Monday, 28 June 2010

Hi me dears, here in Bagneres de Luchon, nearly half way and the start of the remote, no shops, no accommodation except shepherds huts and the chance of meeting a bear!! (very remote). so since the last post:
Monday 21st june. luz st saviour
Didn't have time to explain the shoulder thing, I was walking down a road and I fell off the tarmac with 17kilo of rucksac falling on my left shoulder and wrenching it rather badly. Good job the doc gave me some painkillers before I went away. lay there like a turtle for a few minutes trying to right myself. Got to Luz and very slowly put up the tent. ate out that night, appalling service le patron said cet un catastrophie ce soir!
Tuesday 22nd June Luz to bareges
Most difficult thing was stuffing my sleeping bag one handed, but hey, I managed and pressed on. Steep ascent but unevenful day and relatively easy. Highest point was 1460m. Gite Detape was good, large french party in, but none walking GR10. Room to myself.
Wednesday 23rd June Bareges to Chalet Hotel de L'Oule
A 14 miler and a bit fraught. easy walking for some time but the highest col on the route to tackle, col de Madamete at 2509m. Needless to say eventually it got to be a gruelling climb and I started to fall behind time. there was a fair bit of snow on the top but the views were magnificent (same old same old really, lots of snow covered even bigger mountains!). getting down the other side was tricky, up to my thighs in snow at one point. On my back in snow at another and difficulty righting myself again, so I got off thesnow onto an area of boulders. Big mistake, they were the size of houses and I quickly got stuck in them. Retraced my steps and went down the snow to a lakeside. fairly straightforward after that but getting late and still several hours to my refuge, I eventually turned up at 7.30, 11 hours after starting, utterly exhausted! Only 2 others at the refuge and they walked off together next morning.
Thursday 24th June l'Oule to Vielle Aure
Reasonable day with some nice walking over the col de Portet 2215m, another high one but no probs this time. long descent through the usual woodland to the village which was nice and sleepy. I camped here and cooked a meal.
Friday 25th June Vielle Aure to Germ
OK it wasn't catching!! Again a straightforward walk although very hot. I was late away as I overslept. Came down another interminable hill to the village of Loudenville, got some more Euro's and pressed onto the Gite D'Etape at Germ, it boasted a swimming pool. Trouble is it was one and a half hours of very steep uphill. place was quite busy with a group doing Thai Chi. Only a couple of walkers, a swiss couple and 2 young swiss girls going in the opposite direction. I waited t62 years to meet a swiss girl and 3 came along at once!!! I never used the pool. food wasn't great but lots of it.
Saturday 26th June Germ to Lac D'Oo
Away bright and early before 8 after having to find and get breakfast. I left with the swiss couple but quickly drew ahead of them. another high col to pass 2131m. lost the trail for a while at the start of the ascent but quickly picked it up again. Relentlessly up, over the col d'Esquierry. Then a long descent and a turn up the valley to Lac D'oo. Reached up a mule track a trip which took 1 1/4 hours. It started to thunder and rain. arrived at the small refuge and had an orange juice. they gave me my own room again. Other residents were two families, day trip walkers. we passed a pleasent evening. The owner booked me a hotel in Bagneres de Luchon.
Sunday 27th June Lac D'Oo to Luchon
An early, before 8 start. The lake is in a large depression and I had to climb out of it. rain was forecast for the pm. I made good time and got over the first col 2275m ok. The descent from that one was horendous and very steep. Made me realise I ought to not do it on my own. It started to rain and hail heavily before the next col and on reaching the summit was faced with snow! My heart sank, soakinfg wet and weary. However it was not a lot and the following descent was easy. The sky blackened however an an Orage threatened (thats a major thunderstorm). I met up with some french ramblers and went down to Bagneres with them and booked into my hotel, guided by Michael. I had decided to stop and phoned Henry. He informed me he was coming out to join me so new plans!!!
This place is closing now. More next time.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Such a lot has happened since my last post and I`ll be brief as this place closes soon. I am at Luz St Saviour and it is Monday 21s June. Les has returned to the UK because of his knee injury and the very demanding few days we had after Etsaut. so....on with the show:
Wednesday 16th June Etsaut to Gabas
The weather forcast was for snow at 2000m so we thought we would be penned up for a while, but the day started beautifully so we set off. We ended up in heavy rain. We had to go along the Chemin de maitre, a track hewn out of a shear rock face to transport timber for French warships, Les Knee again gave him problems. The climb up to the col d`ayous (2185m) was beautiful but gruelling with a little snow on top, which we both fell over in. We descended into a vally with a fab lake and continued down. Met a young German couple who we got to know quite well. It rained, we eventually reached the refuge at gabas at 7.30 and had a meal. The 4 french men were there and the Germans, plus 2 young French guys. A pleasant evening.
