Friday, 22 June 2012

20-22 le barcares

as Lawr had bought a fishing rod, he thought he better go out and irritate some fish. I thought i'd try a spot of sunbathing. After a few hours we exchanged notes - Lawr had caught noting, but i had definately caught the sun! Like it here.
highs - Lawr first time fishing on trip
lows - no fish caught
note - must remember most of our northern skin has not seen the sun for years

planned a cycle route around the lake - no hills. Then tried the run after the cycle thing, which wa very sore. recovery floating in sea. It has beome amazingly windy (outside the van) and parked alongside the port we were concerned we may end up in the sea.
highs - gettting Lawr up for early training session
lows - sore knees
note - managed to fit a kilo of fromage de brebis in our small fridge

a short sea swim this morning, It was quite choppy. Le barcares are planting palm trees and generally getting ready for the summer to start! think it is time we considered moving to cooler climes. Time is passing quickly. still can't get pictures on blog.
highs - being here
lows - time
note - lpg system on van has been fantastic and very cheap to fill!! Although must remember to check gauge regularly.

19th Figueres

So culture day today. Started with some normal swimming in the pool. Then Dali was something else. It was amazing to see the range of his talent! But after 2hours we were cultured out. Had a wander around the town then back to le barcares where we are almost residents.
highs - Dali, swim
lows - too much culture
note - when negogiating a roundabout in Spain it doen't matter which lane you choose some nutter will cut you up and it'll be up to you to avoid t-boning him...

18th port selve - Figueres

so after a chilly swim in the shallows of the bay (i did see some fish but thankfully they were very small) We drove down to Figueres to see Dali. However with a stop for some tshirt shopping at decathlon we missed the museum for today! Then bought 6litres of lemonade instead of water. Parked up at sports complex and listened to Spain celebrating into the small hours. Hot.
highs -  swim, t shirts, c/spot
lows - missed museum
note - when did lemonade become cheaper than water?

17th banyuls - port selve

we took off for an early cycle to col Banyuls. It took us into spain on winding back roads then back to Llanca, cerbere, banyuls. The Saint-Cyprien cycle group were out for a sunday ride. As we casually cycled up the coastal road taking in the views the St Cyp leaders cycled along side Lawr (who was in his loud welsh top) and started chanting Franca, Franca. Well this was too much for the him and suddenly the welsh weapon was released and he acceleration up the hill with his trusty side kick in his draft!
So back at the van a little shakey after our 'gentle' cycle we headed off to find a rest stop for the night.
highs - sunday cycle, market, cricket chorus
lows - can't cool down
note - it would appear a welshman will always take on a challenge.

16th june le barcares - port vendras

started the day with a run along the pan flat roads (coud get used to this) then into the sea to 'cool' off, before heading on the coastal road south. It took us to every port and bay, but it was very pretty. The aires are very busy now but we managed to squeeze our petite camper inbetween the monster motor homes. We wandered around to the port where a number of Jamaican gin palaces were moored. It is much hotter just this we bit down the coast.
highs - sun, general fitness, fruits, new area to explore
lows - sore feet in heat
note - Lawr has found his fly swat

15th june - Le barcares

Le barcares
Life in the fast lane again. A leisurely stroll in the morning with Lawr trying out some very expensive saucisson. At 60euros a kilo we kept going.  Lovely weather so a swim was in order. No sign of swim caps and goggles so it was looking like we'd have to breaststroke today, but on passing the lifeguard station he recognised us (think it was our natural tan that gave us away) and had collected our things we'd left behind last week!
Relaxing day
highs - relaxed day, sea swim
lows - day not long enough
note -Lawr met a lady from the Rhonnda who lives here. (They are everywhere)

Friday, 15 June 2012

cycle bit

9th june
so with the van dropped off in Parcar again we headed for the train station again. Hopped on and off the trains quite happily, however on the last train we had a stroppy conductor who told us no bikes on this train! We double checked with a lovely lady who told us no problem so on we got. Then stroppy conductor marched up to us and demanded our tickets. Told him we had paid extra for the bikes but he kept saying 'Ou? Ou?' It took all our strength not to break into the jungle book song, 'ooo i wanna be like you ooo'. Thankfully we did zip it and the train rumbled on with us on board. Only 5hours to go.
It was raining at Hendaye. Were stopped by a french cyclist and asked for a shot of our pump. We headed for hotel Gare, basic room but comfortable. Noisy outside but fell asleep quickly despite it.
highs - hendaye again, another challenge
lows - trainman, sunday tomorrow
note - flipflops are dangerous, Lawr slipped down a set of stone steps, survived with only a wet bum, I was almost sick watching it...

