Sunday, 2 August 2015

The VINCE and a few thoughts about life on a bike.....

It's only just over a week since Steve and I returned home, having spent a fantastic two weeks riding in the Pyrenees and taking part in The VINCE. Although Steve has already done a great write up already, I thought I would share some of my thoughts and put up some more pics:

The turtle and the Chicken prepare for the ferry journey
When we arrived in Berga, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees - it was hot - very hot. But it didn't take too long to acclimatise and the next two weeks were spent in either shorts or bike gear and as normal I had packed way too much stuff! The other bonus to it being hot was being outside - pretty much all of the time apart from sleeping in the tent - and even then it was with the fly open to let in some air.

The first few days were spent riding in the sunshine in the foothills and higher passes of the Pyrenees. It was just me and Steve exploring - no pressure - no time limits... the only thoughts being where is the next fuel and water stop. The scenery was stunning, the riding was brilliant and the tiny villages and towns were passed through were lovely. Many a house and ruin was passed with us agreeing afterwards that we could live there!

Taking a break 
Our route took us past some of the amazing aqua blue lakes found around the Berga area. They are truly sensational and look very inviting for a dip! As Dave Lomax from Adventure Spec kept telling us - plan your day around lunch and a swim....

Steve and I also decided before the VINCE started to get up into the mountains so we followed a mountain road towards Pobla. It was was more exciting and beautful than I can have imagined. The road starts on gravel and seems fairly boring as it winds its way up into the hills. However, boring is certainly not a word I would use to describe some of the drop offs into the valley below! The higher you climb, the more stunning the views.

High mountain view point looking down on the forest - not for the faint hearted

Beautiful mountains with great roads and passes
After some atrocious navigation by myself but some lovely steady riding on miles and endless miles of forest tracks we headed to Rock de Luna. Another jaw dropping viewpoint that looks down into another valley below. I just couldn't believe how high you could get in the mountains by bike - we did pass a couple of cars but I guess its something that the locals do as part of their every day lives but looked a bit hairy to me!

Rock de Luna
Other beautiful areas we seemed to stumble across were river beds and areas where the limestone had been carved away by years and years of water erosion.

Steve walking the river bed
River erosion - not possible to pass in high water!
Finally the day came of the VINCE and Steve and I were riding with two friends from home Geoff and Lee. We had a brilliant time. We got lost a lot, we rode through more stunning scenery, we met other friendly riders out on the trail and we picked up a few checkpoints on the way. Our route on both days took us back up into the mountains and we were subjected to more jaw dropping views! 

Amazing backdrop of rugged mountains
Steve and Lee having enjoying the view

I also got to ride Lee's AJP PR5 and like it - a lot. It just seems to suit my personality - if that's the right word - as I am much more a pootler than a racing snake. It was much smoother and gentler than my KTM but also a lot more punch than say a Serrow.

As we rode over more high mountain passes, we passed through flurries of butterflies, meadows of grazing cows with their cows bells tinkling in the background.The natural world and wildlife that we saw was stunning. I wanted to keep stopping to identify a butterfly or flower!

Friendly mountain cows
Dragonfly by the river
One of the many butterflies fluttering around

The VINCE was a great event that got you out exploring in the mountains by bike and a great way to meet like minded people. I would highly recommend it to anyone as you can ride as little or as much as you like. It is great way to meet fellow travellers and you really do get to some amazing places you may not otherwise visit. 

After the VINCE Steve and headed back up through France and I managed to spend a couple of days relaxing and looking at wildlife. What was great about our journey back through France was that we found some awesome campsites. One in particular was only 12 euros a night for both of us compared to around 40 euros a night on the  Berga resort. I love camping...when it's hot and sunny :-) It was just nice to be outside, to eat outside, to swim in the river and read a book. 

Camping at its best

On our journey back up France, we also had a road ride around the Gorges du Tarn area. Trail biking is not allowed in the forests there and a lot of it is protected, so fair enough. The roads are quiet and you can stiil find some remote areas and peaceful little villages to explore.

Most amazing wood carving

Lunch stop
The whole trip It made me think a lot about life on the road. You can get to some amazing places on a trail bike and I love just the simplicity of life. On a bike your main worries of the day are where is the next fuel and water stop....and if you ride a KTM...what is going to fall off next!! I had total admiration for the guys like Stuart Doigt who rode his trusty dominator from Scotland to Berga and back. I would love to do this, but I think my KTM 250 is the wrong bike for this. Its fairly uncomfortable for a start! 

We took the van and of course when you have more space you fill it. Half way through the trip I stowed two bags of "stuff' that I really didn't need (until the ferry ride home when I really needed my jeans to cover my freezing legs!!). It got me thinking...a lot....I love journeying either on foot or by bike but on a bike you can get so much further. I am now looking for a bike that I can set up properly and live on for a while. It really is the simple life at it's best.

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