Thursday 17th June: Gabas to Gourette
What a day, started out fine, all ten of us left together and proceeded on the long climb up to the Hourquette d`aire at 2465m the highest we had been. The french stopped for lunch, putting up an awning to shelter from the rain and also produced a bottle of wine. We pressed on up and met three people (one from the UK Jerry, who figures later) coming down who told us the pass was impassable with snow. We pressed on with the visibility varying from virtually zero to good. 200m from the top we were faced with a vast snow field which the 4 frenchmen proceeded to climb. They were half way up when I started in their footsteps, in zero visibility, all I could see was the footprints I was following. Les was really struggling and Sebastian, one of the young French guys looked after him. Over the top and we were on the north face of the mountain so even more snow. It was exceedingly difficult to find our way down and across the extensive snow fields and one guy did go head first on his back down one after falling. Thanks to the older french we got off. We would have turned back had we been on our own. I arrived at the refuge at Gourette at 8.30pm, 12.5 hours after setting out. Les got in about 9.15. The refuge had cooked us a late meal ; great. When I arrived and said Je Suis Anglais the lady in charge said i French, nobodys perfect!!
The experience made Les realise that he could not continue as he was in so much pain. We slept well that night.
Friday 18th June Gourette to Estaing
After a long discussion withLes he decided to come home so we had a tearful goodby. Well done mate, most people would have jacked in days before. I decided to continue and set off with the German couple on a relatively easy day although the weather was still crap. The rain meant that paths were deep in gooey mud and my boots were sopping inside and out with kicking toe and heel holes in the snow. On the walk we caught up with Jerry, who we had met the day before andon hearing Les plight offered to walk on with me. Great! We stopped over night in a camp site with a washing machine and tumble drier.
Sat 19th June Estaing to Cauterets
Packed the tents away in pouring rain and set off for cauterets through wonderful country which we couldn`t see because of the low cloud and mist. It was up to 2242m eventually and we thought it would never end being up. The down was just as bad and I becqme quite depressed, everything was sopping wet, it was cold and we hadnt seen a mountain for days because of the mist. Jerry had a contact in the Hotel Chantilly i Cauterets so I decided to have a day off and a rethink and stay there. The owners Phil and Marry Lennigan from Ireland were great and I thoroughly recommend the place. many thanks for the sponsorship Phil and Mary.
Sunday 20th June Rest Day
Good relaxing day although it still rained. Another copuple arrived full of enthusiasm and also sponsored me so I decided to continue. Jerry then anounced he had had enough and was going home.
Monday 21st June Cauterets to Luz St saviour
Well with lots of good wishes I set off on my own to go, up 1950m and down again. The weather was great and it was superb but on reaching a roqd I fell over and have a very painful shoulder. Place is closing so cheers me dears.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Tuesday 15 June Lascun to Etsaut
Overcast and damp above the cloud base but no rain.
Today I got a lift back to Lascun with the landlord of the local pub and started walking on my own at about 9.30. Weather was cool and I made good progress. The landscape was quite pastoral passing through farmland, but always up at first. the route went through open meadowland with an abundance of wild flowers, before ascending into dense forest. I passed two young French lads early on and said hello before going on ahead. just before the forest while ascznding steeply I caught up with 4 french men of my age and conversed with them for about 15 minutes. much to my amazement they colimented me on my french. Je suis gobsmacked!!!
I reached the col and stopped for a bit of sausison et du pain and carried on to Borce whre i did yesterdays posting. I called in the cafe to do todays and les has just joined me. It is only 20 mins from Etsaut (not estaut as I said yesterday). he has seen a doctor about his knee.
will close now and speak again when possible.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Monday 14 june at estaut
Hi every one. I am currently having a days rest in Estaut. we have walked as far as Lescun but the place had no accomodation for tonight so last nights patron drove us to Estaut where we are booked into a Gite D etape for 2 nights. les was in great pain with his knee following a 1500 m descent into Lescun yesterday. He is having 2 days rest. I have arranged for a bar owner to run me back to lescun tomorrow morn and will walk that leg solo, with Les hopefully resuming th trek on wednesday. Now brief details since the last posting. I am sorry there are no photos I dont have my pc connecting cable, I used Alains last time;
Monday 7th june St etienne de Baigorry to St Jean Pied de port
32degrees in the sun too hot for walking. Les was re invigorated with the rest and we went wellgood views but still quite low stuff. Had first nights camping at st Jean and ate out in town.
Tuesday 8 June St J to Phagalcette
Overcast and humid; today was a short one so we pressed on into the following day to reduce the amount of climbing by 400 metres. Tent wet from rain. My feet were very sore today (and for the rest of the week, better now) climbed up a bit. We arrived in Esterencuby and continued a steep climb to a wonderful Gite d etape with food to die for. Met couple from Alsace who we bumped into several times. Very strong winds and rain in the night.
