Cold, wet and a flooded Dax
Closing the front door, I stepped into the cold drizzle of the night. Three o'clock in the morning is not a time I like to be out, but in order to get the first Eurostar train at 0540, it was necessary.
A wind was up, bringing the chill factor down to near freezing. In this, I stood, waiting for the next bus to the center of London. There was no traffic, so quite how the bus managed to be 7 minutes late is beyond me.
London through France
I arrived at St.Pancras Station and eventually boarded the train for Paris. After leaving the tunnel was an incredible sunrise. This was a bad omen. Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors warning.
Paris, ah yes - can't stand the place. Last time I made the train to Biarritz by 5 seconds, due to their Metro map listing a non-existent station. This time I took a cab. Sure it cost, but at least I did not have to negotiate 10 cars to find my seat. Outside it was still very damp, with the sky darkening.
The Dax Flood
I had noticed the swollen rivers as the train to Hendaye from Paris sped on. Then we hit Dax and everything ground to a halt.
The engineer brought the high speed SNCF unit to a stop, just before the edge of the town. It was only as the locomotive crept forward did I realize why. The entire place was underwater and more was coming down out of the sky. The train crawled at a snails pace so as not to disturb the saturated ballast and semi-liquid roadbed underneath. My seat was at the rear of the 12 car train, so it was all ahead of us - squidging its way along.
The rail itself was only about a foot above the water. Those ripples you see, were caused by the weight vibration of the train on top of the sodden road bed under the rails. Some kilometres later, the train was high enough to continue its journey at normal speed. The rest of the ride was uneventful.
Onwards to Pamplona
At one point I realized that the train was actually going to Hendaye. This is the frontier town and station at the French/Spanish border. A few Euros to the conductor, bought me a ticket for that extra bit. It also saved me a lot of time.
Things change here. The French standard gauge is replaced by the Spanish broad gauge rail. There is also a narrow gauge line that runs into Northern Spain.
I left the Hendaye station and turned right. A short walk away is a small, white and blue, building. There I boarded the little train to San Sebastian.
Arrival at San Sebastian, saw a warming. London, Paris and Hendaye had all been under 5 degrees Celsius, here it was about 10, but windy and damp from previous rainfall. I was glad of my expensive, windcheater fleece. To get to Pamplona, you have to get a bus. It's only about €7-8 fare and an hour's ride.
Coming out of San Sebastian station you need to turn right and then right again. A few hundred yards down the street, on the left, is an office where the bus ticket is purchased. Then a short walk to the station a bit further on. Unlike other bus stations, this one is outdoors. It was getting colder and the warm bus a welcome relief. Once on the way, the rain returned.
This part of the Basque Country's weather is much like England. It rains more there normally, especially in the mountains, but this year had seen extra for everyone.
It's a ten minute walk from Pamplona's bus station to the Xarma hostel. I arrived after dark: cold and wet. The entire journey had lasted about 14 hours, cost me about €125 (including the Paris taxi fare) and I was happy to see it end.
Dec 10, 2014