I was not planning to write a daily blog on my Pyrenees drives, but after Day 1, I just HAD to share some photos. The drive from the coast up to about 1/3 way across was AWESOME. The most beautiful, challenging, and inspiring drive of my life, bar none……and that portion is considered the lower Pyrenees!
I started out at sea level, and the first couple of hours were through rolling green hills and valleys. Pretty enough, but not too special. I was beginning to wonder “where are the mountains”. Then there were the mountains. Jagged toothed, barren granite, snarling beasts. I had set my Garmin to display altitude, so was watching carefully as we hovered around 500 meters (1500 feet) for a long time. Yes, then there was THE mountain. The road slopped up at a mind-numbing angle, the switchbacks came one after the other, and bless the Jag, she pulled every one, hardly ever having to drop to first gear (usually when my nerve failed me in a blind corner).
Before long I was at 5000 feet, with the mountains towering over me to the left and sheer drops of 2500 feet on the right, with little more than a couple of feet of grass lining the road (no barriers whatsoever). At times I was so scared I couldn’t bear to look over the edge, it was almost unimaginable where one would end up over that little lip on the roadside.
The views just kept coming, and fortunately there was almost no traffic, so I could take my time, and even stop in the middle of the road to take pix.
Over? No repeat three more times before the day is done!
I have some epic video (I hope), but uploading and editing take too long for tonight, so just enjoy the photos, they do not do justice to the astounding scenery.
And as mentioned, this is just the “prelims”. Tomorrow I head for the 10,000-foot passes and take a cable car to the top, top.
To see my route, paste this in your browser. The areas of routes D18 and D19 were the most spectacular and highest. Too bad Google Maps do not show altitude. But zoom in. The more you zoom in, the more switchbacks you will see. Sometimes my Garmin purple line looked like spaghetti on acid.
Typical Basque house
The sheer drops were a little “unnerving” to say the least.
Spotted this guy with four aboard at a rest stop. Imagine doing those mountain passes with Citroen drum brakes and 40 hp!
When I came off the peaks, the valley bottoms invariably followed beautiful little rivers.
When I finally reached my destination, I stopped at a little cafe for a couple of well earned beers and to start the blog. This is the view from my seat!
I am staying in a village called Billheres d’Ossau in the Vallee D’Ossau, a cliff side town that must be hell to get to in winter. The pix below are from my balcony! What a find this place was. Private home with three rental rooms and PARKING. As I write this and wait for the photos to finish uploading, there is a lightning storm behind that big grey mountain that lights it in silhouette every few seconds. It was 80 here today and frankly a bit hot, but the Jag handled it without even budging the temp gauge, except on the steepest climbs. Most of the day was 2nd and 3rd gear, but the Jag engine has plenty of torque to pull the grades. I have to admit that I was a bit concerned before setting off, and really did a good maintenance check, even cleaning the carbs, before I left. But it was nothing but burbling power all day.
That’s 12,000 feet of mountain, where I am heading tomorrow.