Wednesday 9 June Phagalcette to Chalets d Iraty
Weather started good but deteriorated during the day to driving rain.
we left at 8am and quickly reached first col. descended, then zig zag up and up. Then wet weather gear on and long downward descent on side of hill. and guess the bottom we had a steep up and up for about an hour. Very bleak on top and difficult to see way marks in mist and driven rain. Came down through lovely Beech wood to Chalet Pedro, which was shut. Picnic lunch of obscene sausisson and progressed on. Arrived at Chalets, a ski resort. Our room was tiny, took in turns to breath. Cooked our own food, Pasta.
Thursday 10 June chalets to past Logibar
The weather was horrendous left at 8 am and started across hillside but was hit by torrential horizontal rain and hail. We needed supplies so decided to take route via Larrau which was shorter. We arrived in Logibar early, the official end of the day and carried on to knock off some of tomorrows ascent. The wind and rain persisted. The climb up was severe and eventually it got too dangerous to proceed higher so we backtracked into a wood and wild camped. dinner was bread and pate and to bed at about 8 pm. High winds all night.
Friday 11 June On to st Engrace
Wind had died down a lot, fine to start with but showery becoming persistant;
I had run out of water yesterday so had an apple for breakfast and pressed on. AtAbarrakia I took a compass bearing which caused us a bit of confusion. Eventually realised it was reading 180 degrees out. Good job I brought 2; Les also has one. Reached the col d'Anhaou at 1383 m and looked ahead to see snow covered peaks and mountan sides. Eventually reached st Engrace and booked into gite D' Etape. met Wolgang (from germany with friends in Walldurn) and a young basque who we called Yogi as we couldnt pronouce his name. Also saw the Alsations we had met before. had a good evening despite the cold and wet.
Saturday 12 June St Engrace to Arrete Pierre St Martin
Heavy rain all day
Set off for steep climb, first up track in a wood. we frequently had to crawl under or over fallen trees and it went up and up incessantly. no pictures today as the camera was packed away to keep it dry. We were above the cloud base so finding waymarks became difficult when we emerged onto the open hills. near the top we saw Alpine Choughs. We just kept going higher and higher untill we emerged on a road which we followed to our overnight spot, a mountain refuge. We arrived just after lunch and spent a lovely afternoon with Wolfgang and Yogi. needless to say they wanted to watch the world cup in the evening so despite all my efforts I couldnt miss it.
Sunday 13 June P St Martin to Lescun
It was misty with intermittant rain when we left to cross the most incredible landscape; It was a limestone pavement pitted with holes and eroded into many shapes. Again waymarks were difficult to find because of the mist. However we made it without incident and eventually had to do what the book described as a scramble. It was a short climb...I was terrified as i dont like climbing. After getting to the top we went through a narrow path and then steeply down on a scree path which meandered around the mountain tops. we saw some chamois. Eventually we started an interminal descent of over 1500m with the scenary changing to pasture and then woodland. It was here that Les really started to suffer. It took him 2.5 hours to get to lescun from a sign which said 1 hour. I went on to get accommodation and found the village full. I met an English man, mathew who directed me to a Chabre D'hote where we could stay one night. The owner drove me up to look for Les but we found him in the village. We ate in the local pub and met up with Wolfgang again and ......yes we watched the Germany match.
Monday 14 June Rest Day
overcast and cool and misty.
The english guy, Mat drove me to the nearest ATM to restock on cash and on my return our patron drove us to Estaut where we booked two days accomodation. Over Lunch at the pub the patron offered to drive me back to lescun tomorrow for me to continue my journey. People are so hospitable it is quite humbling. I have also been amazed at my ability to converse in my very basic french and be understood.
Any way folks thats all for now. Speak at the next opportunity, Au Revoir.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Tuesday 1st June Bridgwater to Hendaye

Liz drove me to Bristol airport. We checked in my rucksac and waited for Les, and waited and buttock clutchingly waited. He arrived about 10 mins before closure. Off we went and arrived in Bordeaux sans incident! We shared a cab to the station with a young Ossie who sat with us on the plane. My ticket to Hendaye was less than Les` cos I`m old. Arrived and booked into an hotel opposite the station. After eating we went in search of the sea to dabble our toes. Dark by the time we found it but took some photos anyway (see above). We did think of asking the young couple on the beach to take a shot of both of us but as they were horizontally reposed at the time we thought better of it. And so to bed.

