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Craig's Musings

Benidorm 24 Day 11

I loved last night’s camping. The pottering around moving thing from bag to bag to tent to bag. The can of cold ravioli and half a packet of biscuits for dinner. I was starting to think even Pete (my new cycling mate) didn’t think I was a complete imbecile. By 8.30, the blue sky had ominously clouded over and the coolness descended like a blanket being laid down for the night.

So I retired to my nylon cocoon. I dozed off quite early, but the mixture of a wafer-thin airbed and makeshift pillows gave my arms nowhere to go, so I kept waking up throughout the night with numb arms.

My earplugs were doing me proud, but for some unknown reason, halfway through the night, I took them out to see if that would help. Turns out Pete’s a bit of a snorer, which just added to the experience.

Also turns out Pete has a really loud alarm that goes off at six.

At around seven, I finally rolled out of my tent, employed my famous coffee dripper and started to pack up.  Of course, that’s when it started raining.

Me and Pete said our goodbyes. I think he was relieved, he obviously likes his solitude. I’m sure he looked a little dismayed when we I caught his eye ten minutes later at the local supermarket. I was stocking up on Coke, biscuits and ready-made rolls; he was weighing fruit.

And then I was off.

The rain started to fall harder as I trundled out of town, but it was only a short day of 62km so it wouldn’t dampen my spirits, even with the 643m of climbing ahead of me as I headed into the Pyrenees.

From the very “holiday resort” France of yesterday, it wasn’t long before things started to get a little Alpine. The roads, the trees, the houses and the rivers bubbling their way towards the Atlantic.

I won’t say it was easy – there was a short 13% burst and some solid little climbs – but long sections of the up were between 1 and 3%, and my legs were coping.

The most frustrating thing on a day like today is that you know you are going up, but there are also a lot of downs. It’s a good respite, and the number on my computer would not be affected by how many metres I had yet to climb, but it would be good not to let the climbing go to waste.

I made it to Saint-Jean-de-Port by around three. Right, should I stay or crack on? Quite a few of the hotels I’d seen on Booking.com had gone, and I was starting to worry. I popped into the Tourist office and I was given a few different crosses on a map to head for. I’d take the first one I found.

Luckily, that was the first hotel, although the guy did sound kind of sheepish. It could be a table and manger for all I cared right now, I’d take it, the kicker being they had a lockup for Terence. The room itself was basic, I was used to that on this trip, but it had what I needed and he put a heater in. That’s the clothes washing getting done then.

It was a busy town. Saint-Jean-de-Port is the most common starting point for the famous Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrims’ ways that lead to the shrine of the apostle James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain, where tradition says his remains are buried.

Hence, big groups of lads getting drunk in bars, loads of American and Chinese Tourists, and for some reason all the restaurants deciding to shut early. That, coupled with the amount of traffic constantly flowing through this pretty town sent me back to my hotel to close the door. I managed to find a deli on the way so took back some tasty snacks, only to to find that my hotel was still doing food.

The number of flies hanging around the bar made me just stick to a beer though and I sat down and had a chat with an old Italian guy nursing a glass of wine. Through the medium of Google Translate, I discovered he was doing the walk and that it would take him 53 days. I’m guessing he was in his late sixties and looked nervous and excited as I read his text on my screen. He smiled like a proud child when told me he’d been planning it for a over a year.

I told him about my cycle ride.

We sat there like two ageing men doing something we’d dreamed about doing for a very long time, and suddenly realising we were right in the middle of it. No language required, just a knowing nod.

Buon viaggio, my friend.

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