It is Wednesday the 29th of June 2016. Yesterday I was suffering the effects of sunstroke and I felt horrendous. Today however, I was feeling much better. I managed a 33 mile ride (53 KM) down the coast south western France. I stopped cycling when my surroundings became… different.
To my left was a forest of towering trees, so thick that sunlight rarely reached down to the undergrowth. To my right, the beautiful flat beaches had turned into a mountain, a mountain of sand.
Roughly 110 metres tall, 500 metres wide and 2.7 kilometres long. I had stumbled across the Dune of Pilat. It was huge! It absolutely dominated over the trees and it swallowed the afternoon sun. The coastline was a mere 500 metres away on the other side, but from my angle it looked like I had found the beginning of the Sahara. I had to climb it.
It felt a bit surreal being so high over the trees, stood on nothing but 60 million cubic feet of sand. The view was stunning though and I sat there until the clouded sun fell below the oceanic horizon.
My tent was pitched in the campsite somewhere at the base of the dune. The place was quite large and it looked a lot different at dusk, it was quite the wander until I found my tent again. Also that evening I witnessed my first wild pack of boar, they’re quite intimidating in the dark! The little ones were cute though.
From there I continued following the EuroVelo cycle route down the coast via Biarrtiz and onto Hendaye – the town that borders with Spain. I had been making good progress and everything was going smoothly, but of course there is never a dull day on the bike. You may remember a few episodes back that one of my tent poles broke, well a second tent pole snapped. I could still erect the tent, but there was clearly some dysfunction in the process!
My route so far through France had been mostly flat. I had been cycling along scenic canals and hugging the coast, the pedal pushing was easy and I had grown accustom to it. On this last stretch, as I passed the seaside towns that drew me closer to Spain, the terrain began to rise up and out of the ground; forcing me to down shift and pedal harder.
This was quite the wake up call for my legs, but a sense of intimidation grew over me as I entered Hendaye and saw the hills begin to emerge out of the water on the Spanish side of the Bidasoa river.
They would only get bigger from here and my legs were telling me that they weren’t ready. I decided to listen and give them the rest of the day off. I found a campsite a short way inland from the coast, picked a shady spot, took a cool shower and headed back out to the seaside.
Tomorrow I would cross the Spanish threshold, but for now I would enjoy an ice-cold beer (or 3) in celebration of making it to the end of chapter France!