Still in Cauterets

by Administrator 25. July 2008 15:29
25.07.08 Friday.

Cauterets Walk Valley de Lutour.

A good night with no more thunderstorms, good if a bit cloudy today, we have another “training walk” just to keep the legs in trim - up on one of the local minibuses at 50cents each to La Railliere. A motley collection of elderly ?locals got on and were greeted personally by the driver and no payments made, we were delivered to the stop at the road side and they drove another 50 yards to the door of the Centre for Rheumatics that is the only other building in the place except for the shops and Cafes. We still don’t know if we gatecrashed the hospital run for the day, but no one seemed to mind. A gentle amble up a delightful valley with several trout fishermen in action I think, in common with a lot of the area there is some fine trout fishing to be had, (note for DP).
We ambled back to Cauterets to catch the Friday market and got seven trout, several texts having ensured that Karl and family plus Ralph were expecting to be with us by late afternoon. We also got a piece of strong local cheese made from a mix of sheep and cow milk, the sheep only, Brebis was not really flavoured enough, and they do insist that you try before you buy. Also got some useful info about the opening of refuges, guardians and food availability that should help cross the High Pyrenees using some of the Haute Route Pyrenee long distance path.
Finally doing some washing as it looks a good drying afternoon.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


Rest day 2 in Cauterets

by Administrator 24. July 2008 19:20

24.07.08 Thursday.

Cauterets to Pont d’Espagne. And back.

A brief thunderstorm with about 10mins rain last night just shows how unpredictable Pyrenean weather can be. A gentle day today, we walked up the GR10 trans Pyrenees route from Cauterets to Pont d’Espagne. Neither of us could remember doing the part from Cauterets to La Raillerie, (a classic tourist place where cuddly marmots whistle from shop fronts). The walk started with a steep pull up out of Cauterets from behind the thermes (the natural hot water baths) and then continued on a more or less level angle up the valley before finally dropping down to La Raillerie. The walk from here to Pont d’Espagne is a classic one past multiple waterfalls through woods with springs rising at the side of the path to rush to join the main torrent.
There was low cloud in Cauterets at the start but we quickly climbed above it out of the town and then just stayed ahead as it advanced and retreated up the valley. We seem to be making good use of our few days stop in the mountains and reaccustomising our legs to up and down instead of flat level walking.. Today we walked 13 miles with 600m of ascent and descent, a reasonable rest day!
We had considered today climbing up Pic De Peguere. It was fortunate that we hadn’t attempted this route as it turned out that the old mule path had collapsed in places and thus the route was impassable.
On our return the low cloud threatened to turn to rain, so an early evening meal and the purchase of a large tarpaulin, for use as a cooking shelter or as emergency shelter for the next few days in the Haute Pyrenees.
The bridge at Pont d’Espagne, which neither of us recognised, is slightly above the car park for the Lac de Gaube the lake up under the Vignemale Glacier (or what remnants of it remain) and when our families did this part of the GR 10 we may have been too anxious to descend to the purchase of marmots, and ice cream, and hence missed it. It is a classic walk and reputedly beloved of the Romantic Poets and others of that age.

JD & BD note that photographic evidence from our last visit suggests the Vignemale glacier may not have shrunk very much (as yet).




Still in Cauterets

by Administrator 24. July 2008 05:44
23.07.2008 Wednesday.

Cauterets Cirque du Lis.

A grand day out, up to the town and bought breakfast and lunch, croissants etc on offer (probably yesterday's but tasted fine) and a coffee then waited 10mins for the ski lift to start. It's open July to Sept then closes until the snow starts, less and later each year.
Up from 900m to 2,300m leaving 300m to Soum de Grum and a 2 mile traverse along the arête and down the far side at one point to avoid some serious climbing bits, to Moune Neo ou Pic De Monne at 2,724 m our highest point of the day. It’s really great to be back in the mountains after so long in relatively flat lands. The views of the surrounding mountains including the 3,000m peaks of Vignemale and Balaitous were superb in completely clear conditions. After a long sit on the top and lunch we commenced the 1,800m descent back to Cauterets visible from the top but taking a long time to appear closer. On the descent we sighted a marmotte hole and heard a marmotte whistle (but as yet the only marmottes seen have been cuddly toys) and a number of vultures who were below as and not more than a few metres away before they were lifted up and away on the thermals. Back to the campsite to catch the sunshine for drying washing which is limited severely by the high sides of the valley.


