When the bicycletourer is interested in the cycling history and isn't afraid of climbing, then he likes to choose touringtargets from the ascents of the Tour de France or Giro d'Italia. When he knows the highest and most famous ascents of the Alps as these would be his hands, and likes the more day long challenges, then he could willingly join the Raid Pyreneen bicycletour. After the Paris - Brest - Paris, the Raid Pyreneen is the most popular more day long challenge for non extrem cyclists. I found it on the web.
This bicycletour connects the bay of the Atlantic ocean (Hendaye) and the bay of the the Mediterranean sea (Cerbere). First 1949-ben started two cyclists to do it, but they succeeded it only in next year in the opposite direction. After it organises the cycleclub of Pau the raid Pyreneen.
The Pyreneen across-cycling has two versions: the 710km long with 11000m heightdifference and 18 cols which name is: Randonneur version. It's timelimit is 100 hours. The other, the Tourist version is 790km long, has 18000m heightdifference with 28 cols to cross and it's timelimit is 10 days.
Based on the experiences and the things I read on the web, much more people decide the first version with a light bicycle, without big packs, panniers, but with a following car. Minimum a dozen bicycletour supporter company organise the 100 hours long Pyreneen crossing.
My teammate, Peter Riskó and me (Gabor Györgyi) naturally choose to cycle through the mountain-range by our own strength, so we organised to ourselves the 10 day long version with carrying the panniers.
Before us no hungarians cycled the Raid Pyreneen. After a pair of letters to Pau /France we got the details of the route, list of accomodations, heightdiagram, and after it we had to send the registration form back to France minimum 30 days before the start.
We extended our 10 day long Raid Pyreneen by a few day long cycling before and after the Pyreneen crossing.
1st day: 19th July: By air to Barcelona, then by bicycle to Terrassa = 68,68 km + ca. 600m heightdiff.
With my first airflight we started our cycletour which involved the cycling through the Pyrenees / Pyreneen. It was a pleasure to fly above the visited cols, passes, valleys and lakes of the Alps. After wrapping out and preparing our bicycles to the cycletour, we left the airport at 4 pm. I enjoyed that 3 hours before we were suffering because of the very hot weather (38 degrees) at Budapest, that time we were cycling already at the other side of Europe. We tried to avoid cycling on main roads, but that resulted in a few detours. At last we arrived to the center from the hilly Olimpic park.
We visited the port, the Colombus sculpture, the Ramla - which is famous for the living sculptures and performers - the Sagrada Familia.
Although the town was well organised, ordered, the 4-5 lane wide one direction roads were frightening and the serious traffic. After leaving Barcelona, we went on searching the right road - because the traffic tables were not enough good - just there, where we finished before arriving the center: unwanted detours and questioning peoples about the roads. We arrived at Terrassa at midnight. After we couldn't find proper accomodation for the night, we decided to wildcamp next to the town.
2nd day: 20th July: Terrassa - Manresa - Berga - Baga - to 1073m towards Coll de Pal - Baga - Cadi tunnel - La Seu Urgell = 185,54 km + 2336 m heightdiff.
We started pushing the pedals in humid air, arriving at Manresa we got hot and sunny weather. That was a long and trailing day to Andorra or near to its border. Col de Pall was a target of the day, which I had to visit in any case, but… the valley towards there sometimes had a sideroad and the highway, at other places only the highway, as I experienced. Peter was afraid of cycling sometimes on the highway, so he decided to bicycle directly to Andorra.
In the first few hours I had several times problems with traffic tables or the prohibition of bicycling on some roads, so I had to cycle more kilometers furiously. I lost minimum ca. an hour. In the valles I used the minor road as long as I could, but as it became gravelroad, I changed to the highway - as a local people told me. I were cycling on the roadside / hard shoulder for 30-35 kms. I wanted to be over that section as early as I could, so I hurried and i lost enough fluid, so I drank at Berga 1 liter in 10 minutes. At Berga I arrived to between nice mountains, the Pirenees started here. Between these mountains and with feeling pleasure because a nice lake I went on cycling to Baga, where I realised, that I had not enough time to climb the Coll de Pal and cycle to the boder of Andorra. I cycled up a few kilometers, and then turned back and started to climb to the Cadi tunnel, the one opportunity to cycle towards the border of Andorra without a 40-50 km detour with serious heightdifference.
