One problem with traveling through a foreign country and camping in the woods is the lack of bathrooms. This is complicated by the fact that I never feel like going to the bathroom when I am biking. Thus, even if I can find a nice Frenchman or Spaniard who will let me use the facilities for free, it may not come out all right. Plus, I have found that many public restrooms, even campgrounds, have no toilet paper. Anyway, I solved that problem this morning by heading off into the vine with my favorite Stephen King novel early this morning. Everything came out fine, and the paper was more than adequate. I just have to make sure I read five pages or so each day so that I can use them. Anyway, we packed up shop and coasted down into the next coastal town.
Over the River and Through the Woods
We found an older man riding down the same national highway that we were. We passed him on a downhill, but on the uphill, this man was amazing. We decided to ride with him a while till we switched roads. Eventually we got on N116 and started our ascent up the Tet river into the Pyrennes.
As I think I mentioned, I am not a strong climber. I do like to mountain bike, but I ascend only so that I can descend. However, Jens was set on doing this Ruta Alta de los Pirineos, so I agreed to ride with him a couple days. Besides, we looked at the map and calculated that this road (actually not part of the route) could only average about 2.5percent in incline-very doable even with our load. Well, some parts were a little flatter, while later in the day, the road increased to perhaps seven or ten percent incline. There was cussing in many languages.
Long before the road got really brutal there was a funny episode with some fruit. Jens, always eager to save money, got the bright idea of picking some nectarines from some beautiful vines in the valley. We pulled over and I got out a bag for the job. Well, while we were back in the vines, picking up only the hard, worthless fruit off of the floor, some driver decided to take my bread and peanuts which were left out on top of my bicycle stuff, beside the road. When I told Jens about this, he was quite mad. Not only were things expensive in France, and the "air wasn't free" (another incident at the gas station), but the French are thieves! Personally, I just assumed that the robber was the owner of these trees, and his crime was as good as ours. Anyway, we still had plenty of food to carry up that steep road.
Another matter of interest for the day was the discovery that we were still in the land of Catalunya. The language of Catalan is really a combination of French and Spanish, so it is fitting that it exists not only on the Spanish side of the border, but here as well. Most of the towns that we entered today had signs written not only in French, but a town name in Catalan, spelled slightly differently. We didn't see any spray paint rallying support for a Catalan nation on this side, though.
We climbed well into the evening. We started out the day at the ocean, and with a few hills at the bottom, we figure we had more than 2000m of climbing altogether. Each time we thought we had reached a top, the road would produce more climbing. We stopped just short of Mont Luis, at about 1500m elevation. There was a small level space where we could set up our tent and not be bothered by traffic or animals. It was a long day, and we were both hurting a bit. Plus we knew that we had to do the same tomorrow. I must cross another pass or two to get out to France, and Jens will be heading along the mountains into Andorra. This should be our last night together.