Big-anus and the giant sand dune

After our happy evening of tinned beans and lake swimming, we slept in until 10 the next morning and casually found our way back to the Eurovelo 1, aiming today for Dune de Pyla, Europe’s biggest sand dune.

Back in England doing research for our trip, we’d heard so much about the fancy Eurovelo cycle routes that cross through Europe and we were anticipating great things.  In the end, we were both a bit disappointed with the reality of cycling the “EV1”.

With our fully loaded bikes, we weren’t expecting to be going at breakneck speed but a combination of poor signage, the incredibly bumpy track and the constant annoyance of slow moving cyclists getting in the way really did take its toll on our pace.

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Out of the way, slow boat!!

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Bumpy tracks: not good for the chaffed ass!!

The scenery made up for it though, as we pedalled our way around a couple of different lakes, through forests and pretty little towns.

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At one junction, amongst a huddle of other cyclists all scratching their heads trying to figure out which direction to take (no signage again), a van went by with a loud speaker on top, blasting out music and mooing noises advertising the “best comic cows show of the world”.  Intrigued but wanting to press on, we forced ourselves to ignore the enticing cow show and kept pedalling in our best guess of the direction to the sand dunes, which luckily turned out to be right.

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Trying to make up for time lost fannying about on the Eurovelo, we sped past a group of people on a downhill, only to find an unexpectedly long uphill waiting for us just around the corner.  Not wanting to lose face and be overtaken by the cyclists we’d cockily overtaken earlier, we painfully kept our speed up the whole way, passing even more cyclists who’d given in and were pushing their bikes up the hill! I’m pleased to say they didn’t catch up; we must be getting better at this cycling lark!

A little further down the road, the scores in the bike technical failure game changed: 2 – 1 to Nev as my chain snapped (again).  Fixing it in the 43 degree heat of the afternoon sun, an old French man on an electric powered bike stopped next to us.  I’m not sure if he was offering to help or just observing as he stared at us for a little bit too long then announced, quite unnecessarily, that it was hot and carried on his way.

After a while, we could see the imposing sand dune in the distance.  It took us a while to figure out how to actually get to them but when we did, we bought some fruit for lunch, parked our bikes in some woods then headed for the dune.

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The dune was absolutely MASSIVE!!  110 meters high, towering above the tall trees in the woods.  We started making our way up the bank of sand and immediately realised we were completely unprepared for the mammoth climb to the top!  Imagine climbing an almost vertical wall of sand that creates an avalanche of insanely hot sand every time you put your foot down, burning your feet if you stand still too long.  Ouch.  If you’re reading this post and thinking about going to the Dunes de Pyla, I’d recommend a pair of ankle socks and some hiking sticks!

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Yowser!

Encouragingly, there were loads of other people already at the top and making their way back down in increasingly imaginative ways: running, rolling, jumping, sandboarding!  We even saw a group of German people pulling their friends down the dune on a massive piece of tarpaulin!

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The pain was totally worth it when we reached the top, sweaty, panting like dogs and covered in sand!

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We sat and enjoyed the view for a while before running and jumping our way back down the dune in fits of laughter.

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After refilling our water bottles at a campsite, we decided to head for the nearby town of Biganos, which we promptly renamed “Big-anus”.

When we arrived, we’d only cycled 45 miles but it had been a long hot day and we were both shattered.  We had a quick cool down/bath in the pool, made spag bol for tea with an entire bag of cheese (waste not, want not), got eaten alive by mosquitos (I’m also winning the insect bite game with a current total of 23 bites) and enjoyed another beautiful sunset. Happy days 🙂

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