pamplona I find an overnight stay in the Pilgrim hostel who offer a computer with internet connection. ( for free donations a can with slot stands beside it). I take this opportunity to send a few mails.

Country of origin of good wine

Rio Ebro in Logrono

Eunate with windows of alabaster

The bridge in la Reina was in former times an important transition for pilgrims and was a toll-bridge

Aqueduct in Pamplona

11.05.2006. Pamplona - St.Jean-Pied-de-Port (78,08 Km.)

Today I will cross the Pyrenees. From 430 to 1057 meter altitude isn't very much. The snag is, it descends two times. The first ascent is called Pto. Erro and the second Pto. Auzibirri. From there it is only 10 km. to Roncesvalles and soon I am on top of Pto.Ibaneta.

There I meet cyclists from New Zealand. They are both assistant - physicians who like to work in Europe. Before they start working, they want to explore Europe by bike.

From the summit of the Pyrenees a descent of 800 meters with hairpin bends leads to St. Jean Pied de Port. Somewhere I cross the border to France but don't know exact where France begins. Both countries are Euro states. Different pilgrim ways from the north meet in St. Jean Pied de Port. From here one way leads to Santiago de Compostela.

In the Albergue de Peregrino I get the opportunity to do my washing. I can use a washing machine with tumble-dryer. Now I can start through France with clean cycling clothes.

Right at the top is the lodging

Ready for Santiago

The gate to St.Jean P.d.P.

Roncesvalles

Crossing the Pyrenees-Ibaneta

Silo de Carlomango 12.century.

12.05.2006 St.Jean-Pied-de-Port - Arudy (97,92 Km.)

Ascending fog banks, and not much traffic put me in a good mood. After 15 km. I bend to the right, in direction of Lourdes. I cycle the "Pyrenees road" (D918). It is more arduous because of the many small passes, but very quiet. I hear the rush of a creek and twittering of birds in all sounds.

I cycle via Mauleon and Oloron to Arudy. I think the French like camping, because of the many campsites I see on my way. I also prefer to camp when the weather is OK. When cycling alone all day long, I like to meet people in the evening.

First village after crossing the pyrenees. Sain or France?

Ascending fog in the early morning

13.05.2006. Arudy - Lourdes (39,01 Km.)

Today, I cycle only 40 Km. to have enough time to visit Lourdes. At the post office in the center of the village I find a small, private campground, So I can explore the village on foot. I get the impression, Lourdes consist only of hotels and souvenir shops. At the grotto a long queue of people, partially in wheelchairs, are waiting with hope of recovery.

A peaceful world

Pyrenees road before Lourdes

Mostly cloudy but no rain

Lourdes

The inside is more beautiful as outside

The river Pau flows through Lourdes and riches the Atlantic at Biarritz

14.05.2006. Lourdes - Mane (112,77 Km.)

Right of me I have a view of the snow covered Pyreneeses. I see many racing cyclists, particularly around Bagneres de Bigorre. From here they start to the Col du Tourmalet (well known in the tour de France). They have to surmount 2341 m. altitude in 25 km. However I bend left towards Gaudens and continue to Mane.

The campground is led by a Berliner. She has lived here for many years and couldn't imagine to living in a big city any more. I can understand that very well, nature and landscape in this area is very beautiful.

A watermill, somewhere in a peaceful village

The cow in a good mood carries its horns upwards, the one in a bad mood downwards

15.05.2006 Mane - Foix (77,76 Km.)

Not all too far to Foix but strenuous, one Col after the other. Most of them have names, although they are not very high. A marvellous calm road I cycle on. Always a creek on the left or right side of the road.

The campground in Foix lies at an artificial lake and opposite is a mall with pizza room. So I get the first pizza of my journey. In the afternoon I go into the city, to get money at the post office from my Euro post office account, enough to reach Switzerland.

In an internet coffee I announce myself to Monika, a classmate, many years ago. She and her husband have live here for eight years. Foix possesses a house mountain and castle with an impressing appearance.

Foix

Between Mane and Foix

Castle in Foix

16.05.2006 Foix - St Jean de Parcol (63.01 Km.)

The road is no longer called Pyrenees road but "Les Routes du Pays Cathare", referring to people who lived here in Southern France in the 12. and 13.century. A political and religious drama took place here. It entered history as crusade against the Albigensian. (More of it in 2 days in Carcassonne or "www.Katharer.de").

