Barcelona Day 8 from Perpignan to Girona

Second last day of the outward journey! Today I attack the Pyrenees, which mark the border between France and Spain. At this point, they are not as high as the Alps, yet I have respect because I have never been here before and have no idea what is ahead of me today. With about 100 km (62 mi) I have not planned so much for today. Even if it already starts from Perpignan slightly ascending, the “real” ascent to the Pyrenees starts after about 30 km (19 mi) and will last about 10 km (6 mi). At the highest point, there is a small village and the border to Spain.

The rain of yesterday evening has continued the whole night through and also this morning it is unfortunately still raining. This means that after the last three beautiful days I have to put on full rain clothes again, then I set off. Perpignan is not such a small town as I have to realize on my way out. It stretches. On the way out of the city, I have to cross a hill that has its highest point at the edge of the city. From here I get a first glimpse of the Pyrenees and awe spread inside me. Well, first only slightly uphill and then see what comes my way.

After about 10 km (6 mi) I arrive at a lake that seems to have been artificially created. Around the lake, there are beautiful paths for hikers, joggers, and cyclists. In the map, it is marked “Retenue de Villeneuve-de-la-Raho”, whatever that means. I have to circumnavigate the lake, on the other side my route continues. The rain has now stopped but now a headwind is blowing undisturbed over the water and I have to fight hard for every meter. But that’s how it is on a bike trip, neither wind nor weather can be chosen. So bite your teeth together and go on and on…

Despite the modest, cloudy sky I enjoy this area. The way leads past fields and wineries and is lined with more and more and bigger cactus species. They grow here wild at the roadside as the bushes do at home. Some of them already start to bloom. Fascinating! Right next to such a big, blooming example it happens: My speedometer, set to 0 on the departure in Lucerne, now jumps to 1’000 km (621 mi)! I would like to be happy about it, but right in front of me the mountains are looking at me threateningly and I decide to give the due expression to my joy only when reaching the border at the highest point.

Starting from La Boulou at the Tech it goes up quite steeply. Very steep. Off the road only for pedestrians and cyclists, but really hard. I get scared because there are still 10 km (6 mi) to the pass! But there is no giving up. Now we fight again!

I am lucky: After a little less than one kilometer, it gets noticeably flatter. So I like to tackle the Pyrenees now. Unfortunately, I have to go to the main road soon after, where a lot is going on. But only for 3 km (2 mi), then I can turn onto the old pass road because the new pass road has a new route from here. The old pass road is indeed steeper than the new one, but all vehicles use the very well developed new pass road and I am all alone on the old one! Totally ingenious! Curve after curve I gain more and more height and enjoy the great view of the valley, the clogged new pass road (and I all alone on the old one) and even the view of the highway I enjoy. This one is led here over a rather high bridge over the valley and also the motorway is built really steeply. You can clearly hear how the truck engines try to climb up the hill and at first, I thought that there was a traffic jam on the motorway, but the trucks seem to only manage a little more than walking speed. I find it exhilarating to see everyone else struggling and being all alone on the old pass road. I know, that’s mean…

I have to take a few small breaks quite often, after all, it’s going quite well uphill, but for me, as a cyclist, the old pass road is surprisingly good to drive. Some kilometers before the pass summit the old and the new pass road unite again. I should follow this road up to the top of the pass, but the traffic jams up and only moves at walking speed. Driving my bike and trailer around between the cars is too dangerous for me. Thanks to Komoot I find an alternative road that has more vertical meters. First I, unfortunately, have to give up some of the hard-earned vertical meters in a descent, then it gets steeper again with 24%! I have no chance with my combination and push the last 500 m (1’640 ft).

The town here at the pass is called Le Perthus. It can only be crossed on one main road. In the middle of the village, the border meets this main road. The street itself and all houses on the west side belong to France, the houses on the east side to Spain. At the other end of the village is the official border with customs and old, run-down control facilities. Here I allow myself a break, let my joy run free, and am as good as never before on this trip! Not only did I make it as far as Spain, but I also conquered the Pyrenees! Awesome! The first part of my journey, the outward journey to Barcelona, I almost made it. Now it’s downhill again, I can let it roll and it’s really not far to Barcelona anymore. Tomorrow I will arrive there!

But for today I am not finished yet. I have now 40 km (25 mi) behind me and still approx. 60 km (37 mi) ahead of me, my destination for today will be Girona. Unfortunately, it is harder to ride a bicycle on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees than on the French side. Here there is neither a cycle path nor an alternative road. Apart from the motorway, which is out of the question for me, there is only one road and it is very busy, lots of cars and trucks, because there are lots of industrial areas. I can’t really let it roll on the descent, it’s only a slight descent and the headwind cancels the rolling up. But my mood is still brilliant and I’m in a good mood on the side strip of the main road, kilometer after kilometer.

After another 15 km (9 mi) I leave the main road and go down a very bad road. Unfortunately only for approx. 2 km (1 mi) as a shortcut, then it goes again on the heavily used main road. On this road, it goes along for quite a while, always on the side strip. With the traffic this is of course very annoying, there are no possibilities for breaks and there is nothing to see except asphalt. But there is no other road. That is very sad. At least I make good progress.

Until Figueres, it goes slightly downhill. The rain has set in again and since I am getting hungry, I look for something to eat in the city. The American fast-food restaurant right on my route came at exactly the right time! So I can tackle the last 30 km (19 mi) freshly strengthened!

Behind Figueres, who would have thought it, I’m back on the big and heavily used multi-lane and highway-like main road, which I have to follow all day to my hotel. Of course in the rain. Well, at least I could climb the Pyrenees in the dry and that is and remains my highlight of this day!

Today it was 104 km (65 mi), for which I needed 4h 53m. I climbed 900 m (2’953 ft) of altitude.


Written on May 24, 2019