Although I had no other possibility. Just next to the wall I cycled slowly in almost illuminating vest and with lights in front of and at the bottom of the bicycle. After the half of the tunnel a car of the company which controls the traffic of the tunnel came and put my bike onto it and carryed me out of it. They told me goodbye with frienly words and behaviour.
I arrived at Le Seu Urgell, the last spaniard settlement before Andorra at quarted past 10 pm. Although my tourmate had less kilometers than me, he planned wrong his trip, day, so he had to sleep between the mountains in a small village.
3rd day: 21st July: La Seu d'Urgell - St Julia (Andorra) - La Rabassa (2050 m) - Andorra la Vella - La Massana - POrt de Cabus (2300 m) - Andorra la Vella = 104,56 km + 2811 m heightdiff.
The thing that I read in other travelogues, I experienced too in Andorra. In this small country the shopping-tourism is very active. Already in the first small village there was a lot of shops, store windows, stores, lights, etc. I started my first climb, the 2050m high La Rabassa there, in St Julia. The cloudy and not too reassuring weather gave a short but serious rainfall onto me which time I spent under a roof with eating. I had fortune, because the clouds were flying fast, so the times of the rainfall were about 10-20 minutes. On the climb with 1100 m heightdifference I didn't met with a true bicyclist, but with a partly handicapped man, who climbed up by his special mixture of chair and recumbent. He had to use his arms and not his legs. It was fantastic; he could arrive at the top, ca. 30 minutes after me.
From the top I could see well the more dark clouds above the mountains of West Andorra; it did't promise too much hope for the afternoon.
After eating together in the camping with Peter, we started cycling up to Port Cabus (2300 m) under clear sky and bright sunshine. The weather was ideal for cycling. To Pall village we have to tolerate / stand the middle serious traffic, after it was hardly met any cars. The mountains were coloured by nice lights, so the view was more fantastic. A few kilometers before the 2091m high Col de la Botella there was a shooting training place for people.
Because of the nice ligths, colours of the nature, we spend almost 30 minutes at the col, then as we were cycling to the Port Cabus - sometimes between sheeps or cows, the weather started to cool down in the shadows. It was funny, that we often looked at the Port Cabus which was covered by a cloud just 5-10 minutes before us. With 43 minutes long almost continuously downhill we arrived at Andorra la Vella, where we had a fine supper at a fast food restaurant (with normal foods).
4th day: 22nd July: Andorra la Vella - Encamp - Port d'Envalira (2407 m) - L'Hospitalet - Ax les Thermes - TRAIN - Lourdes = 64,76 km + 1416 m heightdiff.
We had a short day but that was ful of pleasant experience. In the morning we had to face with the highest paved
col of the Pyreneen (2407 m - Port d'Envalira), in the afternoon we hurried to see the peloton, racers of the Tour de France.
Although a relative main road goes uup to the Port d'Envalira (at the height of 2050 m there is a tunnel for people who didn't want to go to the top.), after Canillo village the valley is expressly nice, beautiful: there are nice forrests, mountains, somewhere small snowspots on them, and there are flowers along the road.
We pushed the pedals in heavy wind during the last 5kms of the twisting road; we often stopped for photos or videofilms. On the Port d'Envalira we met with more horses than people.
On the descent which was going down to France there was a traffic table which showed where and when will the road be closed because of the Tour de France. More than the half of the descent was uninteresting; I often looked at my watch, how much time we had yet.
