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Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Pyrenean Challenge June/July 2011

The RAID Pyrenees route is available on the internet. It is 700 km long and involves climbs totalling 11,600 metres - that's 10,000 feet more than climbing Mt Everest!

Clive on the Corniche!

With Nigel as roadie we set off on Sunday, 
Sailed through the night with bikes on the Volvo; 
Lunch in Laredo and then on to Hendaye, 
Tomorrow - we start the Big Daddyo!

28-30th June 2011 to Bidarray, Bielle and Argeles-Gazoste

Day 1 Hendaye to Bidarry
62 miles and 3926 feet

Last sight of the Atlantic after leaving Hendaye
Finding sheep's cheese in Ossau Iraty, 
And sweet little villages like Sara 
With hard courts for playing pelote - 
The biggies come nearer and nearer!

I imagine she was good at pelote, too!

Day 2 to Bielle
55 miles and 4145 feet over col d'Osquich (500m)

Nearly went into Spain!

Potage, hors d'oeuvres and pieces of pork 
For lunch, and then tartes aux pommes; 
Col d'Osquish, now we're starting to talk - 
Said Nigel, with his Grand Camion.

Day 3 to Argeles-Gazoste
35 miles and 4762 feet over Col d'Aubisque (1709m) and col du Soulor (1404m)

Top of our first biggie (15 km of climb)
The camaraderie of the ascent of Aubisque 
The pain of the hour by hour slog; 
Savage ravines, tunnels and distant peaks, 
But the summit was shrouded in fog!

The col du Soulor was sauvage!

1st to 3rd July to Ste Marie, Luchon and St Girons

Day 4 to Ste Marie de Campan 
(Bagneres de Bigorre)
 41 miles and 5761 feet of climb over the Col du Tourmalet (2115m)

Looking west down the route we had ascended

Iconic, the ride up the Tourmalet;
Our minds, determined by absence of stress, 
Feet pedalling, pedalling thro' fields of hay, 
Views and inclines that sure took our breath.

OK, we just had to have this picture!

Day 5 to Bagneres de Luchon
31 miles and 4909 feet over Col d'Aspin (1489m) and Peyresourde (1560m)

Engineers working on the bikes in the morning!
Peyresourde came after col d'Aspin, 
Roller-coaster ride down to Arreau; 
Climbed up like a bird, down like a Zeppelin, 
Met buses on corners, so narrow!

Lunch on skewers at Arreau, after an amazing descent
Day 6 to St Girons
54 miles and 3838 feet of climb over Col des Ares (797m) and Portet d'Aspet (1069m)

This had some of the steepest sections of the whole trip (24%)

Grey skies and threats of rain in the day 
Leaving Bagneres de Luchon 
Col des Arles and Portet d'Aspet 
Enlivened our progression.

32 degrees in St Girons 
With thunder in the evening 
Alpine flowers and ice cream fun,
 This love of France we're feeling!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

4th to 6th July - to Ax, Villefranche, Argeles

Day 7 to Ax les Thermes
53 miles and 4274 ft over col de Caougnouse (940m) and de Port (1249m)

Imagine descending this hill from le Port,
Swooping round hairpins again and again; 
Black olive salad - Carolina's best sort, 
Then cowboys and indians in the rain!

Day 8 to Vernet les Bains/Villefranch Conflient  

65 miles and 5708 feet over col de Puymorens (1915m) and Mont Louis (1585m). Descended 6646 feet

28 km climbing out of Ax - 
While Nigel was off to Andorra - 
More climbs after lunch our bodies did tax 
And the vistas got taller and taller.

Mont Louis started the 10/10 descent, 
Catalan lunch in Bourg-Madame; 
The end of the swoop was heaven sent, 
The reward a double choc Magnum!

Looking east from Mont Louis

Day 9 to Argeles sur mer
50 miles and 757 feet. Descended 2917 feet

Our wheels have turned 700 K 
We've climbed higher than Mt. Everest; 
Nigel's swim just made our day, 
RAID Pyrenean - the best!