Wednesday 2nd June Hendaye to Olhette
Breakfast at 7 am then off in search of a shop for supplies etc. Nothing opened until 9am. Bought all we wanted except gas for my cooker, so it`s full marks to Cicerone and nil points to Cotswold! We then set off a day early on the route to Olhette, rather than hang around in Hendaye. It was raining a bit but brightened up. Once we hit the trail it was good walking with a reasonable climb. We overtook two Dutchmen and about an hour later on reaching a suitable lunch spot just past the Col D`Osin we were amazed to find them already there. They used an unsigned shortcut!! Lovely view of a lake at this point. More climbing to fantastic views. A distinct danger of running out of superlatives before the really stunning stuff. Les wanted a rest at Mandale and so we spent 45 mins in a bar before pressing on. More steep ups before we descended into Olhette. We booked into the Gite D`Etape and booked an evening meal. Spent a pleasant evening talking with an elderly german lady, Barbara who was doing the compostella.

Thursday 3rd June Ollehette to Ainhoa
Started walking at 0835, and almost immediatly took a wrong turn. We followed a stream for quite a while and became worried we had not seen any way marks. Eventually I checked the GPS and found we were on a trail much lower on the hillside. A bit of judicious scrambling and we found another track which led us up to the GR10. The climb was gruelling in the heat. We reached the Col des trois fontains at about 1045. Scenary again stunning. Went passed a chain railway going to the top of La Rhune and waved at the tourists. It was then into a long descent to Sare which we reached at lunchtime. It was very hot so we stopped in a bar (juice d`orange pour moi) for an hour before pressing on down an old Roman road. The rest of the day was on rural lanes and tracks through pleasant farmland untill a steep 80m ascent which brought us to the road to Ainhoa. We found accomodation in a little self contained flat (bedroom/lounge, kitchen, toilet) attached to a Basque perfumerie for €40. After a nightcap in a local bar we retired.

Friday 4th June Ainhoa to Bidarray
Off at 0745 and stopped to get bread and supplies. The usual steep climb up a road, to a chapel and three crosses. Then continued on past some vultures who watched us with beady eyes! It was very tiring and on reaching the col de Mehatche we had a gentle stroll along a grassy track untill reaching the top of some crags. We then had to descend down a vertigenous path down the face of the crags which was very scarey for those of us that can`t stand heights. In places it was verging on climbing. At the bottom we followed a river and then had a very steep ascent again up over a ridge until we hit a small road leading to Bidarray. After half an hour on this road I thought we must have missed the village and be on tomorrows leg, but fortunately this was not the case. When we arrived in Bidarray we discovered the camp site was another km or two, down a steep hill. Les was pretty exhausted at this time so we booked into an hotel and ordered an evening meal. My ears and arms were bright red and burning from the sun. A local band and dance troop who danced with imitation axes were rehearsing out side the church which provided an interesting few moments. Les had found the day very exhausting and I became a little worried when I noted that the Cicerone guide stated that tomorrow was the first really hard day.
Saturday 5th June Bidarray to St Etienne de Baigorry
We were up and on the trail at 0745, before the shop opened so had limited supplies plus one litre extra water. It was relentlessly up and up in scorching temperatures. Les became more and more exhasted and frequently stopped for rest periods. We eventually reached the Pic d`Iparla after over 4 hours of treking up, picking our way over boulders etc. We carried on a bit further before stopping for lunch, but Les was unable to eat any. Progress here was a little better but was still up and down as the path followed the ridge (a bit like steely rig for those Hadrians wall fans, only more so). We then descended to the Col d`Harrieta where Les discussed cutting the day short. I talked him out of this and we pressed on with even more steep ascents and descents up to the pic`s d`Astate and Burtanzelhay (See top photo above). There then followed another slow steep descent which eventually brought us to a surfaced road which led us to St Etienne de Baigorry. However nothing is ever simple and it just kept going on and on. I was quite a bit in front of les at this point and kept plodding on. We both ran out of water. Again I thought we must have missed the village but eventually I found some people who told me it was 5 minutes further down the road. I was just walking into the village square at 6.30pm when a car drew up beside me. It was Alain and Francoise, two friends from the area, with whom we had arranged to spend a rest day on Sunday. We were both totally exhausted, but with 4 days completed there are now only 46 left to do!!! A and F took us back to their place at Garras, near St Palais where we spent an lovely evening. We met them when the Stanchester Quire did an exchange with a Basque Choir in 2000 and 2002.
Sunday 6th June Rest Day Garras
Heavy thunderstorm in the night and again during the day. Shopping for supplies in the rain first thing then a relaxing day writing journal updating this blog etc. Not sure when next update will be as it will be in an internet cafe.
Also I am unable to sort out how to get the photo`s in the right place due to my lack of understanding of french so you will have to make the most of it as it is.
Au revoir mes amis.