Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 7:

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 7:

Last day of the holiday today and after hearing the weather reports we really don’t want to come home…

So it was an early start to make the most of the day – a cycling day today.

It didn’t take long to get out of the tourist sprawl on the coast and get into the lunar landscape that is Lanzarote.

The idea was to head north and cross the island – coast to coast Lanza style…

The route we chose kept us to the quieter roads and took in some of the island many valcanos. Really great cycling.

Our far point was La Santa where we stopped for a coffee and cake.

Really nice coffee & Cake but we got ripped off for €19. Won’t be going back there…

The route we took is shown below

One thing to note for anyone fancying cycling in Lanza

  1. Unless you stick to the coast Lanza is not flat but the climbs are good because the gradients aren’t too steep.
  2. The road surface varies from brilliant “billiard table” smooth tarmac to very rough gravel/tarmac roads. Unless you stick to major roads it’s not obvious what you’ll get from a map !
  3. The vast majority of drivers on Lanza show cyclists great respect. It feels quite safe to cycle here.

The route passed through wine country but instead of neat rows of carefully pruned vines (a la France) we saw this…

Grape vines grown in bomb craters…

Apparently water is the big issue on Lanzarote and these “craters” help preserve moisture and protect the vines from wind.

Just before the final decent to Puerto del Carmen we stopped for lunch at a small bar in La Asomada called Bar Achimencey. We thoroughly recommend this place. It was a “locals” bar & the food was traditional Canarian cuisine. The food was brilliant and in contrast to the earlier spot the prices were reasonable 😁

A fine feast…

From there it was all down hill to drop the bikes off. We’d hired the bikes from www.lanzarotebikehire.com

Great service & really friendly, again we’d recommend these guys.

A short walk back to the hotel for a well earned G&T and to write this blog. Unless you’re into cycling and/or visiting Lanzagrotty soon it’s a bit of a shit read – sorry…

So much to see & do in Lanzarote that we need an extra week – thinking about a sickie… 🤒🤧🤥

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 6:

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 6:

Magic does exist… I’ve discovered the wristband of unlimited alcohol…

The wristband of unlimited alcohol…

Works best after a day of activities but makes you have silly WhatsApp conversations with your mates instead of finishing this blog…

We woke with the best of intentions – to cycle in the day & do a night dive in the evening – but the best laid plans…. We hired a car & went looking at volcanos instead of cycling.

The crater inside Montana Cuervo…

Brilliant day out. Absolutely stunning “lunar” landscape.

Info board around Montana Cuervo…

We did a walk round Montana Cuervo & drove round other sites. Such a contrast to the “tourist towns” on the coast.

Volcano crater…

From volcanos we had a bite to eat & went for a night dive off Playa Chico beach. Not as much life as we’d hoped for but good fun…

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 5:

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 5:

Today’s story is the passing of a good friend…

Don’t panic this isn’t going to be a maudlin post. Yes a friend has passed but it was his time & my heart is filled with great memories…

The friend who has passed is my Monitor II dive computer. Today my trusty friend flooded with sea water.

Monitor II – VIP my good friend…

We became friends back in the 90’s when I was young and stupid. This Swiss made friend kept me safe through a lot of daft exploits allowing me to reach adulthood. (Ok some will argue I still haven’t grown up yet)

So my good friend passed on the first of two dives. The first dive was in a sculpture park.

Museo Atlántico is an underwater museum featuring sculptural works by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor.

The project consists of 12 installations and more than 300 life-size human figures in 12 to 14 metres of water.

This work, called Portal, forms part of an underwater botanical garden.
The sculptures aim to portray “the dialogue between past and present and the divisions within society”, with some of the most notable works including The Rubicon, The Vortex and The Raft of Lampedusa, which references the influx of refugees on the Spanish island.


Sculpture depicting a migrant boat…

We had a great dive round this park and I took lots of photos & video – all with my £40 GoPro knock-off.


Who’s that photo-bombing my arty photo…

The selfie couple…

The picture above is a faceless couple taking a selfie with the migrant boat in the background. I took a selfie with the selfie couple – the irony…

The second dive was on a nearby underwater lava flow at about 18 meters depth. Loads of life again. This video shows a lava tongue undermined by the sea.

