Silja Goes Cycling – Part 5

Silja has been on her first long bicycle journey from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, riding a Pelago Saimaa. This is the 5th part of her diary/notes.

Silja Minkkinen Camping Views

From rainy Germany I made my way southwards. Tempted to the beach by all of my surfloving friends, I followed their dreams to make it mine as well. The long sandy beaches of the French Atlantic Coast were definitely a sight to see. I managed to twist my ankle a day before we got to the surfspots, and once there, I realized I’d have to stay at one place for at least a week to learn surfing. I was getting very anxious, and felt like I made the wrong decision coming to the French coast: it was never in my plans so why did I let someone else twist my head?… And the truth is I’ve never been into beaches: I hate getting sand everywhere. I’m more of a lake-river-forest-mountain kinda girl.


So I ended up staying only one night in the place where I was supposed to be for a week. I couldn’t stay still, I was constantly annoyed by my friends and I was probably really annoying to them. Next morning I packed up my bike again and started bicycling towards the south. And how good it felt to be on the bike again! All the frustration that had been gathering inside me was released as I bicycled through the amazing forests of Lacanau, Cap Ferret and Hossegor. I saw nothing but the trees around me and the road ahead. I could hear the ocean on my right side, and smell the familiar scent of pinewoods. In the evening I would find myself from the beach watching the sunset, skin and hair salty from the sweat as well as the seabreeze. The small surftowns were silent in the evenings, but as the sun rose, tourists swarmed to the streets, and polluted the beaches with noise, trash and too much traffic. Hostels and campsites were ridiculously expensive, so I ended up spending a few nights in my friends travelvan. Even that was not as easy as we thought it would be: first night we were waken up in the middle of the night by police, telling us we would have to move.


I continued bicycling down the coast, fast. The roads were perfect, the sun was shining and I was enjoying every last bit of the journey. I would buy the ripest melons from a local farmer, and eat them so that juices dripped down my chin. I spoiled myself by stopping next to every lake and dipping in to the cool water. I ate the best pizza I ever have eaten: goatcheese-honey-rucola, and found the ultimate spot for my tent by a steep cliff, with the waves crashing on the rocks. My french had also improved significantly, so I had fun chats with locals. I would go to sleep so tired, but so happy.

Soon I reached the border of Spain. Once crossing, I found myself completely lost. The new language caught me by surprise. I have never studied spanish and my vocabularity consists of five words: yo no hablo espanjol. Gracias. Luckily spanish people are more willing to talk english than the french, and I soon learned the basicphrases to use in everyday actions.


I bicycled from the coast to the east, towards Pamplona, the first day following the amazing river of Bidasoa Ibaia. The beauty of the nature had me crying. Next day it was the hills that had me crying. The highest rise was more than 800 metres up, and it took me half the day to get to the top. After conquering the mountains, I made it to Pamplona, only to discover the bullrunning festival San Fermin was in full swing. The streets were smelly and full of drunken revellers; I was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Had I been prepared for this, I might have enjoyed one of the biggest fiestas of Spain, where all people dress in white with red scarf around the neck, and celebrate for 8 days straight. Tired and slightly disgusted by the filth of the city, I soon continued my way towards Barcelona.

Altogether Navarra and Aragon are outstanding with their landscapes. There’s turquoise lakes, high mountains, waterfalls and old ruins of castles. Everywhere you look the views are amazing. Now I have made it to Huesca, and old city beside the Pyrenees. From here it’s about 300 kilometres to Barcelona, and apparently the land turns to desert quite soon. Despite all preparation against the sun, I have already managed to burn my arms and back, and run out of water a couple of times. I will try to face the challenge of riding through desert with better preparation tomorrow.


Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4