3rd story: Biarritz to Santiago (02.09.04 - 01.10.04)

On August 31st our friend Bjoern arrived safely at Biarritz airport.
Two days later we started towards St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in order to cycle along the famous St. James pilgrims’way. This is probably the most famous Christian pilgrimage route of all. This is the medieval route to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, alleged burial place of St. James, brother of John the Evangelist and one of Christ's twelve apostles. Pilgrimages began in the 10th century AD and by the 15th century tens of thousands of pilgrims were making the journey from all over Europe.
We were interesting mainly in cycling and follwed the road not the hiking path.

First we had to climb the 1057m Ibaneta Pass. Since St. Jean‘s altitude is only 150m, this was quite a climb ! But since we had climbed other passes before we were doing okay. Other cyclists were pretty surprised to see us on our recumbents managing so well. Passing through Roncesvalles we reached Pamplona, where Ernest Hemingway used to live and write for a while. Here we got tour pilgrim’s pass which entitles one to stay at the hostels qlong the route. But the first night with about 60other pilgrims in one dormitory was enough for quite a while.
The next pass, the Etxauri Pass (841m), was a little bit away from the official route but there we were able to see vultures rather close, only a few meters above our heads.
We follwed the route through the Spanish regions of Navarra and La Rioja, where we cycled through endless wine plantations.We passsed through Logrono and finally reached Burgos, which has a superb old part of the town and a most interesting cathedral.


In Burgos we had to make an unwanted stop because there was something seriously wrong with Hendrik’s gearbox. Hendrik had already replaced the chain and both chainrings but still the system wasn’t running smoothly. The inner part seemed to be broken. Luckily the Rohloff company sent the replace part but we had to wait five days in rather cold weather ( during the night we had 5 degrees Celsius). Replacing the inner part was no problem and the gearsystem is doing fine now.
Unfortunately our friend Bjoern didn’t like biking in Spain and took the bus back home.

From Burgos we cycled across the Meseta Plateau towards Leon. This was pretty flat countryside, but shortly after Leon we had to climb the 1500m high Cruz de Ferro. On top of the pass there is a log with an iron cross on top. The legend says if you put down a stone as a symbol of a burden you will get rid of it. Of course, we have followed this tradition.

From the top of the Cruz de Ferro it was quite a descend from an altitude of 1500m down to 500m.Unfortunately we had to go up to 1300m (O Cebreiro Pass) the next day. Here we camped on top of this pass and had a nearly 360 degree outlook : in the evening we had the sunset at one side, in the morning the sunrise at the other side.

By now we had already crossed the border to the region of Galicia and the landscape was much greener. Now there were only a few kilometers left before Santiago but they were hard work: up and down all the time.
On September 28th we reached Santiago de Compostela- 961km from Biarritz and a total of 4389km. Here we received our pilgrim’s certificate. Though this was just a part of our final goal we were as happy as all the other pilgrims. We have met quite a few interesting people on our way, some had even gone all the way from Germany. Of course, our bikes were quite something, many people stopped, talked to us and even took pictures of the bikes.

Now we are getting ready for Portugal where we will meet some friends and relatives.
It is really about time to head south because it is getting cold.