The videos not the best quality but I’m struggling to get WordPress to upload big files. I’m sure it’s user error compounded by copious amount of post dive gin & tonic…

One more dive to go tomorrow – a night dive !

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 4:

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 4:

Disaster Count: zero…

Day three’s a cycling day so the disaster count is back by popular demand…

Luckily the counter reads zero 😁

We’d arranged to pick bikes up from a nice German guy in town at 9:30. This meant another early start, but not as early as the saddos who’d already secured their favorite sun loungers by the pool.

The thought of spending the day basting in the sun, inches from others by a noisy child infested pool fills me with horror ! …and on the child front – it’s no where near half term shouldn’t they all be in school ? Think I’m gonna complain…

Anyway after breakfast we escaped the pool area and set off to pick up the bikes from the smaller branch of Renner bikes that was close to our hotel. The guy at Renner bikes, we’ll call him Manuel, spoke little English but quickly sorted us with two Merida road bikes. After a quick cycle to the main shop for paperwork etc. we were on our way…

Maybe a little on the high side but hot enough for a northern lad…

As you can see it was already scortchio….

The route we’d planned with help from the cycle guy was to head down the coast to Teguise and then come back via an inland route.

Well as the famous commentator once said – it was a game of two halves…

The first half, down the coast, was busy tourist sprawl with only the odd castle splitting it up.

Castle at Arrecife. Now a museum – only €3…

The half way point was a cafe stop by the sea. Beautiful view but eclipsed by the row (in spanish) that occurred when our food order arrived wrong. The shouting was aimed at a young waitress who seemed to get a few orders wrong. In our case im not sure if it was her fault or my pigeon Spanish !

From there it was open country – beautiful in its volcanic barrenness and with no natural trees to be seen.

Lava flows…
Lava flow, houses and a dorment volcano…

Note to self – stay away from the tourist areas… anyway our route was:

Cycle route…

Another diving day tomorrow so early to bed… Hope it’s not raining too hard back in Blighty….

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 3:

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 3:

Today was “D day” – that’s diving day not an invasion of northern France. We’d arranged a days diving with Atlantis Diving Services. It was an 8:30 start at their shop which meant pestering the hotel for an early breakfast.

At their shop we were fitted for gear, briefed on the days diving and taken to the harbour where their boat was moored.

The boat was a 7 meter RIB. Being old skool I’d dived from RIB’s before but Sarah was asking where the lift was ! The seas were flat calm for the 5 minute ride to the dive site so no chunder from me 😁

The first dive site was called Waikiki. We dropped into 6m of clear warm water.

I was expecting diving similar to the Mediterranean – warm clear but not much life. (overfishing in the med is another topic)

Well it’s a first – I was was wrong ! We saw loads of life, both big & small. Without boring you too much, over the two dives we saw Barracuda, Amber Jack fish, Sting Rays, Octopus and Angle sharks as well as numerous small brightly coloured fish. Two brilliant dives ! I’ve attempted to add some videos and a few photos

below but if you want to see more look at…

Nick Fitzgerald shared an album with you from the Flickr app! Take a look:
https://flic.kr/s/aHsmwtjx37

After that it was back to the hotel for a cheeky snooze before “rehydration”

Oh by the way did I mention it’s really warm & sunny here ? 😂

Nick & Sarah…
Angel Shark
Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 2:

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 2:

Ok have to admit the day started with a little bit of a thick head. Note to self – don’t trust red wine that comes out of a lager dispensing pump !

So today was a slow start. The breakfast coffee perked us both up & we went for a swim in the pool. Pool time then ran into lunch time so it was about 2pm before we got going.

Today’s plan was a cliff top walk to Puerto Calero. This was a lovely walk on volcanic ash paths.

Puerto Calero is is pretty harbour with lots of big expensive boats and one submarine !

Looks great but closer inspection reveals a fair bit of rust so not sure I fancy it…

Plan for tomorrow is diving – an 8:30 start so early to bed tonight.

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 1:

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun… Day 1:

The day started with a 3am alarm. Far too early for both of us but gives a good 9:30am flight from Glasgow.

