Blog from Spain, October 25, 2008
Wow, I can’t believe this is all happening! It’s like a surreal dream but yet so alive and juicy! Here’s the latest! (by the way—journals are up to date, minus France—which will come soon enough...)
I left off last blog on the way to Biarritz, France where the Peace Pedalers Rainbow was calling me back to the beach for more sunshine, perfect waves and more friendly French people. I arrived by train in Biarritz at about 5PM and got a call from one of my couchsurfing hosts Vincent inviting me to have a drink overlooking the water. I liked Vincent from the moment I saw him—very cool, laid back and smiling ear to ear when we connected.
My Couchsurfing hosts Margo and Vincent in Biarritz--Perfect!
Another amazing rugby game in the setting sun
Oh, almost forgot, somewhere in between all that surf I was invited to yet another professional rugby game where Biarritz, one of Europe’s best teams, demolished an Italian team as the sun was setting and the crowd all fired up. After the game Vincent got me into a VIP party where we had free food, drinks and met several of the players, fans and more cool locals. Thanks Vincent!
Biarritz sunset on the pitch after they smoked the opponents
We sat at a beach café watching surfers rip up the perfect waves in the sunshine and were soon joined by my other couchsurfing host Margo who would be hosting me that night. It was another festive Friday night and the weather, surf and people helped me get over the temporary loss of my mom and Sophie who I just adventured with. Margo took me to her place, we dropped off my gear, grabbed some nice wine and food, and geared up to hit the town that night in the charming Bayonne.
Margo and her boyfriend Mathieu were amazing hosts. Both are still in college and the youngest hosts I’ve ever had both at about 21 years young. I knew their idea of a night on the town might me a doozy but I was ready to relive my youth and before I knew it I was as a college happy hour party drinking 2 for 1 shooters until all of us were in rare form. I met some great people and the night was full of laughs and interesting chats with the locals, mostly in French (my French seems to get better after a few drinks)
The next day it was time to hit the surf and I was blessed to meet the owner of an adventure outfitter and rental company named Benoit at Takamaka (www.takamaka.fr) just near the beach. He set me up with a board and wetsuit for the next few days and so I was set. For the next 24 hours it was all about the surf with three amazing sessions, including a morning session where I was first in the water getting countless glassy waves as the sun slowly rose, casting perfect hues of light on all the lovely rocks and building—truly unforgettable.
I was all surfed out after three long sessions and that Sunday evening Vincent came from his place in Anglet to fetch me in his huge van. Anglet is another cool town just north of Biarritz with amazing beaches, world class surf and a more laid back feel than Biarritz. Vincent cooked me up a bachelor’s meal of rice, coconut chicken and a few sweet Desperado beers to wash them down as we chilled at his condo just on a golf course. Vincent is a super cool cat and we had a lots in common so it a pleasure to spend time with him
The next day the sun was out and it was time to ride! The plan was for Vincent to come out and ride for the morning and have Melanie, my French friend I met in Morocco, meet us both somewhere along our ride. I was super excited to ride with Vincent but when riding time came he decided to change plans and bail on our ride. I was a bit bummed at first but luckily Melanie was on her way to Bayonne and Vincent decided to take me there and do a bit of sightseeing together before he said goodbye.
It had been seven months since I first met Melanie in Morocco and I had no idea what to expect so I just decided to expect nothing and let it all flow as always. We had only spent a few hours together and really did not know much about each other except the fact that we are both travel addicts. She had been following my ride online since we met and since she was only a few hours away at the time and had time off of her job in the tourism industry she decided to come out for a ride.
About ½ hour after I said goodbye to Vincent Melanie arrived all tanned, smiling and ready for adventure. She had a big, heavy backpack so I hopped she had some good legs. Fortunately she had done some touring in Cuba and was stronger than most of my riders and I knew she’d carry her weight. We grabbed some lunch, toured the town, ran some cameras and hit the amazing bicycle route outside of Bayonne into Basque country at about 4PM with perfect blue skies, warm temperatures and good vibes flowing!
After an epic ride along the river and through charming Basque villages we finally rode to a place called Pas de Rolland. We landed the most free perfect campsite ever right on river surrounded by mountains. We enjoyed an epic sunset dinner, some Bordeaux wine, Basque cheese, yummy treats Mel brought from Spain and life was good! The stars came out in full force that night but the clouds were making their way in and the forecast was for rain in the next 24 hours.
The next day we slept in late, relaxed by the river and finally hit the road at about 11AM. We had some mechanical issues that delayed our actual ride until after 2PM but still managed to get some incredible kilometers through the charming Basque region before the clouds came in heavy and eventually opened up just as we rode into the small village named Bonloc. We showed up at the only restaurant in town totally drenched, freezing cold and ready to get off the bike for a while.
