Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Aurizberri - I'll get on back home one of these days - CycleBlaze

October 6, 2023

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Aurizberri

Over the mountain and into Spain

Today was the day we had been anxiously anticipating; the day we would ride an ¨easy¨ route over the Pyrénées. Scott had explored a number options for a route and settled on a bit of a longer but a lesser travelled road than the popular Roncesvalles pass. Regardless, there would be no escaping the mountain! The sky was blue and weather perfect for the ride. Spoiler alert: Yes, we made it!

The tables were all numbered and set with dishes when we arrived in breakfast room. We sat by ourselves  and our host quickly began to bring the breakfast items that we had ordered the day before upon our arrival at Hotel Simonenia. There was so much food that we were encouraged to make a lunch from the extra bread, meat and cheese and our host graciously packaged everything up for us to take away.

Down on the street with our bikes loaded we waved good bye to our host who was now preparing our second floor room for the next guests. Carefully walking  down the steep cobble stone road,  we reached the bridge and made a left turn onto a small trail beside the Nive River. Scott was riding away and Pat was just starting when our host suddenly appeared at the corner! She had run down the cobblestones to catch up to us!  Out of breath,  she handed Pat Scott's cell phone that he had left in the room. We were ever so thankful. Scott was a bit annoyed with himself as he had lost a phone on a previous trip in the same manner.

Our guardian angel at Maison Simonenia.
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Stopping to take this picture of a house beside the Nive gave our host just enough time to get Scott`s phone back to us before we left town.
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One last picture of the bridge crossing the Nive into the old town. Originally, in medieval times, it was a draw bridge to stop bad guys from entering. When traveling over here we often think about how strange it would have been 500 years ago.
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The outer wall of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
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Just beyond the walled gates of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port we began riding a most delightful rural road past many small farms.  At one point we stopped to admire a doorway on a house when a man appeared on the balcony. We explained that we were looking at his unique door and he laughed. Then he pointed up the road  and said one word ¨mountain¨. I am sure he would not be the last person today who would think we were crazy. The road was almost completely free of cars. Except for a group of about 7 or 8 cyclists, all on electric bikes, there was almost no one at all. We would see these cyclists coming and going  a number of times today. Each time they looked at us  with amusement and perhaps amazement.

This sign shows a Camino route out of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We are not going to Roncevaux but will still be completing a climb to an elevation of over1000 metres.
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Good morning.
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Suzanne GibsonGreat picture!
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9 months ago
We are heading for that gap, I think.
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Wonderful road equaled by the wonderful scenery on this cool, dewy morning!
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Pat up ahead.
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Heavy dew this sunny morning.
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The group with the electric bikes. We passed them shortly when they were stopped at the cafe in the next town. They then passed us on the way up the hill and again on their way back down.
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Great views.
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Everyone loves a baby.
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The river Nive and the road.
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Travel is slow as Scott keeps stopping for some reason.
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At 13km into the ride, this would be the last outpost to have coffee but sadly it was fermé.
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The views of the river advertised by the hotel as the source of the Nive were stunning.
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Still smiling! We are about to start the serious uphill from here. The smile never really left.
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On the map, the road ahead looked like a capital ¨M¨ carved sideways into the side of a large hill. Each of the four legs of the ¨M¨ was about a kilometre and a half long. There were no flat sections and the grade would really only vary between 10-14 degrees. Always ridable, but you had to work at it. For the most part we stayed in our lowest available gear, barely making 4 KMs per hour. It was slow, but we were comfortable as most of the climb was completely in the coolness of the forest. We did pop out out of the woods briefly after the second leg to get our first real up close look the magnificent Pyrénées.

Pat looking into the sun taking in the views.
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Down into the valley.
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So green!
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Patrick O'HaraThanks for the reminders on how amazing the Pyrenees are!
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9 months ago
Amazing peaks.
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After a short break, we completed the third leg of the ¨M¨ before finding a lunch spot at the side of the road part way up the fourth.  At the top of the final leg and above the tree line, the road began to flatten out but we were still climbing.  Our efforts continued to be rewarded with even more spectacular mountain views!

