On the 1st of May 2006, I set off from Pau on the 13.50 train to Oloron to do some Cycling in the Western Pyrenees. I then started cycling towards the Gorges de Kakouetta. Here is what I found.
Here is my bike loaded up with a Vaude handlebar bag with my camera bag and Nikon D70 well protected inside. Two panpack front panniers and two vaude rear panniers with a Terra Nova Quasar tent between them. Weight? About 3 tons. The bike alone weighs over 20kg.
One of my favourite views in the Pyrenees. This was taken from the train near the village of Buzy. This is a great starting place for rides into the Pyrenees up the Vallée d’Ossau.
Superb weather, superb road surface and not a car in sight. From Oloron I rode to Aramits then on the D918 towards Tardets-Sorholus and then the D26 for 8km before turning off onto the D113 to Camping Ibarra, 3km South of the Gorges de Kakouetta.
The campsite was lovely and cost 5 euros a night. Hot showers and a river side pitch. What more could a man ask for? The beer, brewed down the road in Licq, was also excellent.
A local butterfly.
This amazing piece of geomorphology leads for about 2km through a gorge 300m deep and in places just 5 metres wide. At the end there is a large waterfall spurting out of the rockface. I have a separate webpage for the Gorges de Kakouetta.
I have a lightweight tent. It was slightly damp when I came to pack it away so I took out the tent pegs and took off the flysheet and went to clean my teeth… Yes, lightweight tents can be blown away. I was very lucky that it got caught in a tree, not carried off downstream.
Another beautiful morning as he set off down the D113. Click on the image to enlarge it and you may see the sheep glued to the hillside.
Back on the D26, a pleasantly quiet road with an excellent road surface and just a gradual gradient. No problem to climb, even with a heavily-laden bike.
These things happen. A puncture. I repaired it. Got 50m down the road, tyre flat again. I repaired the second one and got back on. Would this be the end of my problems?
After a big lunch served by a surly waiter at the logibar, I set off up the steep climb to Larrau. It was a tough one but luckily not too long. It was here that I noticed that a brake block on my rear brake was missing. Abandon the trip or carry on? There was no real option…
The col Bagargui – 13km climb. Started off very nicely with a gentle ride through a valley with a bubbling brook. Then it started to get steeper and steeper. It was also hot, despite being surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
Here is a shot about 3km from the summit. Great views but one of the toughest climbs I have ever done. 15% in places and regularly 12-13%. I took my last sip of water about 2km from the top. Pedalling up I stopped every 500m – just to take pictures of course.
Here I am at the 1327m summit – fresh as a daisy. Well, as fresh as a daisy that has just cycled up the Col de Bagarui. It was already 19.00 – just time to find a campsite and some water.
Alas, the campsite was closed until June so I decided to pedal on – enjoying the sunshine and the superb road surfaces.
With only a front brake, again I had to stop every kilometre – this time to allow the front rims to cool down. A blowout at 60km could spoil an otherwise enjoyable descent. This allowed me to take some more pretty pictures.
A close up of the road surface. You could play billiards on it – well, apart from the fact that it is a 10% slope… I finally found a campsite in St Jean le Vieux, getting in at 21.15. Just enough time to put up my tent, have a bite to eat and enjoy a very welcome sleep.
The next morning I cycled into St Jean Pied de Port, a pleasant little town with the citadel area virtually free of cars! There were lots of people setting off on the St Jacques de Compostelle hike as this is one of the main starting points.
Rather than taking the horribly busy D918 to Bayonne, I took the scenic route along the D22. Through undulating countryside the D22 undulates as well -but nothing too gruelling. After the Col Bagargui, nothing is gruelling.
This is definitely the Basque Country. White houses with red beams and attractive gardens. Quite a change from the more austere architecture further east.
At Hasparran the D22 was getting busy so I took the D10 to la Bastide Clairence -a very attractive Basque village. From there, the road is downhill to the village of Urt and the crossing of the River Adour.
Je t’adour. Well, maybe not that much. Rather than taking the train back to Pau from Urt, I crossed the River Adour to cycle the 14km to Bayonne.
And what a beautiful ride it was. Perfectly flat apart from one little climb right at the end. There were quite a few racing cyclists on this stretch.
And dotted along the route were some very attractive houses – like this one. Arriving in Bayonne was a rude awakening with its heavy traffic though fortunately it does have cycle lanes. I arrived with 30 minutes to spare before the 17.17 train back to Pau. 220km covered.
Train services in the region: http://www.ter-sncf.com/aquitaine/V2/index.asp
Camping in the area http://www.pyrenees-pireneus.com/CAMPing_64.htm
Information about Basque towns (in French) http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jacques.managau/villes.htm
Want to see more of my cycling trips?
Holland Germany Denmark South West Coast of France Col du Somport Cycling in the Western Pyrenees Cycling in the Spanish Pyrenees Cycling over the Pyrenees