Melanie did not have foul weather gear with her and, based on the torrential downpour and cold temperatures that were clearly there to stay, we were considering calling Bonloc home for the night. However, the only hotel in town was full and camping in this weather would have been a nasty proposition. So we both put it out to the ole Universe to provide us with a local host and proceed to relax, read, dry our clothes, have a few drinks and chat up the locals.
Basque country has some interesting road hazards ;)
And a kiss from a local horse to send us off with love :)
Air guitar performance by Jean Michel--priceless
Our Basque host Jean Michel, guest rider Mel and I lovin' it!
Melanie was the first to meet a friendly Basque man named Jean Michel and I heard them chatting away as I sat reading. When I went out to join them I was informed that Jean Michel had offered to host us for the night and he just was as excited as we were! He lived 5km away from the restaurant and the rain was still quite heavy so the cool owners of the restaurant offered to keep the bike for the night and allow us to go up to Jean Michel’s in his car so we were set!
The feeling that evening was festive and warm as the locals all started to warm up to us. Several rounds of beers were purchased for us and we befriended several cool locals that evening before finally making our way up to Jean Michel’s. From there it only gets better! Jean Michel clearly had never hosted strangers before and he was so excited he went out shopping for amazing food, wine and treats for the special occasion.
The temperature dropped quickly that evening and was close to freezing so we were so grateful for Jean Michel’s hospitality. Our evening together was truly unforgettable and filled with a jolly vibe from all the great food, amazing Bordeaux wine, air guitar performances to Joe Satriani, cranking Basque music, loud chats in three different languages and much more. Jean Michel has such a warm heart and we became like family that evening.
The next morning the weather was still quite nasty. But the forecast was for clearing and evening sun so we were optimistic. Before we left Jean Michel drove us to his favorite spot on top of a huge mountain where we were able to capture his feeling and thoughts on the video, I got to kiss a horse and we all admired the stunning Basque scenery while sucking in our last moments together.
Mel and I hit the road after the owners of the restaurant treated us to a nice meal and our entire crew came together for a lovely farewell photo and even a nice scene for the show. Jean Michel almost cried when we said goodbye and it was a touching farewell. I know I’ll see him again one day!
Our destination for the day was Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, which was only a 40km ride or so, but hilly as hilly gets. We were warned of steep climbs and constant hills, but we were ready! The scenery was nothing short of spectacular and yes, there were some brutal hills. We managed to pick up a tail wind, the sun was trying to shine and we were clicking the kilometers along slowly but surly through the stunning mountains.
We arrived in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port about an hour before sunset and landed a sweet hostel for 10 euros a night, dropped off the gear and headed out on the tandem all ready for a rolling interview through this truly magnificent little town. Just as we started our ride the sun finally came out and we managed to do one of the most picturesque and impactful rolling interviews ever. With the sun casting the perfect light on us and all the surroundings we chatted away for about 30 minutes and Mel shared her dear heart with the world—you’ll love it when we finally get to editing!
The stunning town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Mel and I out on our filmed ride in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Mel missed her bus but hitched a ride in seconds back to Bayonne
Our last night together we shared with a Canadian cyclist named Celine, several cool locals and Mel cooked me up a yummy meal at the hostel before getting to bed early. Mel missed her morning bus but was able to hitch a ride back to Bayonne in a few minutes and before I knew it I was solo once again. I was a bit sad saying bye to Mel as we got along so well and had really built a wonderful friendship. But fortunately bright sunshine made me feel much better and I decided to take a day in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to explore and hopefully find another guest rider to come with me to San Sebastian, Spain.
I spent several hours looking for guest riders but had no luck so the next day I cranked the Ipod and pedals over 100km through some of the most striking scenery I’ve ever ridden and arrived last night in San Sebastian. The surf forecast was for massive swell and no wind so I my original plan was to call this town home for the weekend. I had heard great things about the town and the surf so I was excited as ever when I rolled in.
I was ready to get into the water when the Peace Pedalers Rainbow sent me a messenger who was just getting out of the surf himself. He told it was mostly closeouts (bad waves) and would only get worse at that spot and that the best place to be now for this massive surf was a place called Mundaka. I had heard this place had one of the longest left breaking waves in the world and, since I’m a goofy footer (I like left waves), I changed my plans just like that.
Before leaving San Sebastian to Mundaka I was able to reconnect with a good friend Isabel and her two daughters for some fun in the sun. Isa was my girlfriend when I lived in Spain in 1994 and we had not connected since so boy was it great to see her!
I’m just out of the surf now and going for one more session before the weather here turns downright nasty. The forecast is for some mean rain and cold temperatures as winter is starting to show its face around here lately. So, being the fair-weather guy I am, I have decided to take the last adventures of Peace Pedalers to the southern regions of the continent and am off to Andalusia to Seville and will be cycling southwest to southern Portugal from there. The weather is warmer, less rain and I love the people and culture in the south so off I go!
Over n out from Spain!