At 12 o'clock i arrive at estate of Monika. Five years ago I was here. 50 hectare country, three houses, a creek just in front of the main hous in which you can take a bath, belongs to the property. A herd of sheep, 7 donkeys, cow and flock also belong to it. A better place for "holidays on the farm" I cannot imagine. And two hours by car to the Mediterranean Sea. Two vacation homes are for rent.

The road gets a new name

Market place in Quillann with Monika and Peter

In autumn they move into the new restored residential building

17.05.2006 Day of rest in St.Jean de Paracol.

In the early morning we have to take care of the animals, feed the sheep, chicken, donkeys and let them out on the pasture land.

With the car we go to Quillan, the next town. A beautiful church from natural stones can be seen and the river Aude gives this town a pretty flair. Strolling a town or city is always tiring and the terraces on the market place invite us for a break. It is usual to go first to a baker's shop to buy pastries cakes or biscuit. On a terrace you can order coffee and eat the sweet you have bought.

After collecting the sheep in the evening, we have dinner and refresh our memories of school times. Monika and Peter have there own homepage to get an impression of what it looks like to make holidays here. www.moulindutrou.org

Quillan with river Aude

Seven donkeys belong to the farm

Enough to eat for the animals

On the left, the former wash house. Everyone could take a bath who didn't have a bath at home


Church of Quillan from natural stone

18.05.2006. St.Jean de Paracol - carcassonne (54,80 Km.)

After 55 km I am in Carcassonne around 12 o'clock. I put up my tent on the campground "la Cité". A short walk on foot and I'm in the historical old part of town. It must have been an important city in the early middle ages. Now tourists from many nations are here to find out more about the city and its inhabitant at that time. There is a lot of literature to buy about a dark past.

In the 12.century a religion had spread over the south of France. Only the bible was recognized as Gospel. The Cath. Church could not accept it. Pope Innozenz III preached a crusade and issued at the same time a canonical law, which the properties of the heretic explained for free. That was the political incentive to a religious war. Particularly for this purpose the Inquisition was created. Nevertheless it took 100 years to extinguish the people of the Cathars. I read all of this in a booklet which I bought in the old part of town.

First view of Carcassonne

Click on this picture to read

19.05.2006. Carcassonne - Premian (98,79 Km.)

I definitively leave the Pyrenees and I cycle a few kilometer along the "Canal du Midi". Ships to rent lie on the bank of the canal. The Canal Midi connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic.

From nearly sea level up to 967 meter I cycle to Mazamet. Haut Languedoc is what this country is called. On top of the Col I meet an English couple with bike and luggage, recovering from the effort. I have never seen Spaniards, Frenchmen or Italian with tent and luggage on there bike. Only bikers of the northern countries seems to make holidays this way.

After lunch in Mazamet I take the N112 in a easterly direction. In Prémian I see a campsite which is officially closed. A couple who live on the campground says I can nevertheless put up my tent. I understand, authorities made sharper regulations for campgrounds in France this year. At this campsite there are many things to improve. For me it is most important that the water tap works properly and clean water comes out. Drinkingwater I buy in the shop.

I place my tent beside a camper couple from England. We get in conversation and decide to dine together in the village. It turned out to be an interesting evening.

River Aude in Carcassonne

Be your own captain on the Canal-Midi

Sluice gate at Canal-Midi

Church bells are hanging in open air>

Prémian

20.05.2006. Prémian - L'Hospitalet (92,25 Km.)

Today I cycle through ravines, over many bridges and some Cols de la ... Via Bédariex and Lunas northward, it goes up and up. Above on the Col de la Baraque de Bral is a group of Mountainbikers. They ask where I want to go.To Caylar via Lodéve. I should take the next left and leave out Lodéve, they say. It is a good suggestion because I can stay on this level and circumvent this deep ravine.

In Caylar I do the shopping in a mall for tonight and cycle to the next campsite in L'Hospitalet.

Mostly broom on this altitude

In every village are "Bistros" for a short break

Plateau between Col de la Baraque and Le Caylar

21.05.2006. L'Hospitalet - St.Enimie (85,25 Km.)

The bridge over the Tarn valley is one reason for cycling the central massif of France. After 25 km. I get the first view of this bridge. A impressive performance. It was built by the English star architect "Norman Foster", and finished only a few years ago. Under www.millau.fr (click first entrée and then le viaduc) you can read the details of this bridge.

In the afternoon I follow the Tarn in this ravine. It is such a beautiful route I must stop many times to make pictures. It is a paradise for canoeing, both for beginners as well as advanced canoeist.

I cycle until St.Enimie and tomorrow I will leave this gorge towards Loire.

