‘…the first hour was taken up by a story of a pigeon riding the tube…’
Well it’s been a hard week. Since meeting up with Fiona we’ve walked a lot, like a lot a lot. The first day was relatively calm, new, wanted to ease into walking with Fi again, partially her feet, partially Craig and I processing her verbal trains of thought. For example, the first hour was taken up by a story of a pigeon riding the tube…
We camped out in Etsaut, at a little free spot by a river, dined on ice cream from the bar and the usual tuna and couscous. A revelation occurred to Fiona recently, that she is not allergic to wheat and can in fact eat chocolatines, (pain au chocolate); it was only a matter of time. We also discovered possibly one of the route causes for Fiona’s slower pace and probably the larger-than-usual blisters she sustained the other week…her pack is stupidly heavy. Having decided that any sort of occasion may have sprung upon us in the Pyrenees, Fi clearly decided the wisest move was to pack her entire wardrobe. I guess she would have been laughing when Craig and I were suddenly caught unaware in a black tie event with nothing to wear. Needless to say we helped her repack and find a few sets of clothes to get rid of.
The next day, after waiting for the post office not to open (tiny villages in the south of France cannot be relied on) we left for what was the biggest day in the guidebook so far. We climbed up the face of a cliff for about 700m using a track quite literally blasted out of the rock face (by the French navy in 1770), and as the sun got higher found a cabin to rest in for a few hours.
After our siesta we pushed to the top, it’s the first time we got above 2,000m and it felt pretty good; the views were amazing.
‘The only reason I kept going was the knowledge that the easiest way to make the pain stop was to get to the top, going down was no easier and I was about 10km away from any town behind me. ‘
Sadly upon descending we found that the shop that had been there when the guidebook was written 14 years ago, was now…well…not. Looked like polenta with polenta for the next 24 hours.
Tuesday was Bastille Day, meaning all the French are supposed to rest and chill, not us, again our biggest day yet. After waking up and eating plain bread, we pushed through another massive ascent to Gourette, a ski town, where we found shops and more importantly, an abundance of ice cream. A few hours later we decided to move off so we could catch up another day (ever trying to get to Banyuls a couple of days early) and finally found a nice wild campsite atop a Col with a water supply. Thoroughly exhausted we set up camp at about 9pm and pretty much immediately went to bed. We’d covered 32km and an incredible 2,200m ascent.
Wednesday was yet another massive day, 31km in 7 hours with 1,500m ascent found me very very close to breaking point. On the final kilometre of the ascent I could no longer feel my legs and had to stop every 20 or so meters and spend two minutes pep talking myself into moving another 20m. The only reason I kept going was the knowledge that the easiest way to make the pain stop was to get to the top, going down was no easier and I was about 10km away from any town behind me. The only way was up. We finally got to a refuge by Lac d’Ilhéou, where Craig and I iced our legs as the sun went down.
Yesterday was again, huge, 29km in 6 hours. We may be shattered but we’re doing incredibly. After a short ‘stuff-as-many-chocolatines-in-your-mouth-as-possible-break’ in Cauterets we moved on trying to push to Luz Saint Sauvier. Sadly a massive thunderstorm and a campsite promising pizza (a promise based thoroughly upon lies), dragged us into cover a few km short, where we are taking a rest day now.
In the last 5 days we have again caught up a day (now four ahead of schedule), walked 115km and ascended nearly 7,000m. We’re over a third of the way through, and I think we’ve earned our rest day. I shall be by the pool if you need me.