I started climbing from the moment I left my campsite. Into the mountains I continued as I cycled my first full day in Spain. I was aiming for the city of Pamplona, about 85km away. The road turned from small country lane-ways to high mountain passes to a 4 lane highway frequented by semi-trailers. The slow burning climb was a reminder of how little climbing on the bike I had done thus far. I came to a tunnel that cut through a high peak and turned on all my lights to make sure passing traffic would see me in the darkness of the inside of the mountain. I came to my second tunnel only to be stopped by a passing road traffic warden. He gestured that I could not pass through the tunnel. With our language difficulties creating a misunderstanding between us, he called someone on his phone indicating to me that he was either warning his colleagues of the mad Australian cycling a Spanish highway or informing the authorities of the mad Australian cycling a Spanish highway.
I turned around and began the decent back down. The climbing I had been struggling with all day was now worthless. All my hard work wasted. I soon came across a side road which signposted Pamplona. My first thought was that it was a scenic route or truck road perhaps. As I made the detour I was soon welcomed by a bypass road that climbed above and beyond the tunnel I should have made my way through. It rose higher around each corner and hair-pin turn. I stopped several times to rest, replenish and take in the view. Once I reached the summit, I could faintly see the National Road I was originally on earlier that morning. The traveling cars and trucks seemed more like a child’s toy Legos.
As with all climbs, you are rewarded with a decent. This downhill was one for the record books with 21km of downhill through some stunning scenery. The landscape had almost changed immediately once over the pass. A much drier climate resulted in warmer temperatures and a different flora and fauna to that of France and the Atlantic Coast.
With very little pedaling required for the remainder of the afternoon I cruised into Pamplona in search of food and water. It started to dawn on me that I had been in Spain for 2 days and I had not really spoken to anyone. Signposts were marked differently, street signs were in Spanish, and I had that familiar feeling of being in place you’re not used to. It was new and strange and foreign and different and exciting.