At the center of Ax les Thermes and along the main road there were a lot of people waiting for the racers, while pleasant music could be listening there. Sometimes the people were informed by the position of the racers by a loudspeaker. As helicopters could be seen on the sky and press cars went away, we knew, we had only a few minutes until the peloton. The bicycleracers arrived in 4-5 groups, Rasmussen the holder of the yellow jersey was pushing the pedals in the second group. After the 20 minutes of all of the racers, the people went away: for eating, drinking, walking a little bit in the center. We had to go to the train station, from where we travelled to Lourdes - the religios town which can be found only ca. 140kms from the Atlantic ocean.
5th day: 23rd July: local tour: Lourdes - Argeles Gazost - Luz St Saveur - Gavernie - Port de Boucharo (2270 m) - Gavernie - Gedre - Cirque Troumoise (to 1810 m) - Argeles Gazost - Lourdes = 147,72 km + 2693 m heightdiff.
This day seemed to be one of the most memorables. We started cycling - on a cyclepath - under variable cloudy sky and in headwind. The road ascended a little bit after Argeles; from there the road went on the side of the steep rockwalls, 50m above the stream. The made us push the pedals stronger; I hoped that maybe leaving the thin canyon, on a mountainside the wind could be lighter. From Luz St Saveur most of the cyclists climb the famous, legendary Col du Tourmalet (we went there a few days after), but we cycled to Cirque gavernie and Troumouse, which were writte to be rarely beautiful. The former is on the World Heritage list.
Arriving at Gavernie village unfortunalety we could see not the total height of the mountains, high rockwalls with waterfalls and snowspots, because the peaks were in clouds. From the village we cycled up to the 2270m high Port du Boucharo on a calm road, which twisted in the first half under the rocks. We hardly met any cars, but I enjoyed to stop at the calm sheeps sitting, lying at the third of the road. On the last 2-3 kms the wind was so heavy, that I had to use all of my muscles in one direction of the serpentines, and in the other direction I felt how the wind was pushing me. From the 2215m high Col des Tentes the road was closed, because osmall rockfalls.
From the Port de Boucharo (2270 m) we could clearly see how much work the nature done in millions of years. There was a perfect vellay with U shape / form.
After rolling down to Gedre, we turned right into the valley of Cirque Troumouse. For me this valleys-end was more beautiful, than the Gavernie. I enjoyed the lights (1-1,5 hours before sunset), the waterfalls around us on the rockwalls, the small clouds coming up at the bottom of the valleys. Opposite of us a mountain was perfectly parred / smoothed by the nature. We finished this tour in the dark, so we could experience much more, that the bicyclepath goes on the place of a former railwaytrack.
There were train station buildings along it and the crossings of roads were special.
6th day - 24 th July: Train: Lourdes - Bayonne, then
by bicycle: Bayonne - Biarritz - St Jean (camping) - Hendaye - St Jean = 76 km + 640 m heightdiff.
In the morning we had to face with a problem at the train station: from this region to Bayonne at the Atlantic there is no possibility to carry bike on train in normal way. Bicycles has to be take into a bikesack. Because next day we started the raid Pyreneen with a truely serious day I planned a light day before it: travelling and a little bit of cycling - but only so much, that is a pleasure. Although I had to pay for the sack, I decided to travel this way, but Peter decided to bicycle to the Atlantic. I arrived at Bayonne early in the afternoon, from where I bicycled to west, towards Hendaye in small streets and then through touristic villages. Although Hendaye is the startpoint of the Raid Pyreneen, we planned to sleep ca. 10-15km before it. I was amazed of Biarritz with its elegant biuldings, beach, park. I enjoyed spending time there, watching the surfers, people sunbathing, others enjoying the sea and watched the mass alog the beach, the life of the beach.
After building up my tent at St Jean (camp), I started to cycle to Hendaye, and I was surprised by the tarrain towards there. Only the small touristic villages were exceptions, where the terrain was flat, other places it ascended or descended. From the hills I had nice panorama to the ocean. Because I thought that Peter would arrive in time, I turned back after cycling only 2 kms in Spain and didn't climbed Jaizkibel. IT seemed that Peter didn't calculated, planned well, because he arrived at the camping only at 23 pm. It wasn't that evening / night that I thougtht to be just before the raid Pyreneen.