Some extra photos

by Administrator 23. July 2008 12:36

Especially for blog addicts, a few extra photos from the past couple of weeks.

Where next?

Tim & Tony, Brantome

Running repairs

Surgical repair

Camino waymarking


This how they really look now!


The Harris Butchers bag is still in use every day



To Cauterets

by Administrator 23. July 2008 05:54
22.07.08 Tuesday

Ayzac-Ost to Cauterets.

Cauterets is a spa/ski town well up the valley du Gave de Pau, walking today includes another 4-5 miles on the flat up the cycle path, converted railway track and then another 6 miles or so up a track in the narrowing valley with a climb of about 400 metres.
This track is the path of the old electric tramway from Pierrefitte to Cauterets. This started service in 1901 and ran until its closure in 1949. 50 years later the route was brought back into life as a footpath and cycleway to reopen in 2005. It is a superb route, using the century old engineering (there is a 400 metre long tunnel) to provide a well graded route right into the centre of Cauterets.
Yesterday evening we were surprised when a pair of rabbits appeared on the area opposite our tents, they were quite obviously tame (keepers not eaters) but seemed to belong to no one. They hopped about doing rabbity things for an hour or so and then shot back through the hedge in the direction of some chalets when the campsite dog arrived. Whether they were just running or this was the signal for home we don’t know but they were back the following morning as we started off at 07:00 so we think they had been somewhere safe for the night.
We are now in the mountains proper and plan to do some day walks without our enormous weighty rucksacks up a few 2-3000 metre peaks, Cauterets is at 914 m and the help of the ski lift is planned for tomorrow; no further forward progress will be made until we meet Ralph and others on Saturday.

Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Ayzac-Ost

by Administrator 21. July 2008 15:41
21.07.08 Monday.

Lourdes to Ayzac-Ost

A damp evening and night, not heavy rain just low cloud, we got up about 07:30 to strike camp having taken our little Laser Competition tents down as soon as it started to rain yesterday. Our ladies' tents are returning with them and can be dried at home, we prefer dry tents to carry as they are significantly lighter than when wet.
The ladies left at 09:00 to drive back to Bordeaux and their flight home, we slowly wandered through Lourdes (and there are some nice bits which are not totally enveloped in the pilgrimage trade) and up the very well ordered cycle track up the valley towards Cauterets. We think this will be a base for us, Ralph, Karl and family until time for the push to the border. The track is of course an old railway line along the Gave de Pau, the river flowing out of Gavarnie - the enormous cirque on the border with Spain. This river joins the Ardour after its more circuitous route to meet the sea at Bayonne.
We have found a small campsite, but this may become increasingly difficult as this one at least is almost full.
Link to where we are on Google Maps



by Administrator 20. July 2008 17:31
20.07.08 Sunday

Lourdes. Again.

Still on the Municipal Campsite Domec in Lourdes, this is a pleasant site in earshot of the station announcements but not obtrusively so. we have as neighbours a French couple who have done the Camino and who welcomed us to the site with the traditional greeting: “Do you need anything, are you well?”. This is the same sort of greeting we have received from others who have done the pilgrimage. I think it is an indication of what is to come. We shall see when we finish.
This has been a great two days rest our wonderful ladies brought with them in spite of the luggage restrictions of budget airlines, all that we need for the Pyrenean part of the journey. We will be joined at the end of the week by Ralph, Tony’s son, who is travelling down with Karl and Claire and their family. They will be seeing the Pyrenees through fresh eyes as neither they nor their two sons have seen these mountains and valleys before. We shall spend the next days as guides and local walkers with them until it is time for us to brave the Col de Somport and pass over into Spain, at this time they will take home all our camping gear and big rucksacks. We shall be able to travel light on the Camino proper using the chain of pilgrim hostels to reach Compostella.
Today we spent revisiting a part of the GR10 (the coast to coast Pyrenean) route we all did about 20 years ago. We drove (luxury for us two) up to Pont D’Espagne and went up to Lac de Gaube under the highest French Pyrenean summit (Vignemale). As in the past the increase in altitude of 4-5,00 feet got us above the cloud layer and we had lunch on the banks of the stream flowing clear from the lake with blooming orchids around us.
Back on the campsite all was low cloud and gradual drizzle as we packed up tents and sorted gear ready for tomorrow’s departure.

