The second day waking up and packing the tent was much easier, and we were on our bikes quickly. I had a half-hearted wash in the freezing stream, and steam rose from my shoulders as I got dressed.
Today was the start of the first proper hills. The terrain until now hadn’t been flat, but would seem so in comparison by the end of the day. We wanted to climb the Col d’Aubisque before the evening – a proper, real-life mountain (take a look at its Wikipedia page, and you may recognise the two grinning fools at its summit).
Getting up to the top wasn’t easy. It’s 1,709 metres tall, for a start, and we were carrying all our clothes, food, tent and tools on the back of the bikes. Lycra-clad, aerodynamic athletes on the latest, light carbon racing bikes shot past us, and we struggled on, slowly but surely, although Dave took to hill-climbing far better then I did.
I was later to find out that I excelled at the going downhill bit. After hours and hours of climbing at a snails pace, watching the Tour de France graffitied tarmac pass under me, I eventually broke into cloud and arrived at the summit, Dave having got there a while earlier. At the very top there was a cafe, and they sold bloody good coffee.
We stopped and compared notes for a while, and then came the fun part, the bit that makes going uphill worthwhile. We put on as many layers as possible, and started to roll down.
It may sound cheesy, but I popped in my headphones and played a Sigur Ros album while snaking through the cloud-obscured curves at a frightening and effortless pace, before zooming out into clear sky to see one incredible view replaced at each corner with another. Those twenty minutes will stay with me for a long time.
After the descent we found ourselves in a large-ish town, and noticed a campsite. Our preconceptions of a weird, family-orientated, chemical toilet nightmare weren’t far off the mark, but hot food and a shower were more than enough to win us over.