Thursday, 2 June 2011


At last I'm able to post these few bits of doggerel from Schiphol airport, Amsterdam, while waiting for my flight back to Bristol. The Chinese authorities prevent access to Google-based blogs (and to FaceBook), so I was thwarted from posting the verses contemporaneously.

In the meantime - enjoy both text and photos!



Pre-conceptions began in Nanjing
Where the Treaty of 1842
Gave Hong Kong a lease from Pekin,
Colonial ways conceded too.

My father served on the China Station
1930s - with the Royal Navy
Frigates to quell trouble then would hasten
Tho' time was left to play and be lazy.

While gunboats patrolled upon the Yangzte
Manned by young men dressed in their whites
Little they thought of the future fancy
Mother river being dammed, doubling heights.

China leaving the gold standard
Gave sailors a chance of a killing-
Exchange rates aboard and to landward
Profited some, with many a shilling.

Now it's in China that fortunes are made
Producing iPads, clothes, and even shoes.
When memories of home begin to fade
The artefacts come out, us to enthuse

The first few days

Day One - the flight to China
(reading China Road by Rob Gifford)

Flew Air France from Charles de Gaulle
Ten hours flight time to Guangzhou
Realised belatedly, we're quite tall,
Cramped in a 777, me and you.

Clive had flown that day from Heathrow
Dropped off by Linda, without his bike;
"Wu liu" logistics will make things flow
And Gifford's book I rather like.

Our China Road will be quite different
With World Expeditions at the helm;
Expect to hear a lot of comment
From bikes, as we tour the "realm"!

Monsieur - Attachez les ceintures!
Mangez francais ou a la chinoise?
Worry no more about damn denture
Dreamt of Verdi and his choirs.

Well that's enough for just one flight
Tomorrow will bring some reality
And so I wish you all goodnight
To dream Communist practicality.

Day Two - from Guangzhou to Zhaoqing

Met by Frank who runs our agenda
Hotel Canton thence by van;
Team meeting with lovely Brenda,
Richard, Pete and Stan the man!

Round a table trying chopsticks
Drinking beer and eating rice
Lazy Susan's foodie bowl mix
Some of which was also nice!

Drove forever through the city
West along a crowded highway
A car on fire, more's the pity,
Disembarked at little Xiaozhou

Now on bikes we cycled westward,
An embankment was our dusty path
By West River churning seaward
We're having fun and quite a laugh,

Saw fisherfolk beside the water,
Buffalo all caked in mud
Oncoming bikes where they didn't oughter
The MTB's coping with the crud.

Lunch en route, more of the same,
Then scary highway, cars and roadworks
Where topiary's the name of the game,
To Songtao Hotel, where by a lake it lurks

Over supper Frank waxed so lyrical
Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Ze Dong
History explained - it was political
Told what fuels the current boom.

Sure it ain't all communism
Sick and incapable left to starve
Much more rampant capitalism
Rushing on, the pie to carve

Day three - trip to Mt Dinghu and Boading Park

Today a rest day in the park
Said Stan, but was not to be-
Zhaoqing Dadao on cycles, hark!
Crossed six lanes with not much glee

After lunch - more rice and chillie
Climbed up on up to visit Buddha
Thinking this was really hilly
Tortoise coining made us gooder

Learnt from Frank the Chinese characters
Meaning "environment" and "wind"
5,000 minimum parameters
Thousands more are there to find.

Awesome aubergine we ate tonight
At last a meal to savour
Chicken, cashew, pakchoi, right-
And moderate behaviour!

Then in the dark the stalker struck
Clipboard poised, persistent bit
Of unrelenting down on her luck
Till poof! We did a five way split.

Tomorrow there'll be lots more cycling
Promised Frank, a smile upon his face
9am start and no more hiking
Great how well he knows this place