From the Col de la Perche we descended a couple of hundred meters over about 20kms. It was really cold we could just about make out a sprinkling of snow on the highest hills. The views were beautiful and it was great fun to be speeding through the landscape with hills all around.
We camped in Puigcerdà in a campsite which at 1200m altitude was still well within the mountains, we had frost on our tents in the morning.
But the next day was bright and sunny and soon we soon warmed up climbing the next mountain pass. This photo was taken near the top just as my bike was falling over…
We were well and truly in Spain now. It felt exciting to hear a new language all around and switch to saying ‘Hola!’ instead of ‘Bonjour!’ to the other cyclists we passed.
This climb was really long but not steep. I would guess the gradient was mostly about 5% (unlike the previous day when it was mostly about 10%) The road hugged the sides of the mountain and wound slowly slowly up to 1800 meters. Little signs every 100 meters gave reassuring signs of progress.
We had lunch at the summit enjoying the views and then started the descent. This was just as gradual as the climb so we were treated to the longest downhill I’ve experienced- 40 kilometers of effortless gliding through mountain scenery, a great pay off for the effort of the climb. It took us all the way to Ripoll where we thought we might camp. A little search of the town didn’t reveal anywhere though and it was still fairly early so we decided to carry on.
We could see a lake on Google maps just East of Vic so headed towards it hoping it would be a beautiful area and wondering if it might have campsites.
Spainish roads proved difficult to navigate though and we kept ending up on huge, terrifyingly fast and busy stretches some without access for bikes. We tried to follow signs for bike lanes. These would begin promisingly with a wide, well surfaced lane running adjacent to the main road but then would abruptly come to a dead end between a crash barrier and a rock face and force us to follow it back all the way we’d come. Others would point us off the route in entirely the wrong direction and at one point we found a track leading to the wrong side of a motorway. After a fair amount of this we finally had to accept the conclusion that these bike lanes were probably not bike lanes after all!
Somehow we managed to get closer to Vic but a bit later than we had intended. We came off the main roads and continued to make our way towards the lake through countryside. The the road began to climb again and I was getting pretty tired. No sign of any campsites but signs saying ‘Parador du turism’ which we chose to translate as ‘Tourists paradise’! so it seemed like a good thing to follow
I was moving very slowly up the steep roads, only 7km to go. According to Brad’s bike computer I was traveling at 7km an hour…
We finally reached the top and had this beautiful view of the lake in the bottom of the gorge.
This made all the effort worth it. We were really satisfied to have made it here and were ready to eat and sleep. However it turned out that this ‘tourist’s paradise’ catered for the kind of tourist who plans ahead and has stacks of cash. There was one hotel. It was 4 stars (way out of budget) and fully booked. So as the sun was setting we pitched just off the road in the woods and started making dinner our dinner by the light of our head torches.
I slept quite well despite the amount of barking dogs and the uncertainty of camping wild.
The morning was beautiful. Sun was lighting up mist rising off the lake in huge clouds. A car pulled into the layby near us and a friendly old man came to speak to us. We could only tell him that we did not understand, that we didn’t speak Spanish and that we were about to ‘vamos’. He persevered to explain and we gathered by gesture that this was a hunting area and that the hunt was going to start soon. So we packed up fairly speedily!
We laized at the top of the hill in the layby
Needing to rest after all the climbing the day before. The hunters arrived with their guns and massive dogs with strange barks like whooping cough. They milled about for an hour or so before disappearing noisily into the woods apparently not concerned that they might have scared away their prey.
We knew we weren’t going to move on that day so we decided to explore the area a bit instead.
It took a long time to find our way down to the waters edge but we finally managed it thanks to following an Austrian couple who had the same idea.
I dived in with all my cycling clothes to give them and me a bit of a wash! It was the perfect spot to camp and we could see by the remains of fires that other people had done the same. The only snag was that we’d left our bikes at the monastery at what was probably the highest point of the area! So we had a LONG walk back up but a fun, steep ride down again. We set up our tents in view of a fisherman who didn’t seem to mind at all – a good sign. And we had an idyllic, free campsite complete with fire pit and swimming pool all to ourselves 🙂 great!