7th day - 25th July - RAID PYRENEEN 1st day = St Jean - Hendaye - Espelette - Mt Urzumu - St Jean pied de Port - Col d'Haitza (782 m) - Col Bagargui / Iraty (1327 m) - Larrau = 136,63 km + 2510 m heightdiff.
My tourmate had to wash a few clothes and I didn't want to eat in the camp, but at the moody beach in St Jean so I left the camping earlier. At 9 am. the "beach" was only waking up, there wasn't too much life there, only a few walker, runner, fisher. In Hendaye I got my first stamp into the Carnet de Route of the 10 day long Raid Pyreneen in the Office de Tourisme. I officially started my raid Pyreneen. As I was enjoying seeing the surfers, the beach I got aquainted with an american guy, Jim, who asked me, because he saw the small card on my bike: Raid Pyreneen. Me that day, he steretd the Raid next day, but he was to cycle through the Pyreneen by a pure bicycle with a support car - in 100 hours.
After saying goodbye to the ocean the Pyreneen showed itself to me with small hills, friendly basq villages and small cols. The quality of the roads was good. The first (total = 28) col of the Raid was the 169m high Col St Ignace. After 40 kms the route of the Raid climbed the a 213m high, but memorable mountain, Mt Urzumu. From there at last I could see the ocean, and its steepness was 16-18% steep for 300m long. After the successful climbing I was less afraid of the ascents of the Pyrenees.
St Jean Pied de Port was a nice town, where the number of accomodations and restaurants, etc showed the effect of the Pilgrim's Way (St Jacab route). The town is its starting point.
After 10kms after it I arrived to the bottom of the first true col of the Pyrenees, which seemed to be one of the hardest. The climb had 3 cols after each other: Col d'Haltza, Col Burdincurutchéta and Col Bagargui or Iraty (1319 m). To the 1st col the road for 4kms was 11% steep, so it was better to pushing the pedals with standing from the saddle,
moving above it. I experienced the lack of traffic with pleasure, I enjoyed the nature. After 2-3kms, looking down on the mountainside I saw two friendly cows in the ferm, and also in that time I saw a few horses not too far from me, one of them started to "jogging" down - and sometimes he was whinnying during it. It was very funny! 1 kms after it I had to cycle for a short section in the other lane because two horses were standing calmly in the middle of my lane. That was the place where I first met with horses in The Pyreneen, which animals are so typical for this mountain range.
The second and third cols weren't so hard as it was the first. From above, from ca. 1000m high I had nice panorama backwards. From the top of the Col Iraty - not too much before the total darkness - (after meeting each other ) we could see the mountains of our next day, around the legendary Col d'Aubisque.
8th day - 26th July - RAID PYRENEEN 2nd day = Larrau - Escot - Col de Marie Blanque (1035 m) - Laruns - Col d'Aubisque (1709 m) - Arrens = 107,41 km + 2542 m heightdiff.
In a valley of a stream first we a went down to the edge of the Pyrenees; the route was directed there towards the not too high col which is famous for its steepness: Col de Marie Blanque : 1035m. At the start of it a table was for the cyclists which told us, that its 11% steepness for 4kms long make this col be between the hardest in the Pyrenees. AS last day, this day we had small tables along the road to inform the cyclists about the height of that place, the steepness of the next km and the distance to the col. From the top there was an average view.
After one hour cycling on a connecting road we had to face a legend of the Tour de France (previous day the peloton were climbing that), the 1709m high Col d'Aubisque. I was happy that we could climb it under clear sky and sunshine, because I saw pictures about the col, and its surrounding is fantastic. I had read in travelgues that this col is often in clouds.
The ascent were going up by 5-6% steepness; in its first section we saw a lot of garbages, flacons, newspapers which were left there by the fans a day before and could't collected yet. When I arrived at Gourette unfortunately there were too much clouds above me, the mountains "hide away". Instead of the view I enjoyed the paintings of the fans, a few tables about Tour participants. The fans used the asphalt well for their purpose.
