[ blog » 2023 » 09_South-West ]d09: Nafarroa ( by Philipp Gesang, location: Lekunberri)

Aldapan gora

The campsite proprietor had promised me early morning sunshine on that pitch which didn’t materialize simply due to the fact that dawn tends to be a little tardy at this longitude offset from the actual CEST reference time. It boggles the mind that Spain sticks with this timezone travesty, and in the next days it is only bound to get worse.

Anyways I finished off the Puerto de Larrau in the early morning hours. With those nasty 9+ % gradients it was way harder than the Tourmalet but the lack of direct sun on the northern slopes attenuated the suffering a bit. The small plateau on top was quite busy with gregarious cyclists from Spain even at this early hour. Another cycle tourist from Germany en route to France who asked if the road closure was for real – offically the French side of the pass road has been shut down, probably to preven campervans from blocking the narrow road during tomorrow’s Vuelta stage – which it wasn’t, the road was free to use despite signage indicating the opposite.


From the Puerto de Larrau it’s a long, gentle descent through the Salazar valley with its dense forest under towering rock ridges. Long straight roads with only few switchbacks make this side a blast to descend.

With decreasing altitude it got ever hotter; the Garmin showed 35 degrees for the rest of the day. I had been warned of ungodly amounts of rain coming down in Spain but that must be elsewhere in the country. All blue sky and burning sun here in Navarre. Luckily this civilized part of the world has water fountains aplenty, actual drinking water at that!, so hydration never was a problem unlike in more backwards countries like Germany.


After an uneventful long journey on a provincial road I arrived in Pamplona during mid afternoon and enjoyed the town’s exceptional cycling infrastructure. Which was being well utilized by numerous road cyclists I encountered, as expected for this cycling crazy part of the world. After a few minutes I gave up on greeting all of them as there were just too many.

While stocking up on food in the suburbs some guy alerted me that I should keep a steady eye on the bike I’d locked outside the shop. He didn’t speak a word of English but just kept talking and gesticulating until I got the message; it’s quite surprising how much meaning you can capture by assuming Spaniards are merely speaking broken Italian.

After extensive sightseeing of the historical center of Pamplona and its fortifications I concluded the day with a trip up the amazingly scenic Larraun valley (unrelated to the starting point of today, Larrau) to Lekunberri. The narrow gorge also contains the main autobia to Donostia which crosses the normal road repeatedly. Paying extra attention to road signage is essential down there lest one takes a wrong turn at some innocuous crossroads and ends up on a motorway exit.

A longer day with 170 km in the saddle and more than 2100 m of altitude gain, half of which can be attributed to the Puerto de Larrau.

gps tracks

[view GPS data in mapbox]


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