I expect you've guessed by now that we survived & made it finally to our house near Graus, our destination. In fact I'm writing this after 10 days of hot sun, swimming & excessive eating & drinking. We celebrated Siân's 60th birthday in great style with 21 family & guests (accounting for most of the eating & drinking). And in two hours time we're starting on our homeward leg to Pau, giving ourselves plenty of time to catch the train on the 17th back to Paris & then London. [This was written yesterday July 12th at 3pm.]
Sadly I haven't managed to upload any photos on the blog so those of you who haven't seen the Twitter photos will have to wait til I get back & work out how to do it. (Think it may not be fully functional on the iPhone.) Thanks v much for all your comments on the blog & Twitter. It's v encouraging.
Of course I'm not going to leave you in suspense about the final day...no, we didn't call a taxi, however tempting that might have been. The last blog post left us luxuriating in our Laguarta Casa Rural. Breakfast was as good as supper & the day dawned grey & cloudy - HOORAY!
We set off with renewed vigour & really enjoyed the cool climb which cut through the corner of the National Park of the Sierra y los Canones de Guara & up to a pass of 1291m. We then hurtled down to Boltaña, through a scenic gorge & hit the main road to Ainsa.
When we first came to these parts - 40 years ago! - Ainsa was a small, ancient but crumbling little hill town with a very attractive porticoed Plaza Mayor & I still remember the man on the donkey trotting through the square. Now it's been done up & is a local tourist attraction & as it was Sunday there were lots of cars & people, so I convinced D that we'd find a smaller bar or restaurant out of town for our lunch stop.
Unfortunately all the villages on our route, first towards Campo & then another 'short cut' to Tierrantona & Formigales, were perched on steep hills a km or two from the main road so we didn't feel like investigating on spec. The clouds over the mountains were darkening so we pressed on, missing the only open bar in Tierrantona as the road was rather fast & straight at that point.
Suddenly there was a splat on my sunglasses - a fly, I thought - but no, it was rain, soon really heavy & we scrambled under the trees into a ditch & resigned ourselves to finishing the tough chorizo & dried apricots while the storm passed.
We set off again in the rain - we'd soon find a bar for shelter - through the village of Formigales - no bar - then a long, looong, never-ending climb up to Troncedo - bar, but closed. Now we were on a ridge, surely no more climbs? Wrong again. Up & down, up & down along the ridge until we finally started our descent, speeding past the Buddist temple (yes, a real one with a golden dome & prayer flags, famous in the area), past Panillo - lost interest in the bar by now - down to the junction & a sign: 'Graus 1km'! The rain had stopped, we quickly dried out in the hot sun, that last km flew past & there we were sitting in the main street in Graus at our favourite bar with beer & tapas. The waiter greeted us as if we'd only been gone a day or two, not six years. Suddenly, there was a commotion from the direction of the Plaza Mayor, hooters & jubilant shouting & children waving red & yellow flags. Spain had just won the European Cup - what a really fitting celebratory end to our long trip!
Statistics: the last day we cycled 88.7km & climbed 1151m. (These climbs felt far tougher than the main Pyreneen Col.) We had cycled for 10 days. Our total distance to the house from Angoulême station was 710.62km & the total ascent 6,683m.
[Final note for Tom F: we took your advice & did the Secastilla turn-off & climbed towards La Puebla - groan - to approach the house from above. The urbanización road is truly atrocious & suicidal in parts for cycles, especially loaded with luggage...but we made it. By the end of the week we'd mastered cycling up from the lake without stopping tho D took a nasty tumble trying to take the Los Enebros corner up towards La Puebla the day before yesterday - ouch!]
Next post, the homeward leg, 'encore les Pyrénées'. Feels mentally quite tough...