Riviere-Saas-et-Gourby to Saint Palais
Monday 27 October
My generous and helpful host had called her friend who is a bit of a bike expert to take me to the local bike mechanic for the repairs needed to my wheel. Unfortunately, he later informed us they were closed today. My host said that after she walked the dogs she would take me back into Dax, where there was a Decathlon, the store I had originally bought my bike, and as it was would still be under guarantee, they would fix it.
We went to walk the dogs in the nearby forest and fields, it was a lovely crisp morning, and the sun was shining. I was a little concerned however, by the constant popping of guns… But they were in the distance. We passed the railway tracks, where every pylon had atop a huge stork’s nest, all along the tracks as far as you could see. It’s great that the French railways provide such a service to the local storks.
When she called Decathalon, my host was informed that only the frame was covered by the guarantee, but she said not to worry, and not say anything, she would so the talking… I said that wouldn’t be a problem with my non existent French. At Decathalon, they decided the damage was more than just a few spokes, and replaced the whole wheel. Happily, my host’s fast taking resulted in it not costing me anything. They were going to take about half and hour, so we left to run some errands. By the time we returned to her house, it was rather late, and I didn’t get on the road until after 12.30. I was a little concerned, as I had a long and hilly ride that day. She had offered a bed for another night, but I had made arrangements with another CouchSurfer in Saint Palais, and thought it too rude to change plans so late.
It was a very enjoyable ride, if a little hilly, to Sorde L’Abbey, about halfway along my journey today. Just before the turnoff point to go downhill to that small village, I swung around the mountain pass for a my first glimpse of the magnificent Pyrenees in the background. Commanding and impressive! I did however, start searching for the lowest point, which hopefully will be the one I’ll be climbing over in a few days time. I’d reached Sorde L’Abbey in good time, so felt confident that I would get to Saint Palais by 5.00 or 5.30pm, and sent a message to my host.
The road was flat for a few kilometers, and then only small hills. The map followed a small river, which I figured would be an easy flat ride. It probably was, but somehow, I lost the river, and ended up completely on the wrong road. It was getting later and later and as summer-time had ended I wanted to be sure I made it to Saint Palais before dark. The small roads were now starting to fill with huge farm equipment returning home for the evening. They were all traveling fairly slowly, and waved as I passed. I started to climb a big hill, that with each turn got steeper and steeper. I had to get off and push the bike, there seemed to be no end to this hill – I was hoping Saint Palais was just over it. I had almost reached the top, and could hear a large machine approaching. I pulled off the road, and the man driving the harvester called something out to me – I couldn’t hear, and if I could wouldn’t have understood. He turn off the engine, and asked “Saint Jacque de Compostelle?”, I said yes and he indicated that I was on the wrong road, and this road didn’t go to Saint Pails. He said to return to the last village, turn left then left again… And I would be on the right road. I was a little emotional, but very thankful for his help.
I returned to the village, and found the river, and yes, it was a fairly flat and straightforward journey… until I was nearing Saint Palais, were I again missed a turnoff. It was now dark, and although I had lights and all sorts of reflectors and glowing bits attached to my body, I don’t enjoy riding on roads at night, and there was no cycle path here. It didn’t take me long to find the right road, but I was now tired and sore. My host had had an appointment, and wasn’t going to arrive home until 7.30, but had left instructions to let myself in, and make myself at home.
I finally arrived at her home just before seven, unloaded my bike, and was in the shower when I heard her arrive. I dressed and went down stairs to be greeted by a big hug – Just what I needed! A beautiful home, which she had tastefully renovated herself – she shown me the before pictures, it was a major job! A warm and welcoming host – she made me a lovely dinner, with a tasty carrot and garlic salad, and special Basque cakes for dessert, as I was now in Basque Country. She was very proud of her heritage, and tried to explain to me a little of things Basque, including, some incomprehensible to me, Basque language – and I thought French was hard! I was falling asleep on her very comfortable couch as I was showing her my photos of Indonesia, so said goodnight and went to my bed.