We had an uneventful journey to the airport apart from getting ripped off at Gretna services – 2 coffees a pack of aspirin & a sandwich £15. Won’t be going back there !

At the airport security was packed but quite efficient. After security it was off to Spoons for the standard pre-flight breakfast. Shhh don’t tell my mother, I don’t think she’s approve…

A quick look round Smith’s revealed some interesting reading… Think I’m gonna read this one.

The flight was 4 hours and went without incident. My phone GPS worked so I killed some the looking where we were and how fast we were going.

The transfer was quick & the hotel seems ok. We dumped the bags & went for a wander to stretch our legs. Puerto del Carmen is very touristy and we kept seeing places like this so I’ve a feeling dope is legal here…

Had a nice walk down to the harbour & saw cats and ducks living in harmony…

Anyway it’s been a long day so it’s off to the hotel for our “All inclusive” feast. I’ll let you know what it’s like tomorrow…

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun….

Nick and Sarah need some winter sun….

Yes we both needed a break and the last week in November was free. The only question was where…

Well to do a blog site justice it should have been canoeing down the Nile or trekking in the Andes. I’m sure that would be great but we’re both knackered, we only have a week and we’re skint !

…so Lanzarote it is then – one week of all inclusive winter sun 😁 Not exactly an adventure worthy of Bear Grills but it’s going to be a test of this blog site anyway…

So the holiday starts with a pint in the Cock & Bull and a takeaway from the good men of Fizza Spice…

For beer connoisseurs this is a pint of Coniston Bluebird, voted Champion Beer of Britain in 1988.  For southerners this pint of fine ale cost £2.70…

La Velodyssee – Summary, Learning & Conclusions…

La Velodyssee – Summary, Learning & Conclusions…

La Vélodyssée:
Stretching across the entirety of France’s Atlantic coast, La Vélodyssée is France’s longest cycle route. The route covers more than 1,200 kilometres from Brittany down the Atlantic coast to the border with Spain. La Vélodyssée forms part of the longer EuroVelo 1, named the Atlantic Coast Route. EuroVelo 1 is 8,186 km long and runs from North Cape in Norway to Sagres in Portugal.

Info available on the web:
Below are some web links to sites with info on the route:

La Velodyssee:  https://www.velodyssey.com/itineraires/la-velodyssee-latlantique-a-velo
Brittany Ferries: http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/guides/cycling/la-velodyssee

When to go:
Jobs & kids limited when we could go – our window was September, starting on the 10th for 3 weeks. This is pretty late in the Velodyssee season & we found that some of the more northern camp sites were closed. The up side to this was that it was pretty quiet – we virtually had the route to our selves.

On the whole the weather was kind to us with only a few days rain. The temperatures were not hot but still T shirt & shorts cycling for most of the time. Night time temperatures dropped low & meant my thin Aldi sleeping bag was not really up to the job. I think if we were doing it again we’d only go about a month or so earlier. The temperatures would be warmer and we would still avoided school holidays. For us one of the joys of this route was it was not crowded ! The other advantage of going later in the season is that accommodation is slightly cheaper 🙂

Route finding & Maps
The route itself is pretty well documented on the Velodyssee site and is signposted between Roscoff and Hendaye with the logo on panels throughout the route. Depending on the region crossed, you may find different types of panel bearing “La Vélodyssée” logo.

So you have two real options for navigation…

1,   Map of the route + the waymarked signs.
2,  GPS mapping + the waymarked signs.

We opted for a mixture of the two. I took Michelin maps, or scans of with the route marked on it and I had the route on a phone app.

So how did it go ? Well the printed maps are far bigger than a phone screen and were useful for both of us looking at where we were & general planning. The maps didn’t work well for actual navigation because they had insufficient or no details – this is where the phone app came into its own.

The app, which could be zoomed in to street level showed a “you are here” and the route. I had the phone mounted on my handlebars with a rubber mount . This made it very easy to follow without constantly having to stop to refer to maps. I think the ability to know exactly where you are without having to concentrate on paper maps allowed us both to enjoy the sights more and not have to stop so often.

