West Glos & Dean Forest
Motor Cycle Club

Celebrating 71 Years of Motor Cycling 1953 - 2024

Pyrenees 2006 with Chris Evans, June 14-16 2006.

Words and Photos By Ian Vessey

Last year me and Julian went to Lozere with Chris Evans and we had hoped to do his new Pyrenees trip this year but were late deciding and found all trips for 2006 booked solid. Luckily for us, Chris put on some extra dates, and we managed to get places on the June trip just before the Welsh2Day.

The ferry was arranged through 'Allsports Logistics' as recommended by Chris, who did us a great deal - 530 - for the return trip with P&O, Portsmouth to Bilbao, which I reckon is about the same as doing a channel port and driving down. The difference is that the ferry is comfortable and has a bar, and you don't get to see dolphins on the autoroute! (Note: we had VERY smooth crossings both ways. A few weeks earlier it had been very rough - the Brittany Ferries boat got hit by a 40 foot wave that punched in some cabin portholes! Ooh Err!)

We arrived at Bilbao on the Wednesday morning and drove east across into France to St. Jean de Luz to meet Chris and the rest of the group, most of whom had been on the same ferry. This meant a fairly late start at about 11am, Chris 'opening', Yasmina in the van and a local guide 'sweeping'. The first day's ride started by taking us inland through woodland to test our navigation skills, and then on to the first climb (pict0344). This turned out to be quite steep - steep enough for me to be headbutting my roadbook holder just to keep the front wheel down!

Thus the day continued, riding along ridges, down into valleys and up the other sides, mostly on tracks but occasionally on little more than goat-tracks (pict0348). I particularly liked roadbook entries that show no track, but simply say 'aim for highest point!'. And it was hot, 34 degrees allegedly.

The first night was spent in a hotel in St Palais. On arrival it became apparent that one of the party was missing, and several others were going to be late having got lost a few times. Eventually, Chris ventured out to round up the stragglers, who arrived just in time for the evening meal.

Day 2, and we started to climb out of the foothills into mountains proper. Some of the party were struggling on the tougher going, so Chris decided to lead out using the roadbook, with those who wished to follow navigating as normal, and the other 5 or 6 lead by our local guide, avoiding the more challenging climbs and descents (whose name I have completely forgotten, but who was very friendly and patient! And he was on a Sherco 450 which went for 3 days without mishap!). The hills got bigger, and the climbs got longer (pict0354). One of the climbs was described as 'stoney' in the roadbook. It was actually a steep climb up vertically bedded rocks running up the hill, a bit like riding up a long steep pile of broken tramlines. I was starting to wonder what a 'rocky' climb might be like! We also had to traverse a steep hillside on a very narrow goat track (pict0362) which had what appeared to be a trials section halfway round it. Caution (and not being able to see the bottom of the slope) caused both of us to actually walk the bikes over this little bit. More climbs and tracks just had to be ridden upon (pict0364). A short break by a quiet lake (pict0367) was followed by more spectacular views (pict0369) and more riding over mountain tops (pict00374, pict0375) before we wound up in the second hotel. I can't remember where this one was, just that it was way up in the mountains in a tiny village somewhere, was very friendly, did excellent food, served cold beer and had a swimming pool which was put to good use by all the party.

Day 3 was to be a ride back out of the high mountains towards the coast. Chris had left some of the most spectacular riding for this day. Thunderstorms overnight had cleared the air, reduced the temparature to only 26 degrees, and produced some dramatic views (pict0382). We had do ride some more goat tracks (pict0384), more climbs (pict0386, pict0387) and some more ridges (pict0388) - such a chore! There was a bonus climb which went up to a chapel on top of a mountain (pict0391) where I disturbed about 30 vultures who casually launched themselves off the mountainside to circle slowly below in the rising air currents. Quite stunning views (pict0390).

The best was saved for after lunch (pict0399). Going up one steep climb, the next roadbook box indicated a 'T' junction with 'danger' beyond (pict0406). This 'danger' turned out to be the other side of the mountain which dropped very steeply down into the next valley - we had to turn right on the ridge, (pict0405, pict0407, pict0408) to ride for about 2kms over a series of small summits - incredible!

It was not long after this that the mountains appeared to end abruptly, and we were back down amongst the farms and woodland where we retraced our path to St. Jean du Luz.

Back at the starting point, we checked into the hotel, retrieved the van from the carpark behind the police station, loaded up, washed changed etc. There was no restaurant in the hotel, so we wandered off through the town towards the beach. the town itself is very pleasant and unspoilt with plenty of cafes and restaurants(pict0413). After a beer, we were looking for somewhere to eat when the town was hit by another thunderstorm. The nearest restaurant turned out to be Italian, where we enjoyed an excellent meal and a drop or two of wine. The rain stopped so we ventured out for another beer, but were then trapped in shop doorways for half an hour when the heavens openned again (pict0417). As the night was drawing in, we gave up on our quest for beer, and made a dash back to the hotel and bed.


Our ferry from Bilbao was at 1pm, so we had plenty of time to bid farewell to Chris, and to thank him for an outstanding trip. We also had time to detour into the local supermarket and raid the wine section - T had given me a shopping list! Bilbao was reached via the coastal autoroute, the ferry was caught, a few beers were drunk, we even watched the cabaret, and we eventually docked in Portsmouth at 4:30 on Sunday, tired and sunburnt!

I suspect this trip cost the best part of 650 each which is sure to make some people flinch. I can only say that it was worth every penny, and somehow I suspect we'll be going back for a second go!