I was often asked before I left, ‘how do you feel about giving up everything and venturing into the unknown?’ I guess to some people the idea was ludicrous; give up your home, your job, small business, your friends and family and drive into Europe alone to work for people you’ve never met? My car was also an unknown entity; only purchased the day before I left…that’s another story!!
Fear is a crippling emotion and had I let it invade my psyche, may well have prevented me from going ahead, but to me the prospect of staying put and continuing as I was, was even more terrifying.
I’ve never been a fan of the ‘what if’ mentality, I believe consequences of actions are to be dealt with, not avoided. I’m not saying I’m fearless by any stretch (still haven’t ventured around the technical red MTB trail in Dalby!) but when the alternative is worse than the risk, what’s to lose? After all, nothing was set in stone, and if the worst came to the worst I could always drive home again.
I think perhaps my biggest fear was driving off the ferry in Santander, Northern Spain; not only on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, but into a motorway system I knew nothing about and all without SatNav. The plan was to drive South East towards Jaca and cross over the Pyrenees to France on the route des cols climbing the legendary Portalet and Aubisque before crossing over Tourmalet, Aspin and finally Peyresourde into the Luchon Valley, an epic drive in an old car on roads quite frankly I would rather have ridden on my bike! (I don’t do severe drops very well).
The drive off the ferry wasn’t so bad, there are enough cars to follow to help you decide which is the best side to drive on. The problems started when I had to decide which destination to start heading towards… none of the places I had written on my brief set of directions were showing on the motorway signs so I had to take pot luck and pray… needless to say I spent an hour going in the wrong direction before I realised! Fortunately the motorways leaving Santander were blissfully quiet and allowed me to stress in peace without the added trauma of heavy traffic.
It was getting dark and I had to find somewhere to spend the night if I wasn’t going to end up on top of my luggage next to my precious Emonda in the back of the car. Not an option.
At 11pm I finally wandered into a noisy Spanish bar full of men and tried in my best tourist Spanish to ask for a room for the night. I realised at that point how very little Spanish I knew and wished I’d pressed on into France but the owner was very friendly and helpful and between us we managed to book me in for the night. Uber stressed and starving hungry I gratefully accepted a large glass of Rioja and a bowl of Olives on the Casa before going to bed only slightly concerned that the shared bathroom didn’t appear to have a lock…
Tomorrow would be easier in the daylight; quiet country roads and fewer chances of going wrong (forever the optimist). I was in my element; free as a bird and soon to be slap bang in the middle of the spectacular Pyrenean mountain range.
Next.. the incredible route des cols.