In summary I’m a convert to electronic mapping though there is a down side which is battery life. Constantly having the screen & GPS on uses the phone battery quickly – too quickly. Luckily I’d worked this out before going & had taken a USB battery charger & the bike had a dynamo hub. More on those later…

My phone is an android phone and the app I used was Maps.Me.  Onto this app I had loaded the .GPX route file which is available from the Velodyssee site. In addition to this I loaded waypoints for all the camp sites in France (details later). The only caveat to electronic mapping is rain. My phone is waterproof but the screen failed to respond when it was raining. I think it was my phones was saying it was time for a coffee stop !

So what about the signs & fingerposts ? Well in some areas they were brilliant but in other & especially round towns a bit scant or missing.

Examples of different signs used throughout La Velodyssee…

So the conclusion is that electronic maps are the way to go as long as you can keep your phone charged. So my advice would be – follow the signs but use electronic maps as well.

Which Direction ???
This got us thinking for a while….
Ideally we thought it would be best to start in the north & move south so as it got cooler through the month we would be moving towards the warmer south. There were two issues with this plan:

  1. The prevailing winds are south to north.
  2. The ferry home from Santander only runs once a week so if we missed the ferry by one day we had to wait a week to get home. Ferries from Roscoff were daily.

The ferry issue settled it & we decided to cycle south to north… If we were doing it again we may go the other way as we felt the southern half of the route was more pleasurable.

Travelling from the UK:
With the direction set I then looked at the logistics of getting to the start at Hendaye. In principal it seemed simple. Train from Penrith to Plymouth – ferry to Santander – Train from Santander to Hendaye. The return being ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth – train from Plymouth to Penrith & home for tea & medals…

Sadly nothing is that simple. The trains to Plymouth were very expensive and trains seem to hate bikes. So for this bit of the journey it was cheaper (and easier) to take the car & park it up for three weeks (yes it is madness). The storage company we used for the three weeks was SECURE OPEN STORAGE www.sosplymouth.co.uk Ok so that bit sorted…

Ferries – they are great. All easy there. The fun started when trying to sort train travel from Santander to Hendaye. The top line – there is no through train. You have to use different trains from different companies with different web sites. Joy… Anyway this is what I found.

The journey was

Train 1:    Santander – Bilbao change trains AND stations then…
Train 2:   Bilbao – Donostia, San Sebastian change trains AND stations then…
Train 3:   San Sebastian – Hendaye

Train 1 – time tables were found at:
http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/feve/index.html

Train 2 – time tables were found at:
http://www.euskotren.eus/sites/www2.euskotren.es/files/E1_Matiko_Amara_0.pdf

Train 2 – time tables were found at:
http://www.transfermuga.eu/en/euskotren/

We had originally planned to take two days to get to Hendaye and have a stop in Bilbao.  As it worked out we managed to get to Hendaye in the day but arrived late ~11:pm.  There were no hotels open in Hendaye so it ended up being another couple of hours before we got the tent up somewhere – and all in the rain.

 

Accommodation:
We decided it would be fun to camp with the odd night in a hotel.  I got waypoints for all the French campsites on my phone app. I used Maps.Me and the waypoints from www.archiescampings.eu/ This was a big help along with Google maps come the end of each day for finding campsites. I can’t remember the exact method for putting the GPX files and waypoints into Maps.Me but if you need a hand email & I’ll work it out & let you know.

 

Bikes and equipment:

Bikes:
We took Dawes Galaxy tourers with rear pannier racks & Schwalbe Marathon Plus Road tyres (32c). This setup was great for the vast majority of the route with only a couple of muddy sections where off road tyres would have helped. With regard to gearing – both Dawes have triples. The granny ring was only used once in the north where there are a few hills. Apart from that the route is pan flat !

Spares & tools:
We decided France wasn’t a third world country 😉 so we didn’t need to take loads of spares. Just basics were taken.

Luggage:
Pack light for speed or pack for comfort – decisions decisions…
We decided that as we were away for three weeks we’d pack for comfort. So we took

  • Ortlieb rear panniers
  • Aldi Dry bag
  • Ortlieb bar bag
  • Topeak top tube bag
  • Topeak saddlebag for tools.

The dry bag was filled with tent, stove & sleeping gear. This was strapped with bungees between the two rear panniers. This seemed to work well with bungees providing flexibility to secure shopping as well.

