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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day 2: St. Etienne to Ochagavia

We woke up to cloudy overcast skies. Roberto felt that the pace yesterday was a little too much, and asked for a shorter day. I didn't point out that some of the excess miles were due to a language misunderstanding rather than a desire to drive hard and exceed 2000 meters the first day. Using the GPS to guide us, we rode to St. Jean Pied-de-Port and proceeded immediately up D953 to Col de Ibaneta (1057m), our highest point so far, passing a couple of recumbents and a group of elderly cycle tourists. Roberto had brought a Pizza and I had brought an Apple, so we ate that at the top of the col, and then proceeded down the relatively short hill to NA 140 towards Alto de Remendia (1040m).

The day was quite warm, and we had to fill up with water any chance we got, and the scenery reminded me of California desert --- low shrubbery, but with quite a number of streams that told us that this place got regular rain. At the top of Alto de Remendia, Roberto asked if there was a lot more to go, and I said that there might be a retro grade between here and Ochagavia, but that was about it.

Well, there was a retro-grade, and then a swift descent past quite a bit of construction. Uncharacteristically, I descended ahead of both Mike and Roberto and waited at the intersection at Ecaroz where the road turned uphill again towards Ochagavia. We arrived there at 5pm, got a map at the tourist information, and then proceeded to discover that the hotels, B&Bs, and other tourist places were either closed or not responding to visitors knocking on their doors. This experience soured us badly on Spain, and we made it a point not to stay anywhere in Spain for the rest of the trip.

We ended up backtracking and finding dormitory accomodations at the campground outside town, which served mediocre food and a passable breakfast. We only covered 78.8km and climbed 1765m, but judging from Roberto's noises, it still wasn't considered easy.
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