october 2001

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Monday November 1st

The daily news are on the November page !

Wednesday October 31st (Cigunuela, km+71=8588)

As regularly in the mornings and evenings, we watch a herd of sheeps with their shepherd; but tonight they seem to go towards our camp site, while Gaëtane washes herself, naked… Fortunately they take another direction without noticing our presence…

See also birdwatching.

Tuesday October 30th (Palencia, km+67=8518)

Incredible ! This morning at the grocery in Fromista, on the St James path, all clients were belgian ! Jean-Paul, walloon from Liège walks to the west and Compostelle; Johan, flemish from Oostend, comes back from there and walks to the east and then to the north; Gaëtane and Benoît, from Ixelles in Brussels, cycle to the south and Gibraltar… Hurrah for Belgium and Elisabeth !

We follow the towing-path along the canal of Castille, build from 1750 to 1850, then operated from 1850 till 1950 when it has been abandoned. After 25 km on the path in poor condition, we leave it to ride to Palencia. Tonight we are again alongside the canal and plant our tent nearby, but tomorrow we will definitively leave it because the towing-path is out of use up to Valladolid.

Monday Oct 29th (Itero del Castillo, km+66=8451)

In front of the Burgos post office, we encounter this morning Christine, a german pilgrim cycling on the St James of Compostelle path.

The day is beautiful and hot. We are lucky: no rain since many days ! Here and there we retrieve the Camino de Santiago (path of St James) dotted with numerous churches, chapels and covents. While coming in Itero del Castillo a man persuades us to ask hospitality at the pilgrims hostel. Asuncion welcomes us warmly in the little inn, although we are surely not official pilgrims… The inn's golden book is fascinating, amusing, touching.

Our hostess is a very appreciated person amongst pilgrims, as testifies this message : "El Camino de Santiago es el Camino de las Estrellas y una de èstas se ha caido en Itero del Castillo y la llaman Asunciòn." (The path of St James is the path of stars, and one of these has fallen in Itero del Castillo, and its name is Asuncion).

Sunday October 28th (Burgos)

The night has been very noisy in the street, our room being at the first floor. At 10 am, however, the streets were still deserted. We have attended the mass at St Nicolas church. The great saint is depicted above the entry, with the three children in the salting-tub.

Siesta, writing, internet, a calm afternoon is good from time to time. We think of yourselves while consulting our golden book and surfing on our good old website.

Saturday October 27th (Burgos, km+60=8384)

This morning we have again traversed abandoned villages; just on the left: a highway, a railway track and a national road: a two-faces reality. Where are gone the populations of these Castillan villages ? Well, mainly owing to the industrial agriculture, they left villages to gather in these 10 or 12 floors buildings that you can see along the boulevards of Burgos. The historical center however displays splendid monuments. We will have a day rest here !

Friday October 26th (Briviesca, km+73=8324)

What a strange day…This afternoon we have crossed numerous ghost villages: San Millan de Yecora, Valluercanes, Quintanaloranco, Banuelos… More than half of the houses are deserted or going to ruin, probably because of the rural depopulation.

We lost our way while trying to follow a secondary road still mapped on the Michelin roadmap; poor mapping: the 1/400.000 scale is'nt precise enough for that kind of orientation practice: we lost two hours and much energy, because of the ups and downs. At the last village, mexican style at the siesta time, nobody show up, except many dogs; we fill our water-bottles at the fountain before a last rising, then we plant our tent in a field.

Thursday October 25th (Samaniego, km+75=8251)

Brrr, the weather was cold last night, I had to put my Damart Thermolactyl and my turkish cap. Between the camping and Estella we ride along a huge wine alcohol distillery, which issues caracteristic vapors reminding me of my business. We have picnic on the square at Santa Cruz, an animated village.

On the other side of a pass, the lanscape is marvelous. At least 30 vulturs soar above us and on the hills slopes the vintages of Rioja are beautiful with their autumn colours.

In Samaniego we plant our tent in the church garden. At 7:00 pm the bells are ringing for the mass that we attend; 20 minutes later, ite missa est, and the priest now conducts the women choir rehearsal. I hear their singing from the tent.

See also birdwatching.

Wednesday October 24th (Estella, km+54=8177)

We have tried to follow from Pamplune the St Jacques de Compostelle path, but the map we have got at the tourism office is designed for pedestrians and not for cyclists. Nevertheless we follow it along 20 km, pushing our bicycles on the rocky path, admiring the landscape and crossing pilgrims.