When the TV mediates it they can't not to shop the paintings, texts on the asphalt, that's why I often saw the text: ETA! At the top we got our fourth stamp into or Carnet de Route. On the descent the true place of interest was the road
going ahead, just on the side of a steep rockwall, mountainside. Unfortunately in a humid air with not a clear sight it was not so enjoyable. During rolling down we found the memorial tablet of Wim van Est, who was cycling there in jellow jersey a few decades before and fell down 70meters, but didn't died fortunately.
9th day - 27th July - RAID PYRENEEN 3rd day = Arrens - Col des Bordéres (1156 m) - Estaing - Luz St Saveur - Col du Tourmalet (2115 m) - Ste Marie Campan - Col d'Aspin (1489 m) - Arreau = 93,69 km + 2687 m heightdiff.
From Arrens we started with the Col des Borderes (1156 m) which we climbed in humid air, and light clouds not too much above us. This climb was a warm up before the main attaraction of the day, the Col du Tourmalet, the 1st climb above 2000m of the Tour de France which was climbed on the Tour already in 1910. This climb with its 7,5% average steepness and which has 1400m heightdifference to climb was ascended by the peloton already more than 70 times. It is between the 5 most famous climbs of the Tour de France.
A book about famous cols gave a name for the Tourmalet: "Father of the cols." The Tourmalet is a dream of the cyclists, so I also hoped we would have nice weather. From Luz St Saveur initially we was pushing the pedals in an unexciting valley. The nature, terrain showed its beauty above 1400m; there - at a crossing of a stream - there was a botanical garden waiting for the tourists.
Onwards / upfront the mountains were more rocky than behind me, the valley and the lower part of the mountains were grassy, sometimes sheeps were along the road. In every ca. 5 minutes I met with cyclists, but backwards I saw paragliders in the air. Above us the sun was bright, but backwards above Luz there were small clouds, humid spots in the air. From the last 2 kilometers the road was twisting on a steep mountainside (It was superb!); I could see the Pic du Midi observatory, which we would have liked to climb from the col. Not much after we reached the col (2109 m), some small clouds arrived there, and made it wonderful:
panorama with clouds at the heightlevel of the col or on the other side - eastwards clouds in the valley under 2000m. The view, the Giant cyclist sculpture, the tourist house, buffet and with other cyclists just at The Tourmalet we had a fantastic feeling, memory.
After the memory-photos we was that fantastic view to the valley with clouds in it to east. Unfortunately we realized that the road to Pic du Midi is gravelled and is closed for cyclists and cars too, so we descended to St Marie de Campan.
In the evening we had time to climb the Col d'Aspin, where we got the reagular frog. The col wasn't in frog, but the mountains right and left from it were in clouds; we could just hear the voices of the cows. We biult up our tents in the camping of Arreau.
10th day - 28th July - RAID PYRENEEN 4th day = without pack: Arreau - Saint Lary Soulan - Lac Aumar (2197 m) - Lac Cap de Long (2160 m) - Arreau
With panniers: Arreau - Col de Peyresourde (1569 m) - Bagneres de Luchon
Day total: 119,19 km + 2728 m heightdiff.
The vapour / frog in the morning started to go away, and the sun was shining a little, when we started cycling our local tour towards St Lary. This is an also popular terrain for cyclists with Piau Engaly and eastwards with Col d'Adet (usually it is climbed from Loudenville), but we planned to climb a calm valley with a higher top-finish, with two nice lakes: Lac Aumar and Lac Cap de Long. The touristic tables shoed them as there were wonderful, mountain lakes.
First the ascent went along / above a stream, sometimes not too far from small waterfalls, then we arrived at the famous (it can be often seen on photos) series of serpentine bends. The bends followed each other after 2-300meters. From the end of the series we could look back and see all of them. At ca. 1850 meter there was a junction, where we turned right towards Lac Aumar. After a short descent we was leaving a lake, and then we had a calm road with nice views. The Lac Aumar can be find at 2197m; the suroundings are very friendly with rounded "hills", forests: it is an ideal place for walking. A few kilometers onwards there are high, rocky mountains
with lakes at its feet. Rolling back to the junction we saw 2-3 wonderful small turquoise lakes.
