Kris Goodbody negotiates Northern Spain on his cycling tour of Europe…
This was a rough leg of the trip, maybe the roughest thing I’ve ever got myself into. The plan was to find our way from the Atlantic coastal city of San Sebastian to Barcelona, the Mediterranean’s own Sodom and Gomorrah. This route would take us across the foothills of the Pyrenees, into Pamplona for the opening of the San Fermin bull run, down into the desert wastelands of Spain’s red centre, a final traverse of a few unexpected mountains and straight into the welcoming Mediterranean Sea.
This all seemed like great fun until our first day setting out from San Sebastian after a few days surfing, accompanied by the manner of hangovers that could bring a grown man to his knees. A trail of bright orange vomit wound its way behind us in a sort of Hansel and Grettel fashion all the way to our first stop on a busy roadside just outside the strange little town of Tolosa.
Day two saw us making the push for Pamplona where the male ego would lead us all into reluctantly risking our lives in order to outdo each other in the infamous bull run, but first we would have to make it through the opening ceremony.
This was like nothing I had ever seen before, an ocean of red and white gradually merging into a solid block of pink as every man woman and child was covered from head to toe in sangria. People were hurling this vicious concoction from balconies by the bucket load onto a heaving mass of people, fighting, kissing, groping, even writhing around on the ground, this was a case study in madness.
The next few days followed the same course with intermittent moments of sleeping and eating. The bull run is a story for another time, the amount of emotions crammed into that unforgettable fifteen minutes is difficult to describe, after four days of this we were all swept up in a dangerous case of the fear and decided it was time to get the hell out of there, we escaped our campsite through a wheat field in the dead of night in order to escape paying, then it was back to the gruelling ride towards the sea.
The following week was spent pulling contorted facial expressions as we struggled up the ‘foothills’ of the Pyrenees. We picked up an alarmingly hairy American who was endeavouring to do the same trip alone, talked our way into spending an unnerving night in a monastery somewhere obscure, nearly lost a man in a very dark encounter with the inside of a tunnel and collectively lost about ten stone in weight along the way.
The journey into Barcelona in the early hours of the morning was nearly as hairy as the American, but we rolled triumphantly into two hedonistic days of celebration.
As our second ferry of the trip pulled out bound for Rome we couldn’t help but feel that the most exciting leg of the trip was over, but for better or for worse we were about to be proved very wrong indeed.