From London to Lisbon Part 2

So let’s pick up where we left off, I was leaving Saint Jean Du Luz after spending 2 nights with my friend receiving amazing hospitality. I cycled up over the mountain pass that separates France from Spain and was looking forward to taking a photo st the border, although I had no such luck. It just felt like the same country. Basque country is it’s own entity it seems. I could feel the pride of the people there was so strong it could be felt in the air that you breath. Basque flags and graffiti on buildings wanting independence, it was powerful to see such an ancient culture so alive in modern society.

My first stop was San Sebastian, I rolled down the mountain into this stunning costal town with it’s orange rooftops, I had to stop and stare in admiration of the beauty of this town from the mountainside. The golden bay alive with keen surfers catching the morning breaks, Christ standing on a hill top overlooking the town. The architecture there brilliant and something to be admired. As I meandered the streets with no real purpose only to soak in the town I was stopped by a lady who confidently and totally out of the blue asked me if I would like to have breakfast with her and her friends, ‘yeah for sure!’ why not I thought. This lovable trio had driven down from Norway to enjoy the sun and the surf in San Sebastian. We chatted for a few hours about life and travel, motorbikes and hospitals. In the morning it was quite overcast and grey but by the time we left the cafe the sun was out with a fiery vengeance warming up nicely. I felt so blessed to have met these lovely people and as I cycled up out of San Sebastian that afternoon I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The sun was out, I had met good people and I was in a new country. Welcome to Spain!

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Need I say more?

As I weaved along the coast I was blown away by the beauty of this place, it seemed another beach was around every bend, each as beautiful as the last , the clear water was so inviting that I took a dip in one of the small beaches along the way, my first swim since I was in the USA. It was much warmer than I expected, and made me feel like summer was well and truly here. The beaches here are full till 8.30 – 9.00 at night, you can still be tanning at 8.30 as the sun is still about till nearly 11pm! Families out with their kids kicking a soccer ball around (far past my bed time as a kid) enjoying every bit of sunlight before heading home.

I came to realize very quickly that I don’t really speak any Spanish. Not nearly enough even to get by, this felt amplified by the fact that after some effort I could speak enough french to struggle through a conversation and now in Spain I was back to square one. People were very gracious and helped me out when I was trying to find places or ask if I could camp up on their land for the night.

I found myself heading along the Pilgrimage trail Camino De Santiago, a very popular trail people do from all over Europe, usually by walking sections of it or even walking from other countries to the city of Santiago De Compostela. Along the way I met many people some had walked from Holland, or cycled from Poland, some 4000km in all. It was amazing to see that there were crazy people like me out there who were doing extremely long distances by bike or walking! The Catholic Pilgrimage trail has been a popular thing to do since the 1980’s although in the last decade it has become even more popular with numbers of over 200,000 people attempting the journey every year. Naturally I joined in the fun as I went along, it was the direction I was heading in and it was a good way to meet people, so I have fulfilled my catholic duties I guess. Santiago itself was a quaint town, a compact old city with a beautiful town square, and an incredible cathedral as you can imagine. The streets were lined with weary travelers with blistered feet and tired smiles. All different laguages filled the air as I cycled around the streets. It felt like a place welcoming of vagabonds like my self.

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I camped just above the city in a little forest I found, as the next day I was to head south towards Portugal.

OK so this next part of the story, is not my proudest moment but it is part of my story and my journey so I will share it with you.

The next morning I was heading into the city on my bike rolling down the hill into the town center, I was looking around for a cafe to sit in for an hour or so for some reading and to charge my flat cellphone, I looked off to the left for a second and as I turned my eyes to the front I saw an old lady had confidently strode out onto the pedestrian crossing without looking either way just boosted out onto the road. Now I know this is no excuse I should have seen her and even if I did I’m sure what happened would have happened anyway as I was going too fast. I had about .5 of a second to react and all I could do was yell “Oh noooooo!” I hit this 80 year old lady at about 20km an hour, my bike and my body combined weighing around 100kg, essentially she just got tackled by Jonah Lomu in his prime. I flew over the handle bars bike flipping over behind me, as I rolled down the road I had one thought, I’ve killed this little old lady. I got up and ran towards here “Oh f&$# nooo, I’m so sorry! Ahh sh*$.” She was lying on the ground not moving, completely still, I was actually mortified. People ran out from a near cafe to help out, the lady started to move and a warm feeling of relief swept through me, she is alive. I picked up every thing off the road including my bike which was looking worse for ware at the time I couldn’t care less. The lady was bought a chair and they sat her down. I looked her over as did 5 other people and she didn’t have a scratch on her, She said she bumped her head a little but otherwise looked fine. I was standing there worried out of my mind for this ladies health and she crossed her legs on the chair and looked like she was about to roll up a fag and start smoking. She was in better condition than me it seemed. People were concerned about me once they saw the lady was OK, I couldn’t give a monkey’s about myself I was just worried this lady had internal bleeding! An ambulance arrived shortly after and looked her over, she asked where her hearing aid was and after some searching we found it 3 meters from where she fell. But she seemed right as rain. They took her off to the hospital for a check up but assured me it was all good. I couldn’t believe it, she could well have been Richie Mccaw’s grandma with that kind of tolerance to a smack down. My bike was far from rideable so I had to throw it on my shoulder and walk down the street. I managed to check into a cafe and the owner graciously let me use his place to store my bike, and helped me make arrangements to get it fixed. A true champion. It took me a couple of hours but I managed to find a new front wheel as mine was bent like a banana, I have no idea if the wheel hit the lady I think one of my bags got her but either way we were all very lucky to come out of it alive and kicking.

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I left off that afternoon towards Portugal not many kilometers that day as I felt like I had been in a bicycle crash or something and decided to take it easy. I stopped by the city of Vigo the next day just before crossing over into Portugal, to charge up my batteries a bit, figuratively.
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I am excited to see what Portugal has to offer! I have only heard good things!
Stay tuned..

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2 thoughts on “From London to Lisbon Part 2

  1. Wow amazing story! Praise God the little old lady is ok…. and you too!!! Lots of people have you in their prayers you know. By the look of your bike wheel and what sounds like the frailty of her it’s a miracle she came through the Nathan-avalanche without a scratch. Again, it’s so amazing reading your stories – it takes me back to when I was kicking about in Europe – not for quite the length of time or as energetically as you, but creating memories for a lifetime. Keep safe and keep enjoying every moment. And my big advice to all my traveling friends over the past few decades – don’t go home until you know you are 100% ready. Little old Aotearoa will always be there, you can embrace it again anytime. Travel while you can, you can’t put a price on experiences. V x

  2. Another interesting episode Nathan. You poor thing what a terrible experience. I’m glad you were both ok and you were able to fix your bike and continue on your amazing journey. It is so interesting and almost makes one feel as if they are going along with you. Look forward to the next episode. Take care.

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