10th june hendaye - larun
started out well at 6am with photo at beach. Overcast and windy but fine for cycling. Over col st ignace, felt a little tough with the luggage! Group of sunday cyclists passed us (not as good looking as scottish group) Lawr thought about jumping on the back but within 2mins they were gone and we plodded on. Up col pinodeita and then on to col d'osquich where it rained and rained and rained. On with the goretex and kept on going. The cyclists got fewer as the day went on. Over col de marie-blanque. We went via Ollon to avoid a poor back road, but made it to Larun on our last legs. Thankfully picked up food earlier in day so showered and fed. Absolutely knackered. Wonder what tomorrow has in store.
highs - good sunday cycle, cheeseman helpful, dog
lows - forecast, afternoon weather
note - so called cyclists forgot their chain oil

11th june larun - arreu
started with the col d'aubisque which was tough but the sun/cloud stayed with us. Over to col soulor where we hoped for a choco stop, but it was shut. Kitted up and headed down with masses of cyclists climbing from the other side. Had to perform a rescue on the way down as we noticed a collie pup diving through the traffic and cyclists. Eventually caught the fluff ball and as i was working out how to secure it in my goretex a lovely Italian Lady offered to take it to the village. We made it without any further rescues to Merens and had a lunch stop and tried to warm up. Lawr wanted nutella and banana bagettes. Felt sick after it. Onto Luz for essential cheese stop and put the half kilo in Lawr's pannier. Then there was the Tourmalet. It was lengthy and tough but a good ride. Looking back the road was spectacular. Chatted to some Brits at the top. Kitted up and on the decent it snowed and hailed on us. We were freezing but a stop for coffee at Payolle and col d'aspin would surely help? I practised some bike balancing as i crawled up the not so steep hill and the rain and wind at the top was awful.  We began the descent, 13km of wet, wild, windy winding road. Both suffering, shouting at each other to try to stay alert and keep warm. Took first hotel which was not the best with no heating, it was a chilly evening. Have to question our sanity.
highs - morning cols, didn't die on decsent, more cheese from Luz, pup rescue
lows - appalling weather, near death experience, cold hotel, having to give up pup.
note - note weather forecast and plan accordingly.

12th june arreu - saint girons
cold morning in hotel. All kit still wet. Not to worry, col de peyresourde would help dry things out. Had gone up this on the walk and it was a fine climb. Lawr was disappointed the crepeman was not open at the top of the col. Very fast and chilly descent to Luchon for food stop. Had horrible hot choco so sent it back, cafe was freezing so we moved on. Went to supermarket and bought a newspaper, not for its contents, but its thermal properties. Along road to co des ares and beret then a gentle down to st lary before the col de portet d'aspet. It was sunny the newspaper was stowed and the jackets were off as this col we were told was up to 14.2%.  Set out tentatively, it was a tough but fair climb. It was a massive descent into the valley where we kept up the pace and 'out sprinted' the rain. Into st Girons and the hotel flamme rouge hotel. All kit washed and dried. Looks like tomorrow has some busy road sections.
highs - no soaking, dry shorts, portet d'aspet not so bad, found sense of humour again (lost it yesterday)
lows - cold morning, horrible hot choco
note - don't get intimidated by someone else's account of a climb.

13th june st giron - puigcerda
left at a tardy 7.30am. quite warm and not raining (spain is always so warm). Seems to take forever to get to Massat, then we climbed to col de caougnous and col de porte. We had a freewheel down which was a little chilly. Needed to refuel with crossiants, did so at Tarrason, then a long main road drag to Ax. It was warm now and with cakes in the panniers we began the long climb to l'hospitalet and col de puymorens. Had really shakely spell half way so lightened the load by eating the cakes. Irish couple chatted to us at top and questioned our sanity. Then we went off to spain for the evening. Ended up in cheap hotel which was great. Owned by Romanian lady would couldn't do enough for us.
highs - last major col, sheeps milk, massive bed, food, sun, spain
lows - totally fatigued, Lawr has sore bum
note - with fatigued legs we found our room was on the 4th floor (reserved for the fit clients i presume)

14th june puigcerda - van
chilly but blue sky this morning in spain. set off on last part of trip in a very quite town. Surroundings getting flatter. Great views all round and could see the col we had struggled over in the snow last month. As we flagged, or just desired a stop, we came across a patisserie in Saillagouse. Almond croissants :) An undulating road to col llous, rogat and perche where we had the most fantastic descent. Quite roads, warm air, great views! Col st pierre and ternere passed without noticing then along some back roads with loads of fruit producers. Our timing was great, as usual, so we had to wait for Parcar to open. Reunited again with the beautiful van we set off to restock and plan stage three.
In the supermarket car park some plonker parked their car in full sun with the dogs inside so i went to report them. However they came back and drove off as i was getting my message across, so we didn't have to perform a smash and grab.
we love our van.
highs - descent, apricots, regional wine
lows - sore body bits
note - as i cycled over a squashed snake i mention it to Lawr. He replied - 'what? swiss steak?' clearly hunger had gotten the better of him..