Tent:
None of our tents were suitable so we had to purchase new. Neither of us are spring chickens any more so we wanted some space & comfort in a tent. Also I didn’t want too much weight. Days of research later we settled on the Vango Xenon Ultralight 2 https://www.vango.co.uk/gb/tents/1183-f10-xenon-ul-2.html

This tent did work well. Its good points are:
• Light 2.1kg
• Easy to put up – important when its pissing down…
• Big enough for two normal people to sleep without being on top of each other
• Gear storage in the front porch
• Oversized stuff sack – this made packing up considerably easier.

In conclusion this tent worked well for us & I would recommend.

Sleeping bags & Mats:
Sarah took her trusty down bag & I purchased a new synthetic lightweight 2season bag from Aldi. The Aldi bag packed small & light but it ended up not providing enough warmth for the cold October nights. In addition it was a little small (tight) on my 6’1” 105kg frame. Since the trip I’ve purchased a Decathlon bag – it’s a little bigger and heavier but works better for me.

Both of us had old Thermorests. These were both heavy and bulky so we looked for alternatives. Not an easy choice as our old bones needed comfort but without the bulk & weight. Again after endless internet hours we ended up buying Alpkit Cloudbase sleeping mats.

The cloudbase is an inflatable airbed who’s material has no insulation properties. It inflates to a thickness of 5cm. The material it’s made from looks thin, it packs up really small ( ⌀ 8 x 28 cm) and weighs 415 g.

Initially I was dubious but went for it thinking if it did fail under my bulk (105kg) then we’ll never be far from an Decathlon in France ! It did work well, I shall be using again and can recommend.

Other Kit:
We both took seats with us. Madness I hear you all saying ! Well the thinking was that we’d be spending time in camp sites & it would be comfier/less painful/ dryer not to be sitting on the ground when cooking / relaxing.   Sarah took a Heliox seat & I took a stool. They were just bungeed onto the rack with the dry bag – simples…
They did work well & I would take again for longer trips – you can’t beat a bit of comfort !

Stoves & Pans:
We purchased a Primus Omnifuel stove for the trip. Sadly some clown forgot to pack the gas hose so I cannot report if it was good or not. We ended up carrying it for the whole trip + another cheap stove from Decathlon.
For pans we took a two pan & cup set , a couple of titanium spoons and a swiss army knife. This worked well & I don’t think we wanted for more cooking stuff. The knife did for wine corks & cutting baguettes & cheese.

Electricity:
I thought keeping phones, lights, USB power banks, Garmins all charged would be an issue if we didn’t get mains every night. So after more internet hours I ended up buying a new front wheel with dynamo hub. The thought being that the variable voltage & current from this could be regulated and used to charge a USB power bank. Simples….

Great in theory but ended up being a fail. The wheel build from Spa Cycles had the wrong dyno hub put in – one that was not up to charging stuff. I didn’t realise this until we were on the trip so the system I’d setup just didn’t charge. After the trip Spa Cycles were great & rebuilt the wheel with the correct hub – it now works great.  If you’re thinking of getting a Dynamo wheel made up I would recommend Spa Cycles. Errors can happen – we are all human. What is telling is how people & companies react – Spa were brilliant & the staff are very knowledgeable.

…but for the trip we relied on the USB power banks. We charged these whenever we could & were ok for the trip. Its good to have a USB mains charger with 4 outlets this allows several things to be charged simultaneously if there is only one socket. Sometimes we had to leave the power banks charging over night in the camp site toilet blocks. Lucky they were not nicked…

 

Conclusions…

We loved cycling the Velodyssee…   The route, the country & people were brilliant. Yes there are a few small issues with route markers on the odd occasion but that’s trivial and part of the adventure.  I would say it’s a great introduction to cycle touring – a sort of cycle touring lite ! Why do I say that – well because it’s so setup for looking after cyclists.
If you’re strapped for time & can’t do it all I’d say do the southern part from Nantes (or La Rochelle or Royan) down – that was our favorite part.  Would we do it again – yes, but I think it will have to wait till retirement…
If you’re reading this then you’re probably looking at doing the Velodyssee. Great – just do it, you won’t regret it. If you are new to touring and have questions please email us & we’ll try to help.