Day 11: Carcassonne to Le Barcares
Trip total: 1164.86km
Strong tailwinds almost all day, some incredible scenery, and a route that was almost entirely downhill for much of the day (and when it wasn’t it was flat), made today the most fantastic day of cycling I’ve ever had. By a long way. And as if all that wasn’t enough, today was also the day I arrived on the Mediterranean coastline, having set off from La Manche at Ouistreham 11 days ago.
I rose earlier than I had for the past few mornings, knowing that I had a longer day ahead of me. I’d packed everything except my tent and sleeping particulars away last night, so only had to get up, shower, and pack said items into the rack pack.
Connor and Alba were just getting up as I’d finished loading the bike, so I said a quick goodbye, and they gave me an open invitation to go and visit them in Limerick, which I’m definitely going to take them up on! I should probably let them get the whole having a baby thing out of the way first…so hopefully I’ll keep in touch and make a trip over to Ireland in a year or two and see how they’re doing.
I set off from Carcassonne at around 8:30, quickly joining the D6113, which runs through the valley and more or less due east towards the coast. It was almost all downhill, and a consistently strong tailwind meant I was motoring along for the first couple of hours of riding, averaging around 25kph over two hours, and getting half of my intended distance done in the process.
I left the D6113 at Fontcouverte, heading south-east to Fabrezan and crossing L’orbieu, before heading over the only hills of the day, which was over after 15 minutes or so of climbing, if that, before more flat and downhill tailwind-assisted riding, heading south-east and through the breathtaking Parc Naturel Regional de La Narbonnaise En Mediter (bit of a mouthful).
A steep and winding road followed the course of the river Berre through a dramatic, narrow, rocky valley, which reminded me in places of the Gorges du Verdon in Provence. I spent an incredible 20 minutes or so enjoying the descent, stopping far too often to try to capture some of the dramatic scenery on camera, and failing totally – I think it’s one of those roads you just have to ride to appreciate it fully.
My route followed the Berre all the way to the coast, where I passed through Sigean then out to Port-La-Nouvelle, getting my first proper sight of the Mediterranean somewhere between the two – one of the most memorable moments of the trip so far, having been cycling towards it for so long.
From Port-La-Nouvelle I followed the coastal road, heading south past the Etang de La Palme, which was full of wind- and kite-surfers, before arriving at Leucate, the location of my intended site for the night.
The site looked like an absolute dump, more trailer park than campsite, and it was an easy decision to keep going and find another campsite further down the coast. It was relatively early, and my legs were still fresh feeling fresh due to the tailwinds and long downhill riding I’d been enjoying all day. I also had half a mind on trying to make as much progress as I could comfortably make today to minimise tomorrow’s final ride to Ceret, which will involve a fair bit of climbing.
I set off again, following the same road along the coast through Port Leucate, and as I was going round a roundabout felt the telltale wobble of my second flat tyre of the trip, so stopped to fix it quickly in the shade before carrying on to Le Barcares. I popped into the tourist information office and found out there were a handful of campsites to choose from just round the corner. They’re all pretty terrible, as is much of this part of the coast, which has been spoiled by sprawling, run-down holiday resorts and bars. I’m paying more tonight than I have at any of the campsites so far, which have all been far nicer.
However, I’m only here for a night, and had the most perfect day of cycling I could have wished for today. I’m going to settle down and watch Spain play the Netherlands, get to bed, and try to contain my excitement knowing that tomorrow I’ll finally arrive in Ceret for a week of rest with the family. Can’t wait.