Around 11:00 am, two of them overtake us at the top of a hill. Fine ! Eric and Marilyne are belgian, they walk since last July with their rucksack, their stick and shells. They tell us their experience, give us some tricks for the camping, and we have picnic together before riding farther.

When in Puerta two spanish men accost us: they have studied at the Leuven (Louvain) university in Belgium, where they encountered their belgian wifes.
Tomorrow we will leave the Camino de Santiago to take another itinerary.

Tuesday October 23rd (Pamplona, km+63=8123)

Yesterday we were in our sleeping bags at 8:30 pm, hade set the light off (our front lamps !) at 9:00 pm, and today we get up at 8:00 am, a good night ! We ride up to the Puerto de Velate pass at 845m and farther we cannot avoid cycling along a kind of highway to Pamplune. Tonight: restaurant and hotel, we celebrate after some delay our first anniversary of marriage, together with the 8.000 km !

Monday October 22nd (Irurita, km+50=8060)

We had first to fix a flat tire, then say goodbye to Jacqueline and Gérard, who have been full of attentions for us !

Resuming our run, we go up through the St Ignace pass before leaving France, then in Spain we face the more serious Puerto d'Otxondo pass, 605m high. The Pays Basque is beautiful. A vultur flies above us, huge, probably searching for a sheep or petioc (kind of poney) carcass.

In Elizondo we plant our tent on a picnic area alongside a narrow road, between a fountain, a river and the fields.

See also birdwatching.

Sunday october 21st (TGV to St Jean-de-Luz)

A nice day with good friends, a short night and hop ! we come back by TGV to rejoin our bicycles.

What is our plan to join Gibraltar ? We intend to follow part of the itinerary to St Jacques de Compostelle till Burgos, then we will leave it to rejoin Salamanque and then go to the south via Extrémadure. Besides Salamanque, we have much less hosting adresses in Spain, compared with England and France.

Saturday October 20th, Tervuren (near Brussels)

As you could guess, we did'nt leave our bicycles so soon. They are waiting for us at Gérard and Jacqueline home in Ascain, while we arrive in Belgium to celebrate the marriage of our friends Ysabel and Vincent. We stay by Gaëtane's parents and after that bike8000 will be cycling again to Gibraltar !

Friday October 19th (Thalys Paris - Bruxelles)


Our mission fulfilled, we have embarked at St Jean-de-Luz station in the 11h08 am TGV to Paris Montparnasse, then in the 5h22 pm Thalys to Brussels South. Tomorrow we will tell more about our return in Belgium.


Thursday October 18th (Ascain, km+47=8010)

Hurrah ! When we came in St Jean-de-Luz, our counter displayed 8.000 km !
Bike8000 has fulfilled his contract, should we go back home ? Wait and see…

We had a sea bath at St Jean-de-Luz to celebrate our 8.000 km, then we rode to the charming village named Ascain, where we have been welcomed by our hosts Gérard and Jacqueline, in their home near La Rhune, a mountain located 900 m from the spanish border.

Wednesday october 17th (Tarnos, km+58=7963)

During the last night, from the camping "Les Moussaillons" at 2 km from the sea, we could hear clearly the ocean waves breaking on the coast. This morning we had a chat with the baker, asking about his business: he sells in one summer day as much as during a full winter month !

Tonight we arrive in Tarnos (just north of Biarritz) by Christine, a friend of my sister Marie-Dominique, and her children Marie-Laure, Marine and Baptiste; her husband is presently travelling for business. Yesterday night Christine drawed our attention on the dangers of bathing in the Atlantic, because of the strong currents which can attract people to the open sea, or to the bottom. (brrrr…) Today, she continues to take care of ourselves thanks to a delicious local meal (mmmh…)

Tuesday October 16th (Messanges, km+88=7905)

This afternoon, our second tire puncture, again on Gaëtane bicycle; it has been a bit difficult to fix, but we should'nt complain concerning mechanical incidents: along nearly 2 x 8000 km, we have faced very few problems up to now.

Monday October 15th (Ychoux, km+87=7817)

During all the day we have cycled through the Landes, covered with pine-trees planted around 1850 on the sandy moors covered by heather and marshlands. We have thus pedaled in this landscape along very long straigth roads; at some point during 15 km we cycled along a railway track, and each time we met a train, we greeted the driver and were delighted when he responded to us by triggering his locomotive hooter.

Sunday October 14th (Bordeaux)

We had lunch - with Arcachon oysters as entrée - in the garden of the Bernard's family: the indian summer is there ! In the afternoon we had a walk in the woods and the park of Mérignac, with their children: Marie, Nicolas and Caroline.