The Cap de Long lake was not similar to Lac Aumar, because it is between high and steep, rocky mountains; not a walking terrain. That place is more ideal for rock-climbing. While I bought 2-3 postcards and a Coke, Peter went onto the dam of the lake, where he made a photo which showed that the dam was biult up by the Electricite de France (owner of the company, where I work), more than 55 years before.
We arrived back to the camp after more than an hour rolling down and cycling. For the evening we "got" the next climb in humid air with frog. Tipical for the Pyrenees! I enjoyed cycling on the calm, froggy road; we could "hear" the voices of the nature. Only the nature and we were there! On the 1569m high Col de Peyresourde (1569 m) we had a surprise: the text of the table (made of stone) has the names of the settlements:
St Jean de Luz - almost the next village from Hendaye where we started the Raid and the other Argeles sur Mer which is at the Mediterranean sea, 3 villages before our Raid finish. Maybe this table meant that we are just at halfway ? I thought !
(Otherwise the east side (for us the descent) of the col was much more scenic, twisting than the west side, from where we climbed. It was an other reason why the Tour de France peloton climbed it from east a few days before us. )
11th day - 29th July - RAID PYRENEEN 5th. day = Bagneres de Luchon - Col du Portillon (1293 m) - Bossost - les Bordes
without pack: les Bordes - Viella - Port de la Bonaigua (2072 m) - Viella - les Bordes =
Total: 102 km + 2315 m heightdiff.
In Bagneres in this often visited town beloved by tourists we woke up for warm morning, and sunshine (no frog!). "-Is the end of the froggy morning series?" - we could ask. For me the Col du Portillon by landscape was similar to the mountains not far for my home in Hungary: the mountains above Szentendre, the steep road
to Pilisszentlászló. But while in Hungary the mountains are only 400-600m high, here in France looking backwards on the road I could see 1500m high mountains.
The road went in a forest, and the steepness
was 8-10% for the last 4 kms. From the col unfortunaletly we couldn't get any view, but on the descent to Spain we had to stop because there was a panorama down to the Aran valley.
After building up the tent in the afternoon we went cycling together, but from Vielha we chose other routes. The town itself was friendly and a nice surprise, as was the road to the Port du Bonaiqua (2072 m) too. Surprisingly I cycled through nice villages with a lot of accomodations. After leaving the last ski resort, Baqueria (1500 m) - with the road ascending by 6% steepness - I hardly met any cars, although that was a main road.
Besides the landscape was beautiful with forests, nice mountains and flowers sometimes along the road. Before sunset I did fast climb onto Pla Beret (also Tour de France mountain top-finish), then I hurried back to the camping to arrive back at time, 22 pm.
12th day - 30th July - RAID PYRENEEN 6th. day : les Bordes - Bossost - St Beat - Col de Mente (1349 m) - Col Portet d'Aspet (1069 m) - Castilon - Col de la Core (1395 m) - Seix = 100,94 km + 2222 m heightdiff.
We started the day with an hour long mix of cycling and rolling down to St Beat / France. From this village we had to face with the next challenge of the Raid Pyreneen's route, the 1349m high Col de Mente. The 850m heightdifference for 9,3 km meant 9,13% steepness in tha way, that the road was continuously steeper than 8%. The beauty of the Mente is given by the series of hairpins in the upper section. In 1971 in this climb / slope Luis Ocana fall down, broke him and so became Eddy Merckx the leader who was 7 minutes back before the accident.
After the descent we need serious effort on our next legenday climb, the 1069m high Col d'Portet Aspet which is only 54m higher than the highest hungarian mountain, the Kekestető. The Portat Aspet has a bad reputation, because in the Tour de France in 1995 Fabio Casartelli - olimpic champion - fell such unfortunately, that he died towards the hospital. As a memory there is a memorial table along the road and 200m upper a beautiful monument can be found. At the start of the climb there is ann information table for the cyclists: the ascent is 4,4 km long and it has 429m heightdifference. The climb goes continuously in a forest and is 10% steep. Only at the top is a panoramic
meadow with benches, desks and a building with buffet (maybe restaurant), and there is a fountain with fine water.
