The trip has begun!
After much jumping on and off scales with my luggage I managed to arrive at Auckland International Airport with 2 pieces of luggage - one bike bag with bicycle and 4 kg of luggage squeezed inside; and one carryon bag of 7kg - quite proud of my light packing!
There was no problem checking in with Royal Brunei Air and the journey began. The 9 hour flight to Brunei was fine as the plane was fairly empty and I had the whole row to myself; so I lay across all the seats and slept. Brunei Airport was a bit of a dive and I was disappointed to realise we had 3 hours transit there - I ended up lying on the carpet and napping. The second leg was an 8 hour flight to Dubai, followed by a short transit then back on the same plane to continue another 7 hours to London. The last two flights seemed to drag a bit as the entertainment selection on the personal consoles wasn't great but I did get good at Tetris and Memory Game! I was starting to wonder why I bother travelling to the other side of the world when it is SO FAR AWAY.
I arrived in Heathrow at 7am a bit jaded. I had 10 hours before the next flight to Spain, so decided to head into central London for a walkabout. It was on the metro heading into London that I came alive again. Suddenly it was all worth while. It was a magic feeling to look out the metro windows at the classic terraced houses and know that I was IN LONDON!!! It was a beautiful spring day. I got off at Hyde Park Corner and walked towards Buckingham Palace. The gardens are looking lovely; with beautiful tulip beds (and security guards - with a royal wedding only 10 days away I guess they don't want anyone trampling or stealing the tulips). It was an exhilarating walk towards and along the river Thames; I was on a high. I walked all the way to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, then took the metro back to the airport. I checked in for my flight to Spain then went looking for Julie who had just flown from Aberdeen.
We had a few hours to kill so went through airport security and went to an airport bar for a drink. Julie ordered 2 big glasses of white wine and we had a catchup - she'd had 3 scottish weddings in 3 weeks to tell me about. Unfortunately I'd only eaten a gelato all day so the wine went straight to my head so I suddenly got really sleepy and probably wasn't very good company!! We caught our plane to Spain and arrived in Bilbao at 8pm spanish time. Our warmshowers hosts, Peru and Uri, picked us up from the airport. They asked us if we had eaten and we said no. "Oh good! neither have we, we will go out for dinner!". We arrived at their apartment. Julie's brand new bike was packaged in pieces in bubble-wrap and then in a box so everyone started to unwrap it. Eventually Uri said "I guess we should go for dinner" - it was nearly 10pm!! "It's ok, that's the time we always eat". It was lucky I was jetlagged; my body had no idea what time it was so there was no problem eating "Pinchers" at 10:30pm. We met Peru's friend Louis at the restaurant - we automatically shook his hand in greeting and Peru pointed out that in Spain people always greet a girl with a kiss to each cheek. So we tried again; shaking his hand and kissing each cheek "No, you don't need to shake the hand as well!". We have much to learn.... Peru and Uri are two of the most enthusiastic people I have met. They are friends from university and they laugh together like brothers and best friends.
My bike was taken out of its bag and I discovered the rear deraileur hangar was bent and the deraileur was hitting the spokes. Not Good. My fault entirely for not removing the deraileur. The next day Peru and Uri generously drove us to a bike shop where I could get the deraileur hangar straightened, then they took us for a tour of Bibao. We saw the famous Guggenheim Museum (from the outside) and had a proper 3-course spanish meal for lunch. Julie did a bit of spanish at school so she knows some words; I don't know any spanish except "Hola". Peru and Uri were very patient and have been teaching us some spanish words, to much laughter.
Something I didn't realise before leaving New Zealand was the significance of the "Basque Country" - the spanish Basque country is officially a province of Spain (there is more Basque country in France; part of france) - but they speak their own language, Basque. So Peru and Uri were speaking to each other mainly in Basque, to us in English; and then teaching us a little spanish!
That evening Peru and Uri made us a homemade Spanish Omelette - again eating after 9pm.
The next day we packed up and Peru and Uri joined us for the start of our bike tour. It was magic having our own tour guides; complete with jokes and so much energy. Uri was borrowing Peru's father's mountain bike whose brakes sounded terrible; Peru was using his mountain bike whose brakes didn't really work - on the downhills Peru would put his foot on the ground to slow him down!!
They took us along a coastal route - lots of steep hills and flying descents. I must say there is no quicker cure for jetlag than cycling hard all day! We did only 60km the first day but it took all day; we arrived at the campground after 6pm. The next day was even steeper hills; having to push the bikes for a few of them. It felt like madness, but it did mean we were on very quiet out-of-the-way routes.
We arrived in San Sebastian on Saturday and met Mikel and Rosa, our warmshowers hosts. It was particularly magic because they stayed with me in New Zealand last year!! We said goodbye to Peru and Uri, and they took a bus back to Bilbao.