Sitting in a smokey taberna in Madrid, with a an empty plate of cured ham and a fresh glass of frosty San Miguel in from of us, the Greystones that we left 5 weeks ago seems a world away. We rolled down the road with salty eyes and full grins on a tide of well wishes and support that chilly Sunday morning and are still surfing that wave.
We had a comfortable first week, staying with relations in Waterford and our friends Paul Maire Flynn at the Tannery in Dungarvan. After a presentation in the Blackrock obsrevatory in Cork we were Rosslare bound.
Rolling off the ferry in Cherbourg we were met with heavy rain and wind which was to follow us to Bordeaux. Although the weather was damp and dour in northern France the welcome we recieved in Normandy from Therese and her family, and in Loire from Eric Chevlier at Domaine d’Aujardiere was warm and effusive. Both had connections to round the world cyclists and we headed for Bordeaux thinking that France was full of people just like us.
We enjoyed the flat forested landscape of auquitine south of Bordeaux and were begin to feel we were making progress when we arrived at a lovely little town called Bidart and were persuaded to camp on its golden beach by the promise of fresh pain au chocolate for breakfast from the nearby patisserie the next morning. After breakfast the road pointed upwards as we crossed the Pyrenees. Where we met our first snow and real hills.
Then, before you could say “useful Spanish phrase book” we found ourselves in Spain, trying to ask for permission to camp from a friendly but bemused family and their yapping dog. Upon arrival in Pamplona we felt we should celebrate, and both of us fell victim to Spanish free pouring and a generous twinkle eyed bar girl who insisted we have several fortified digestifs. Needless to say, we spent two days trying to get back on an even keel.
It was also in Pamplona that we realised our time was running out and with the weather and our imminent flight date it was unlikely that we’d make Lisbon as planned. Usually, we would have re-scheduled the flights and continued on, but Christmas and the increasing cost of flights it brings meant that this wasn’t possible, so we decided to redirect to Madrid where our flight to Buenos Aires was departig from. We are still adhering to the circumnavigation criteria, it just would have been nice to go to Portugal.
Leaving Pamplona, we excpected that the hills and freezing conditions were behind us, when we camped at 1,100m in a snowy forest on the first night, this myth was broken. And, so we spent the following few days puffing up hills,and freezing on the way down the other side. It was tough for a spell, but not too tough, cold but not unbearable. And we reached our new European destination; Madrid airport with a few days in hand to catch up on house keeping and ensure that the bikes are serviced and boxed up properly.
And so we sit in a taberna, looking at dried hams hanging behind the bar, drinking little beers treats of chorizo and bread, and discussing the next phase of the adventure. The road from Buenos Aires will no doubt be challenging, there will be tough times ahead as well as excitement adventure and discovery. Hopefully, we’ll be sitting in a smoky bar in La Paz in 6 weeks time with as much energy and anticiipation of the road ahead as we have now.