Cycling towards the start of the Col de la Core we experienced that the region is poorer than before: looking at the villages it was strange that it's France.
There were not too rarely uncared houses, poorish gardens, courts without flowers.
The 1395m high Col de la Core was the highest point of our day. It was a calm, peaceful climb. From its last kilometers - through meadows - we already saw that the saddle is just in frog. The ascent itself was just like a climb in the hungarian Bükk mountain range, mainly in a forest, without any cars.
There were words painted onto the asphalt by the Tour fans: it seeemed how they like Richard Virenque (this soulful guy who tried to do a famous win in every Tour on a mountain stage.) and the german fans like Jan Ullrich. (It should be painted not in 2007)
13th day - 31th July - RAID PYRENEEN 7th. day: Seix - Col de Latrappe (1111 m) - Aulus - Col d'Agnes (1570 m) - Port de Lers (1517 m) - Tarascon - Pas de Souloumbrie - Lordat (superb camping) = 93,4 km + 2300 m heightdifference.
We begun cycling from Seix along a steam which was liked by wild kayakers. After ca. 11kms not too steep valley the true climb of the Col de Latrape (1111 m) was 6 kms long in a forest. This col was not too interesting.
The beautiful landscape we met on (and after) the descent: nice 1500-2000 m high mountains with a strongly living nature! The climb of the Col d'Agnes was mainly a panoramic-road; on the surrounding mountains there were a few lakes and waterflows. On the short ascent of the Port de Lers we stopped for a while to enjoy seeing those skytroopers who were drifting in the air.
From the saddle we arrived back to the warm summer on a long descent. The route of the Raid Pyreneen went into a calm valley (behind a series of hills / small mountains) and not the main road towards Ax le Thermes. It was tipical for the Raid and very good! On the last 10-15kms we were "waving" up and down on the mountainside from where we had continuously views to the valley and the opposite mountains. In Lordat we had fortune, as we found a fantastic camping; we could hardly believe it. I think it was the most memorable camping with the most beautful view of my life. The camping had no barrier; the tents were
standing on a flat meadow from where we had more panorama (more than 180 degrees) from the mountains of
Andorra through the valley and mountains to the castle of Lordat on a mountaintop. We finished our day at sunset with cycling and climbing up to the castle.
14th day - 1st August - RAID PYRENEEN 8th. day: Lordat - Axiat - Col de Chioula (1431 m) - Ascou - Port de Pailheres (2001 m) - Escoloubre - Matemale (by-pass again)) = 82,61 km + 2411 m heightdiff.
After waking up the droning in our sleeping bags didn't last too much because we hurried fast to the "door" of the tent to see the view of the mountains by sunshine. We carried on cycling on the panoramic road for a few minutes, than we climbed the 3-4% steep Col Chioula (1431 m) on such a road which was very similar to the forestry roads not far from my home in Hungary, in the Pilis (next to Dobogókő).
The 2001m high Port de Pailheres was part of the Tour de France this year (2007), but we climbed from the other direction, from west. Although the last 6-8 kms were twisting upwards nicely in the valley, the east side was truely more beautiful. On the top - as I read about it - I met with robust / stumpy horses who were waiting for the tourists.
In the first moments it was interesting that the ca. two dozen horses were standing without any movement: as they were in hypnosis. Around the col there were only 2200-2400m high mountains; looking towards east the mounatins were lower and lower: the high Pyrenees ended. The descent was rich in paintings made by fans and the road was only ca. 4 m wide - that was one lane wide. The landscape and the view was beautiful.
Because in the Pyrenees we could follow our daily plan, we had the opportunity to spend a day not to follow the route of the Raid, but to explore the landscape, surroundings there by leaving the packs in the chosen camping. After arriving down the valley we turned south, left the route of the raid Pyreneen and climbed on a slowly ascending road to Matemale which can be found next to a lake at 1500m high.