It was now around 1:30 and we had ridden only 20kms in four hours. It was primarily the photographers fault but it was also challenging to ride  the 7KMs of road with grades consistently in the low teens. Fortunately, the route planner had us well prepared for today! 

Above the tree line is a high plateau where a variety of animals graze. We knew that we were now close to the border of Spain and France but we could not find any signs.to clearly define the spot. As well, we could not find a  sign marking the summit but there was a built up square rock structure that had a picture naming all the surrounding peaks. A sign on the front of the structure was missing. We are pretty sure that was the col marker.

Flowers on our lunch table.
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Bill ShaneyfeltI never expected to see crocus blooming in the fall...

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/321524-Amanita-muscaria-guessowii/browse_photos
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9 months ago
Not quite the top yet.
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A closer look at this magnificent peak.
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The road is now out of the trees and the grade much less steep. Such amazing weather.
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Above the trees there were many animals wandering about, completely comfortable in their surroundings.
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Grazing area.
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Looking down into a valley below.
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This is the border as best we can tell. We are not sure what the cairn marking is about but the road to the right is now cement whereas the road perpendicular to it is asphalt. The change of road surfaces often indicates different departmental responsibilities.
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We had a game of chicken with these monsters. They blinked first!
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Sheep, cows and the mini horses native to this Basque region called pottoks.
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Pat at the top.
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Scott`s turn to pose.
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Very isolated and wild feeling up here.
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Mom and baby.
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Looking back toward the top of the ridge.
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We could have spent more time at the the top but we still had over 30kms to complete our day and it was not going to be all down hill. It was a fairly quick ride down to Aribe at the bottom of the hill. We stopped at a store on the highway to buy some cold water on this warm day and proceeded to eat everything we had left in our lunch box! We were only a bit more than 10kms to Aurizberri, our stay for the night, but another 200M of vertical remained. 

Pretty town of Orbiazeta part way down.
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Aribe is a small town at the bottom of our ride. We came down the hill on the left and started climbing again as we left town. Fortunately there was very little traffic.
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Simpsons crossing.
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KAREN JONESHa ha - "Don't run over our inhabitants"
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9 months ago
Parts of our road to Aurizberri were straight and fast.
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We were quite tired (some of us exhausted!) when we reached our hotel but very pleased with ourselves. Aurizberri is a stop on the Camino  de Santiago  with one bar and restaurant open. Finding places to stay in the area was very hard and we were happy that we had booked here over a week ago. Dinner was at the only restaurant in town, just down the block. We had cuttlefish and a duck confit dish. Our lights were out shortly after nine. The day was quite an achievement and has to be considered a highlight of our cycling tours!

Not the most attractive bar that we have been to, but they had delicious, ice cold beer!
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Tomorrow we head further south to Pamplona.

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Today's ride: 50 km (31 miles)
Total: 520 km (323 miles)

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Suzanne GibsonCongratulations! What an accomplishment and exciting day! I loved reading abou it and seeing the pictures. It brought back many memories to me. I walked from St. Jean Pied de Port with my then not yet husband 26 years ago! We chose the more popular hikers path via Roncevalles. It was an unforgettable experience.
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9 months ago
Scott AndersonCongratulations! It was wonderful reading this and reflecting on our own climbs in the Pyrenees. There’s no place like them.
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9 months ago
Anne MathersCongrats on a stellar climb. The photos are incredible so we can only dream how fabulous and memorable it was. We CB’ers can now add this one to our list of future awesome rides.
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9 months ago
Rachael AndersonGreat job! How cool to see all the animals!
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9 months ago
Barry DevlinCongratulations. Looks like a nice ride and good weather too!
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9 months ago