Day 66 – Pamplona to Lekunberri

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A short ride, but all uphill, and into a strong headwind. Just what I needed after  couple of rest days. I could have carried on, as I’m now at the top of the ranges and it’s mostly downhill to the coast, but I have nine days before my ferry trip to Southampton; rather than spend those all at the coast, I thought I’d explore a small town that’s well off the tourist track. There are caves nearby, and I’ll play tourist. It’s also on the edge of Navarra, almost in Basque country.

Up and showered by 8:00am. I went to the storage room and checked tyre pressures, and greased the chain. Back to the 5th floor, packed the panniers, checked the room carefully – I’ve been here for three days, and my gear got  spread about a bit more than usual.  There was some OJ still in the fridge this morning, so I drank that, and headed down to get breakfast in  a local cafe.

The lift wasn’t working. I rang reception, and it took them ten minutes or so to sort it out; There’s  a fire door in front of the lift on each floor, and if that isn’t shut, no lift.  It was the one on the 6th floor – one of the hotel staff had to walk up the stairs, checking each floor.

I left my panniers in the lobby, up to the first floor, where the bike storage is, and carried it down the stairs.

It’s Saturday, and none of the cafes were open yet, so no breakfast. I’d had  tapas for dinner,  and wasn’t that hungry; I expected  to get something on my way out of Pamplona. Once over the river, heading North on the N-240A, I stopped at two cafes – both had sweet sugary things, and I wanted savoury. I decided to push on until I got hungry enough to eat whatever was offered;  I obviously wasn’t hungry if I could afford to be picky.

The N-240A is arrow straight to Erice de Iza, and just gently uphill.

N240

From there to Irurtzun is climbs and falls, but generally uphill still. I found a cafe in Irurtzun, and had a mushroom omelette and coffee around 11:00. The N-240A is part of the old highway to San Sebastian; as there is a new motorway that runs there, the old highway is just used by local traffic, or slow  moving stuff; tractors, scooters, and cyclists.

At Irurtzun I took a right onto the NA-1300,

NA1300

the antigua carretera a San Sebastian – the motorway which made it a byway follows the same route through the valley, but is generally much higher up the valley’s side, or disappearing into tunnels, and doesn’t intrude much at all  – which climbed all the way to Lekunberri, following the Larraun river up towards its source. Not a really hard climb, but constant; no traffic at all except for other cyclists and a couple of motorbikes. I stopped to admire the view here and there,

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and saw some pretty large fish in the river – no idea what they were though.

The Ayestaran Hotel

hotel

in Lekunberri is over a century old, but my  bathroom is new – the rest is all old wood, creaky floors and huge fireplaces. The promised swimming pool was empty for maintenance, which is a bit of a bugger, as it”s hot. I showered, had a nanna nap, and walked the town. It’s a bit smaller than Jindabyne, and not as touristy, but has a similar feel – high country, with lots of walking tracks, and snow fields not too far away. Everyone lives in units; some of the blocks are way old, with tiny windows. Winters here are harsh, and long.

I lucked in, too. Around 1900 they found a seam of rich iron ore in a place nearby called Plazaola, and they built a railway to take the ore to San Sebastian, the nearest port. by 1920 the railway stretched from San Sebastian to Pamplona, and was in use for freight, ore and passengers until 1953 – no idea what happened then, but the line was abandoned. In recent times the rails have been torn up, the tunnels lit, the track graded and signposted, and it is now a Via Verde – a hiking and cycling track from here to the coast. The  EEC and Eurovelo are slowly extending it back towards Irurtzun and Pamplona, and will make it part of Eurovelo 1 – but for now it’s  rideable from here. So I’ll cycle that on Monday. Should be fun.

See you down the road.

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