St Jean Pied-de-Port France to Pamplona Spain

Wednesday 29 August 2012
Hotel Maisonnave, Pamplona Spain
76 km, 4.50 hrs, 15.7 kph, 0900 – 1600
Total rise 1350

Route: D933 (France), N135 (Spain)

Left St Jean Pied-de-Port at 0900 to start the long climb to the top of the pass at Ibaneta, an 900m climb (with some downhills thrown in).

Leaving St Jean, the road goes through lush landscapes and prosperous farms for the short ride to the border. Not much happening there anymore, no more customs offices in the EU. We have now crossed the entire country of France, from here to Strasbourg.

The hill ride is through beautiful landscapes, from farms into steep hills, with Aquitanian cows surveying the world from the tops of some of the highest. The road is in perfect condition, newly paved, but unrelentingly up.

We’re somewhat following The Way of St James, A Cyclists Guide, John Higginson (Cicerone), which gives a cycling route along the pilgrim’s route to Santiago. Cycling on the actual trail is possible and you see some mountain bikes on it, but they would be pretty annoying to the walkers.  What it doesn’t tell the reader is that this part of Spain is all hills.

The second extremely useful mapbook is Michelin’s “Camino do Santiago”. It’s the walkers’ guide but the maps are of the area and help us at every turn.

With Olin’s Garmin telling us we had another 100m to go, we  came round the corner and we were there – at the chapel at Ibaneta.

Stopped for photos, then took the quick downhill into Roncesvalle for lunch. Time to the top was about 3 hours, including breaks along the way.

There is significant climb from Erro to Alto Erro – another 175m, ouch at the end of the day.

The road and the pilgrims’ route run close to each other. The 39,000 pilgrims a year mean hundreds every day at this time of year. A volunteer at the monastery in Roncesvalle told us they have 200 a night every night – and that’s just one of hundreds of hostels in this area alone.

The small towns are painted and spic and span – the euros coming in are clearly making a difference.

Coming into Pampona: We followed the 135 until it turned into a motorway, turned off at Obaz, and took bike lanes into the city. Here’s the best way to find the city centre: Find a good looking young fella’ on a bike, ask directions, and then he will lead you down the bike routes to the tourist booth.

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About Olin and Suzanne
Olin and Suzanne's cycling trip, across Canada and around the world.

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