The bridge over the valley Tarn

A few pictures of this

beautiful gorge

A paradise for

canoeing

22.05.2006. St.Enemie - Langogne (87,67 Km.)

The day begins sporty. In St. Enemie the climb of 500 meters to get out of this ravine begins. The best I regard it to loosen my leg muscles.

In Mende I look for an Internet coffee in vain. The library as last hope is closed on Monday. Tomorrow I will have more luck.

In the afternoon another climb, until I reach the Col de la Pierre Plantée. I notice the fauna is changing, The broom suppress the other flowers at this altitude. I'm now on the watershed in three directions. I see a pillar with an inscription of the three directions the water flows. East into the Rhone, north into the Loire and south into the Garonne

Water clear as glass

Watershed in three directions

Only twittering of birds

Garonne

Loire

Rhone

23.05.2006. Langogne - Bas-en-Basset (101,80 Km.)

The Internet coffee in Le Puy is closed. Nevertheless I find a computer with internet connection in a foundation for young people.

Just outside the city is the entrance to the "Gorges de Loire". For many kilometres there is a wall between river and road. From my bike I can just see the Loire but from a car you see only the wall. I can console the people in the cars by telling them ; it is a very beautiful wall. The course of the Loire is along the road, At Retournac the gorge is too small for a road. I have to leave the ravine over a mountain. By Bas en Basset I reach the river again.

This mountain is the landmark of la Puy

Bas en Basset

The first castle of the Loire

A Frence-Canadian on his way to Santiago de Compostela

24.05.2006. Bas-en-Basset - Pouilly (121,62 Km.)

I follow the Loire until Andrézieux northeast of St.Etienne. Then it get flat and the road straight. I cycle via Montrond and Fleurs to Roanne. The campground in Roanne is closed but the next one in Pouilly is great, quiet and open.

Many horses put out to graze

Church in Fleurs

Pétanque, national sport of the Frenchmen. Immediately they stood in line by seeing my camera

25.05.2006. Pouilly - Tournus ( 103,35 Km.)

I drive through a delightful landscape, not too steep but hilly. The cows in this surrounding are all white.

Just before Matour I meet a Duch-Greece couple from Maastricht (the Netherlands). Tey cycle southwards to spain. Unfortunately we can`t stay for a longer chat, but we have both a web site, so we can change our "URL" and make contact at home. Hompage of Georg and Monique.

In Clayette I have a coffee break just in front of a huge castle. In Cluny a cycle way begins at least 40 km. in a norther direction. Once it has been a rail road. The rails are removed and replaced by asphalt. After 15 km. in Cormatin I turn to the east. In Tournus on the Saone I stay for the night.

A peaceful landscape

Tournus at the Saone

Castle in La Clayette

Station without rails

Like-mindet from Maastricht

26.05.2006. Tournus - Labergement-Saint-Marie (132.03 Km.)

The weather changed overnight. Since the centre of Spain I have had head wind and today the first time tail wind. I hope I don't get rain instead. In any case cycling is much easier.

I leave the Saone direction Pontarlier over Louhans, Lons le Saunier and Champagnole. I would like to go to the two lakes; Remoray and lac de St. Point near the Swiss border.

I reach Labergement at the Lac de Remory in the late afternoon. I see on my map that the source of the river Le-Doubs is only 12 km ahead. A beautiful river for canoeing, at least the section in Switzerland, I used to go.

27.05.2006. Labergament - Sutz am Bieler See (100,28 Km.)

I don't get through France without rain. When getting up in Labergement it rained for the first time in France all the way to the Swiss border (ca.20 km.) The customs officer insured me that it would soon be better. For memory he made a picture with Poncho and galoshes. In former times I had a rain jacket and trousers. During the smallest effort I would get wet on the inside just like on the outside. Now I cycle only with Poncho and galoshes. The Poncho I fasten with a Velcro to my handlebar bag. That way the wind can't blow it away. The galoshes are enough to keep my legs dry. And above all I don't sweat any more.

The best way, cycling with Poncho and galoshes in rainy weather. The Poncho I fasten to my handlebar bag to avoid the wind bowing it away.

28.05.206. Stutz am Bielersee - Bremgarten (116,09 Km.)

I didn't have the map of Switzerland with me. I thought, "I know how to go". Twice I proceeded the wrong way. On 28 April 15:00 h. I arrived in Alicante by Airplane. Until my bike and luggage were ready, (pedals screwed on, handlebar in the right position and tires with air, it was four o'clock. I arrived home on 28.Mai at 15.45 h, so I cycled exactly one month and my cycle computer shows 2731.84 kilometer.

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