The "not yet"Pyrenees trip

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July 8th 2018
Published: July 8th 2018
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Over a week has past on this Pyrenees trip, and so far we’ve spent two days in the Pyrenees, and have now split from the rest of the group. Mark was one of the guys with me on the first Morocco trip, and he come across some guys on Facebook organising a trip to the Pyrenees. When he suggested it, I was all up for it, as it was timed well, and I had nothing planned for June. On previous trips I'd done a ton of research of routes and places, but as this wasn't my trip I naively assumed I could just follow along and enjoy.

Day one was an easy one for me, as Dover is just down the road, where as the rest were driving down from Doncaster. At around 1, everyone began arriving at Whitfield, and then we all headed to the port and crossed over to Calais. Once there, the others picked up a few bits from a wine warehouse and a supermarket then we headed for the hotel.

On day two we began our drive south, which with slow speed driving and boring toll roads felt like a long day. Unfortunately, one of the guys started having problems with his ankle, so we camped up in a service stop carpark. Day three had a similar theme, but with added heat. By late evening we had reached the Ardeche region and eventually a campsite. The distance had taken its toll on the Doncaster boys by day four, so they stayed at the campsite and chilled by the pool, while Mark and I checked out the local area. We started with a guided tour of a cave system, then headed in to town to get a few bits for dinner, then we headed off to see the gorge itself, and it didn’t disappoint, as the views were fantastic! Day five had a slow start, then we drove down to the gorge again, but with everyone this time, then we drove a local track, that was a bit scratchy, more so for the guy who had recently had his truck resprayed, than for mine. After this we headed further south till we reached saint Marie de la mer, looking for a campsite. Unfortunately it didn’t exist, so we drove out of town, still looking for it. Next to where we had stopped to get our bearings, there was a sign for a campsite, but as this wasn’t the one the guy leading had been looking for, we drove back into town. By now it was late, everyone was tired, and to top it off they had begun closing roads in town, which just added more stress to the situation. After another dead end turn around, Mark and I had had enough, so said we were going head back and check out the campsite, that was next to where we had stopped earlier, as we’d had enough of driving in circles. This landed on deaf ears, so we left the rest of them in town, and headed off. We just made it before reception closed, and then once we were setup with dinner on the go, we caught the others on the radios. After failing to find their campsite, they were now also trying to get into the same place as us, but reception had now closed, so they had to try else where.

This was just the beginning of the end for the group, and it was inevitable at some point we’d split up. The other thing Mark and I were struggling with, apart from the pace, was the not knowing. It was like getting blood from a stone sometimes, and we felt that we had tagged on to someone else’s holiday rather than a overland trip.

Day six, after we had all met up again, we drove a track past the local flamingos and drove a track that ended at a light house. We then headed to Arles to check out a coliseum or Ampitheather. It was an amazing place to see while the French jets practiced their manoeuvres overhead. But when we arrived, the guy leading suggested Mark and I went in to the coliseum while the others ate lunch. This was fine by us, as we weren't that hungry, so off we went. By the time they made it to the Coliseum, they looked at the outside of the coliseum, and were then too tired to meet up with us, so headed off to the campsite, leaving Mark and I still in town. So we checked out a Roman ruin of a theatre before heading to camp.

By the next morning of day seven, we still were not getting any answers, and were still no closer to the Pyrenees! So Mark and I said our good byes to the Doncaster boys, and started our own way there. This started with a journey through a national park, and stumbling across a castle ruin, and though it took a lot longer than it had on the toll roads, the views around us were priceless, and worth the extra time by far. Day eight, so over a week, and Mark and I finally made it to the Pyrenees. Admittedly it was the outer edge, but we were here. Like the day before, mileage wise, it had been slow going, as they were tiny roads full of switch backs, but the views were just as spectacular as the day before. We also made it a short day as Mark didn’t get much sleep and the heat was wearing me down. Along the route we drove in to a retail park, as Mark wanted to find a cheap electric cool box, and it was here I picked up an air conditioning unit to run in my truck. Yes an air con unit for an office, in my truck (nice idea except it only works if you put ice or cold water in it, so useless really).

On a side note, I've tried not to make this a slagging off blog, because if the Doncaster boys hadn't opened their trip up to us, we probably would never have gone and seen the places we did, so I'm gratefully to them for that. But I will also say, that of the seventeen days they were in France, I believe they only spent three or four days actually in the Pyrenees and Andorra, with very little off roading, so it really was a holiday for them, rather than an Pyrenees expedition as I expected it to be.

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