Link to where we are on Google Maps


Still in Lourdes

by Administrator 19. July 2008 17:34
19.07.08 Saturday.

In Lourdes a true rest day no forward progress.

Woke late, got breakfast with jam bread Croissant and coffee, and were joined by Graham and George.
We then meandered slowly into Lourdes and had lunch before Graham & George went back up north to Bergerac. Lourdes is the ultimate tourist trap (the French Blackpool?) and although we had been through it before we had never walked its streets, an experience. It is full of people from all catholic countries - both officials in the faith and members - many of whom are disabled in some way and being helped by others, and one presumes hoping for another miracle or at least an alleviation of their condition. The cathedral is large and ornate and outsized for the small Pyrenean town that it stands in above the river Adour. It is full of tacky souvenir and gift shops, selling everything from a Madonna in a snowstorm to a plastic water container with a Lourdes logo on the side. (To be filled from the taps producing Holy water at the side of the Grotte).
The weather is very hot and Betsy is wilting as befits an Irish rose. Jane is equally hot, but it’s such a pleasant change to be so after the long, cool summer we have had in England! We have also been shopping for replacement walking shoes for the Spanish part of the trip; the boots are nearly finished and have been repaired several times. We intend to carry much less weight in Spain relying on the pilgrim hostels and so we can use light weight trek shoes instead of boots.
Later in the afternoon it was time to attend to our hairdressing needs, Tony is the only pilgrim to bring out his personal hairdresser to France for a haircut and beard removal (no more catching spiders webs while walking through forests), Jane: It is not a professional job(!!), but at least he will be cooler. We could have stuffed a cushion with the hair that was taken off him.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Lourdes

by Administrator 19. July 2008 09:43
18.07.08 Friday.

Juillan to Lourdes.

Last night we made contact with Graham and went out for a meal at the Argentine grill down the road. We walked out after paying for our pastis, the tapas starters were indescribably bad fast food deep fried breaded mush, never ever done that before but feel it was well deserved. We went back to the hotel and had a very good meal if a little nouvelle cusine that left us a bit hungry in the morning when we walked off to Lourdes, George was an enthusiastic participant walking four times further than the rest of us. Lunch was taken in the shade at the side of a track with our feet in a dry ditch (we had to cram in the full pilgrim experience for Graham in only one day).
After lunch we walked down into the little village of Bartres where the miracle of Bernadette was reputed to have happened. We passed the fountain of Bernadette with its huge car park for a couple of dozen coaches and rapidly on down into Lourdes to a remarkably pleasant campsite called Domec just of the main road into Lourdes. We then went shopping for a good meal to await the arrival of Betsy and Jane from Bordeaux in their hire car.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Juillan

by Administrator 18. July 2008 06:45
17.07.08 Thursday.

Montaner to Juillan

After a good night once the yap dog from the family next door had been put to bed, we were up at 06:15, there has been no one around to pay any fees to so we left, a simple but adequate campsite. No shops and no food so a cup of coffee and 10 miles or so to Ibos on a chocolate bar. It was good walking along a low wooded ridge so we arrived for coffee and patisserie at 11:30. Little of note except that after a dry night and no dew it rained most of the morning, the trees kept the worst off so our luck holding really.
At one bend in the road was a 'table d'orientation'. This was beautifuly made and installed in 1952 identifying dozens of peaks in the pyrenees. It was of no use to us unfortunately as a) it was damp and the visibility was not good and b) trees had been planted in front of the table so the only possible view was of said trees!
We then went on the extra couple of miles to Juillan where our friend Graham had booked him and us into a Logis Hotel L’Aragon - it is on the main road from Tarbes to Lourdes and since we joined from the side through the old village we wondered which way to turn when we found the road, but we made ourselves understood to madame behind the bar in a local café and soon found it, they were even expecting us. Amazing how a plan made by text and email can hang together!
Had a walk around and went to supermarket to get lunch for tomorrow and on return to the hotel were greeted by an enthusiastic George with Graham who had just arrived. All set now for a walk to Loudes tomorrow.
Link to where we are on Google Maps