Saturday October 13th (Bordeaux, km+66=7731)

After the picnic at noon on a square in Bordeaux, we say goodbye to Raya after these few days cycling together, and we offered ourselves a good Internet session in a cyber-café. Then we came into Mérignac, a suburb west of the center, by Bernard, Béatrice and their children. Bernard is an "old" belgian friend we know thanks to the boy-scouting and the parish; he works here as a physician since several years.

Friday October 12th (Pauillac, km+76=7665)

Just in time, we embark on the 10 am ferry to cross the Gironde river, so broad that the crossing takes half an hour. On the other bank, a beautiful cycling path brings us to Saulac-sur-Mer. Farther we find ourselves in the vineyards, fortunately the vintage season is not yet finished. Tonight we raise our glass (a real wine-glass, lent by the camping boss) to your health ! Its content : a Medoc, Château Tour Prignac, from the region crossed today.

Thursday October 11th (Royan, km+110=7589)

We leave Julien, Céline and little Théophile (6 weeks) after an excellent evening and night, thank you very much ! Before 10 am we rejoin Raya at the church of Angoulins and we cycle together to Catelaillon-Plage. There, emotion ! The Fort Boyard appears at distance: it reminds me the end of a film with Lino Ventura and Alain Delon, and the famous French TV broadcasts.

We cross the Charente river on its last bridge, a huge viaduct, have our picnic on the beach at Soubise, and cross Brouage, a fortified village outside the time. At La Tremblade, the people are busy collecting the oysters. A workman offers us a huge one, 17 cm long !

Excellent bathing in the sea at La Grande Côte with the setting sun, then we arrive at night in Royan, in a flawless camping site.

Wednesday October 10th (La Rochelle, km+82=7478)

We continue cycling with Raya. La Rochelle is a beautiful town, especially in the sun light around 5 pm. Tonight we lodge near La Rochelle at La Jarne, by friends of Anne-Cécile and Jean (Cap Tandem). Hurrah for the solidarity between cyclists !

Tuesday October 9th (La Tranche-sur-Mer, km+94=7396)

At noon, the sun is shining again ! We had picnic at Les Sables d'Olonne, while drying our tent after the heavy rains of last night and this morning.
While cycling we join Raya who is Dutch and alternates train and bicycle since she left Amsterdam.

For the birdwatchers: the Wood Lark and the Cirl Bunting tell us that we approach the south of Europe.

Monday October 8th (Commequiers, km+87=7301)

Today a strong wind from the SW and 3 or 4 downpours.

Sunday october 7th (Nantes)

Today is a day of rest and rain; after attending mass in the beautiful cathedral, we rejoin our friend Alain, who lives in Nantes; we met him three months ago in a youth hostel in the Lofoten Islands; he celebrated yesterday with a few friends his 50th anniversary.

Tomorrow we start again, hoping that the strong winds blowing on the Bretagne get calm, as the rains which have triggered these last times many floods in this country.

Saturday October 6th (km+83=7215)

Yesterday night we had overtaken a boat on the canal, and this morning we have seen it again and chatted with the people on board during the time needed to pass a lock, it is around half an hour.

Frédéric sails since 4 years with his wife Evelyne and their two daugthers during the holidays: Senegal, Cap Vert, Açores, Antilles… This time they sail on this narrow canal till Anger, on the Loire, where they will come back home and work two years as hospital attendants, before sailing again on other seas…

The cycling path along the canal is sometimes in poor conditions, and we have been forced to leave it before Nantes, where we came under a heavy rain; by chance we found a nice and cheap hostel, with a room on the 4th floor (we like that).

Friday October 5th (km+89=7132)

What a marvel, this canal from Nantes to Brest ! It is still navigable on most of its way. Yesterday we were in a small camping run by an english couple; tonight we are in a large camping where we are alone !

See also birdwatching.

Thursday October 4th, + 74 km = 7042 km

We have slept in the "Hotel de Bretagne", but have been disturbed during the night by a baker who, to remain awake, had his radio playing loudly. After our breakfast, a bad surprise: a dog had teared into strips the Packtowl® of Ben !

Wednesday October 3rd (Guémené-sur-Scorff, km+86=6968)

The canal between Nantes and Brest has been opened in 1840 and remained operational during one century. It goes along meandering rivers and with its 328 locks for 359 km, is a beautiful witness of the past, that we rode along today.