15th day - 2nd August - RAID PYRENEEN 9th. day: Local tour / independent from the Raid : Matemale - Mont Louis - Osseja - Coma Morera (2205 m) - Osseja - Font Romeu - .... Col de Pam (2005 m) - Mont Louis - Matemale = 113,05 km + 2390 m heightdiff.
Although we woke up for a cold and froggy morning (in this time usually people have no mood for cycling) based on the weather-forecast we started cycling towards the spanish mountains with hope. At the Col de Quillane the sunshine was percolating through the frog, and at Osseja we started climbing on the forestry road in the hot summer air.
We saw on the trees, mountainside, plants, we felt that in that region the rain should be less then elsewhere in the Pyrenees; the Cime Morera (2205 m) mountain seemed to be as it would be in the Balkan. On the top we met with grazing horses; the 360 degree panorama was beautiful. These mountains were not so rocky and wild as before; they were rounded. It was interesting to see,
that the surrounding of our camping - 40-50kms from us (as the crow flies) - was covered by clouds since the morning.
Backwards we visited Font Romau, a touristic town, which south side we found a sun-power plant (right word ?). From Font Romau we visited the two short roads above 2000m: the Mollera dles Clots (2040n m), from where a cablecar (with sittings) goes away and the other, the 2005m high Col de Pam.
16th day - 3rd August - RAID PYRENEEN 10th. day: Matemale - Escoloubre - Col de Garabel (1267 m) - Col de Jau (1513 m) - Moligt les Bains - Eus - Finestret - Col Palomere (1036 m) - Vives - Argeles sur Mer - Collioure - Cerbere = 188,59 km + 2617 m heightdifference It was the last day of our 10 day long Raid Pyreneen tour; we woke up fresh; we were soulful. We were waiting for the moment to get the sight of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the beginning flat kilometeres in the sunshine we saw small clouds between the mountains - it was nice.
At our next stamp place, Escoloubre we got the information from the owner lady of the accomodation, that we are / would be the first hungarian performers of the Raid Pyreneen. The Col de Garabel meant only a few kilometer long, middle steep climb, but the panorama backwards to the mountainrange with small clouds between / in front
of the peaks was unbelievable beautiful (between the best pics of the tour).
Ascending to the Col du Jau (1506 m) we could feel ourselves as we would cycle on slovakian climbs with fir trees, flowers and with hardly any traffic.
On the descent we arrived back to the mediterranean world / region: at a lower level the climate was warmer, and the plants and buildings had changed.
The Col du Palomere which was said to give the first sight to the Mediterranean Sea. It started on a mauntainside which was similar to the Balkan mountains: brown ground / dirt and on rock rare fir trees followed our road. It was for a long time only 3-4% steep, but always twisting: we cycled ca. dubble of the distance than in bee-line. From the col / saddle as we get sight of the sea and the touristic
villages 40-50kms from us I shouted my huge pleasure into the air.
I was very happy; I told in advance: "We have done it!" We cycled through the lot of the Pyreneen cols from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean sea."
On the descent we met with small cols and sections which gave us panorama, until when we arrived at Couillore, at this friendly, nice, touristic village at the sea. The mood was phantastic: a lot of guest at desks, there were catkins waving on the sea and at the main square people was having fun because of a concert.
After spending nice time there, we had to climb small, 80-140m high hills towards Cerbere which
was the finish of the Raid Pyreneen. We didn't feel enough mood to climb after 170kms in the night, only the last not too steep and hard climb was, that we enjoyed. At 23:10 pm we arrived at Cerbere, where - after 185 km and a lot of climbs - where after getting the stamps we hardly celebrated our achievement: I ate only an icecream. I would have been else than we arrive 2-3 hours before and had time for sitting in a patisserie and walking to the sea with our bicycles by sunshine. The swimming in the sea we postponed to next morning!
to be continued (last 3 days of the bicycletour.)