Thursday, 24 June 2010

Days 18 to 24

After a great afternoon spent eating steak sandwiches at the house of Felix (the most hospitable Toulousian ever) and having their bikes serviced by freindly Yorkshireman Phil (the best bike mechanic this side of the Swaledale), Team Graham cycled south out of Toulouse towards the forboding and mystical Pyrenees, which lurked menacingly in the jerking hearts of the team. The route was phenomenal, and completely unexpected to the team, who had spent the last two days in the haze of an urban wilderness. The team saw the faint silouhette of the mountains they were yet to tackle for the first time, which lurked like dark beasts of fury amassing on the horizon. With the steak sandwiches still bobbing up and down in the team´s stomachs, they ventured forth with great enthusiasm, unaware of the atrocities yet to besiege them.

On the 18th day, the Team awoke in a beautiful riverside setting, within the comfortable depths of nature´s bosom. They had experienced traditional French hospitality to the fullest in a tiny bar in Mazaria the previous evening, as plate after plate of gratuit pain, jambon et brie was served to them, as they witnessed a dismayed French football team lose to Mexico. Soon after awakening, a great tragedy befell the team. Team member Harry´s spokes were feeling slightly squew-wiff, and due to their repeatedly breaking, the team were forced to walk two disasterous kilometers to the nearest bike mechanic to recieve treatment. Typically, and honarably, the wise french mechanic didnt even charge for his services, and gave the team a spare wheel, which was regrettably worse than the original, leaving the fear stricken team to travel on foot another 5 kilometers to cycle passion where the bike fully recovered, and the team filled their stomachs each eating a whole baguette with brie and tomato to releave their stress. After 3 hours waiting on the world to change, the team cycled on, but these shinanigans had effectively cost them a whole day. The team arrived in Foix, and went to watch England play appallingly against Algeria, in a pub most likely owned by Algerians. They camped by a nice river, which provided water, and a place to wash in the morning.

The next day, the 19th of June, the team carried on towards Ax-les-Thermes. The scenery was of utterly unsurpased beauty for the excited team, who enjoyed outstanding views for the whole day, but as they approached their destination, the rain poured down upon them, and chilled their weary bodies to the bone. They arrived at the campsite soaking and miserable, even close to hypothermia, happy only to have a warm shower, and cook up some sausage and mash in the toilets before they retired to their wet and bedraggled tents. When they awoke, the path looked dangerous, and rather than risking passing through dangerous weather in the mountains, they spent the subsequent day restlessly and frustratedly waiting for the weather to pass.

On the 21st, the team awoke, ready for the challenge that faced them. The team climbed that morning to 2001 meters, 6565 ft, where despite the good weather, a wild wind raged around them at the snow-capped peak. The views were unreal, right across the moutains, where skiiers and snowboarders aplenty would be treading the same paths later that year. As they descended, they decided to take a short break from the smell of burning rubber emited by their scorching break pads, and a peculiar experience befell them. Team member Harry came across four wild horses on the road, which scarpered quickly as he approached. The team followed them down into a mountain pasture, and to their great surprise, as they came over a ridge, they walked down into an utterly surreal perfeclty green prarie, surrounded by steep cliffs, where around 20 wild horses were grazing, young and old. As a pregnant mother lay on the ground, with young foals gathering around her, the team comforted her, enjoying this bizarre moment together.. it was indescribable, and nothing quite like anything any of them had ever experienced. They arrived at a beautiful mountain lake later that day, where they made their bed for the night.

The next day, after more beautiful views and moutain climbing, the team crossed the border into Spain. Thinking that their mountain climbing was finished with, they approached the mouth of a 5km tunnel, only to be informed "no es por las blicicletas," when they realised that they would again have to climb to nearly 2000 meters. Despite the difficult task, the route was amazing, and travelling downhill for miles, the team enjoyed some of the best views they had yet witnessed. Staying again in a small field, the team reflected that these were some of their greatest days.

The team pushed onthe next day, having breakfast in a small Spanish town, where team member James illustriously recorded the local sounds on his hand held recording device, Yamaha PocketrakCX (See You!). Tom had a clumsy yet somewhat comprehendable with the local retailer, who almost persuaded the team to eat her chorizo for breakfast. Politely refusing, they carried on, still enjoying beautiful views, which were unfortunately slightly marred by the main roads the team were forced to tackle. Yawning mouths of dark hungry tunnels swallowed the terrified team again and again, who were adrift in a black mournful ocean of diesel. They enjoyed the downward sloping gradent for the remainder of the day however, and arrived in Taradell, to watch England play far better football than they had yet against Slovenia, retiring to another secluded field, which happened to be abundent with fresh wild thyme, which naturist James "Green-Fingered" Graham enthusiastically hoarded in his small plant collecting pouch.
After a herb-infused tortellini dish, the team were unfortunately deprived of another night´s sleep by the lound BANG of firewords, and the music of a fiesta, which ran late into the night. Why weren´t they there? Possibly because they deleriously imangined that they were still drifting through the dead and silent ghost towns of southern France, where not much ever really happens, and as much as a dog barking is considered an annual event.

The next day, the team ventured south, what a surprise. After many ups and downs, they finally arrived at the coast, just north of Barcelona, where desperate and deprived shrieks of happiness were emitted by the team at the prospect of a wash beckoned them, as the Mediterranean Sea peeked its cheeky head over the horizon. After 14 days of landlocked cycling, the team gratefully inhaled the fresh sea breeze. The ride toward the coast was hardly a chore, as the team wound down breathtaking mountain roads for miles, with only the cool refreshing water waiting for them at the end of the road.


  1. Got the pics now great stuff again

  2. Hello!
    I'm Andrés. You might not remember me. I'm the guy who started talking with you at the door of the market in Albacete.
    I also ride a bike, and hopefully one day can make a big journey like yours.
    I find it fascinating that you can live this adventure. I hope you're enjoying a lot the trip.

    I send you much strength, and my best wishes for you to have a smooth journey, but as a cyclist friend of mine says, "no pain, not worth it."

    I wish you all the best for the trip to Tarifa (and beyond).
    It was a pleasure to meet you. I will follow your blog.
    Good luck.

  3. Belated Happy Birthday Tom from all of us in E17, thinking of you and wishing you and the team all the best.