Near Glomel, the slope is going up; along 1,5 km we pass at least 10 locks, it's like climbing a huge stair. Then the great trench: three horizontal km hollowed out by convicts through the hill, with a little water reservoir, and the descending slope on the other side. But in the middle of the trench, falled trees forbid the road: to the left, the hill, to the right, the canal; we have been forced to dismount our luggage to pass them above the trees, then our bicycles…

We started again on the cycling path; the ground is softened by the last rains, and covered with leaves, branches and so on.
Finally we leave the canal and come by night in the little town of Guéméné; the town's camping is closed and we have to settle in a little hostel.

Tuesday October 2nd (Huelgoat, km+63=6882)

Today, starting from the third paragraph, the incredible adventures of Ben the Biker, that you should'nt miss by any reason !

Before that, Annick had prepared yesterday night a delicious britton meal, see the "gastronomy" heading. Her speciality is more the plants than the kitchen, because she works as a volunteer in the Roskoff exotic garden. After she took care so gently of ourselves, we said goodbye, but she had to run after us with the map-mesurer that we had forgotten on her table…

Speaking about onions, an old institution in Roskoff are the Johnies who went selling their weaved goods in the villages south of England. They crossed the channel, then went from port to port and rode to the mainland by bicycle. That's the bike at the european scale !

This morning in front of the post office an uncommon fellow accosts us, after seeing our bicycles and our magic rear pannel ("Northcap to Gibraltar" with our Web address). When aged 24, Richard has crossed the United States from New York to Los Angeles, nearly 6000 km by foot. He raised funds for the poliomyelitis patients and was sponsorized by CBS News.

Fabulous Richard's fate ! Aged 13, workman in a cooking-stove factory, private receptionist of Hubert Givenchy at 18, protégé by Audrey Hepburn at 20, and apprentice in a five stars hotel in Geneva. At 25, after his walking through the States, he becomes major-domo in New York by Tiffany's boss, then in Bonn by the Chancelor Helmut Kohl and his wife, finally by the Duke and Duchess of Wellington… Back in France at 55, he settled in Roskoff a few weeks ago. There an old woman met him while he was walking in the street. She is a medium as he is, got a flash when meeting him, knows he his a major-domo and tells him that he will soon find a job, in a noble family in the south of France… On October 2nd finally, Richard meets bike8000 who is dubious about what he has listen, moreover we didn't tell all what he told us… Good luck Richard, and if you consult our website, leave us your address, so we could buy your book when it will be published.

After this conversation, we start again and come in Saint-Pol-de-Léon where we find an Internet connection. The manager of the cyber-space of the Communities group is very sympathetic: he delays the closing time of his office at noon and consults our site on the next PC. Watching our news of yesterday, he shouts: but it's my picture of Roscoff ! Our webmaster Roland had illustrated our report with the photo of the town's official site, that the young data processing man in front of us had shot himself !

Morlaix, a more important town, has been visited by Gaëtane several years ago, when she went there as a girl-scout. Today we rode during 20 km up to the Mounts d'Arrée summit, then we went down to Huelgoat. The camping on the lake was closed, except for a few workmen who live there since 4 years, and are busy in dismantling a former nuclear plant. We are allowed to plant freely our tent nearby.

See also gastronomy.

Monday October 1st (Roscoff, km=6819)

Yesterday we have embarked on the ferry, being wet through rain falls on the short way between our hosts home and the port of Plymouth. We have been forbidden to go on the upper deck because of the adverse weather, and be advised to limit our walking on board. Fortunately we had our matrasses and sleeping bags, and as real "routards" we settle under one of the stairs. To be recumbent seems the best to damp pitching and rolling ; we succeed sleeping rather well, in spite of some passengers going sick…

We land in Roskoff early in the morning in this lovely little town ; we buy croissants and chocolate rolls and arrive by 8:30 am by Annick, a friend of friends of our Webmaster. Annick had herself prepared the breakfast, hence we have a lot for this meal… Walking down town, lunch, rest, mass in the cathedral very well restored two years ago, and according to the pleasant smell going out of the kitchen, we will have local artichotes tonight…

See also birdwatching.

Sunday September 30th (Plymouth)

It's raining, fortunately we are again inside for a day rest, by John and Penny this time. Bikes cleaning, chains oiling, Monopoly with Jane and Lucy, walking along the breaking sea (The Hoe) and the old streets of Plymouth where wind and rain rush in.

This will bring us much pleasure for the crossing to Roskoff in Brittain, by the ferry planned at 11:30 pm tonight…

See also birdwatching and gastronomy.