A great adventure and challenge :)

update post walk 6-8th june

6th june
after a roasty toasty night with the satisfaction of the walk behind us, we had a melon breakfast before packing our beautifully clean rucsacks with soap scented kit and strolled down to the beach to release our pebbles into the Med. Many pepeole wished us a pleasant walk, and it was. We browsed the shops and strolled on the beach taking pictures. However we were keen to see Myfanwy again so we headed up for the train. However a misreading of the the timetable meant an hour wait on the bench, opening sunflower seeds which fairly passed the hour. We fired up the stove for a last camp stove coffee and watch the ants carrying away our sunflower husks. Tenacious beasties, they just can't be beaten. Jose at Parcar was surprised to see us. However we were reunited with our van and like a new puppy she wet herself. Oh bugger said Lawr we have a leaky fresh water tank..
So we went off and shopped till we dropped, about a whole 20mins, then went back to la bacares, the beach and flat ground.
highs - van, pebble release, 'proper' bed
lows - water tank leak, rugby match in Montpellier not Perpignan,
note - will have to scrub baked bird poo from van roof.

7th june
woke up early and donned the club cycle tops and went for a spin along to st cyprean. It was tough as the muscles have forgotten the movement. Tried to run along the beach but got overtaken by some toddlers with their buckets and spades. Sorted the leak, looked through walking pictures (which there were surprisingly few of!) Sampled some regional wine and local apricots.
highs - cycle, apricots, wine, van
lows - still ache
note - check the maps you have before you buy another set

8th june
long lie and leisurely breakfast, then a local market to be browsed. It was a beautiful day and the sea was calm-ish. We went to speak with the lifeguards who laughed when we told them abut swimming in a wetsuit, after all the sea was a warm 20'c. So clad in speedos, swimming, hats and goggles we went in and it was hot! We were in for about 20mins, still not sure about sea swimming but it was lovely. Hate McD's but internet access is free so coffee and blog updates.
Packed for cycle, which we have brought forward.
high - sea swim, cherries, plodding about beach
lows - sunburnt head, packing
note - after 1month the med is now warm.

Friday, 8 June 2012

update 29may - 5thjune

29th may
estang laparan - Merens
road walk to car park then up a soggy path. Lots of cars in carpark. could see refuge Rhulh from start. But of course it was closed. lots of others equipment in it, but no information on next section, so off we set. At col colmettes a lot of snow.  It was quite intimidating (as we both admitted later) but managed to plod through what should have been a boulder field. Up to crete de la llasse at 2439m. Descent of steep slippy grass to Merens at 1400m. The weather threaten to close in but it held and we had a coffee in the village waiting for the shop to open, which didn't. Lady in campsite gave us crisps and a fellow brit gave us some coucous :)
highs - boulder field covered in snow, free food, pass passable just
lows - wet grass - sore bum, river = path, shop shut
note - due to wet slippy decsent we both took a few nasty tumbles but i am pleased to report that the brown stains on our trousers are just mud..

Merens - refuge de bones hores
long walk back to village before the pretty ascent, (passing the 'professor of english' we met yesterday fishing). Stopped at beautiful lochan where i found out i had packed some ants. On to col at 2430m through boulders and snow. Refuge des besines where we met other walkers but they were on different route. So on to the next col, but we had a huge walk through a lot of snow to col at 2470m coll de coma d'anyell. Interesting over snow bridges only to be greeted with a massive expanse of snow between us and the next col... So we slipped and slid, then negogiated a fast flowing river to refuge Rouzet. We were circled by a helicoptor for about 20mins and i took a picture of a frog in the snow. Up to Portella de grava and down a convex slope. Along the tet river that despite our fatigue it was still pretty, but also incredibly endless. Refuge de bones beckoned us and we had bath, cheese, bread, new walking pole for Lawr.
highs - achievement, weather storms stayed away, no-one dissappeared into snow
lows - long day, ran out of sweets, have lump on spine
notes - now so weak can't fight off the ants

refuge de bones hores - refuge de orri
woke before alarms ready for a walk. Good tea and good sleep. Across dam then down D roads as GR awful. Into Mount Louis. Saw the commandos training at the citidel. Overdid the shopping at la cabanasse. Felt sick as we started to walk again as packing the extra food was not an option. Headed up in the hotest part of the day through Planes and chatted to other walkers, a group of dutchmen. We exchanged notes and headed off. At Orri it was lovely so we stopped for the night. We had tea with a helicopter display, then Lawr spent an hour killing flies in the cabin and we lit a fire, had coffee and reflected on the nearly snowless day.
highs - food shop open, helicopter, open fire
lows - another injury, need new body parts
notes - as the last peak of the pyrennes beckons Lawr considers a route change, so much for Banyuls in 5 days..

1st june
refuge de orri - col de jou
Easy morning on a 4x4 track. Col Mitja at 2367m was an orange stop before the steep descent to cabin de la caranca 1830m which had just opened so felt obliged to have hot choc stop. Chatted to guardian, then off through the thick woods only to meet the nutty proffessor with his fresh garlic tucked into his underpants. We made light conversation and headed to col de pal 2294m. We could see Manet but it never seemed to get closer. On reaching it eventually i spotted a cheese shop and we replenished diminished stocks. Lawr in the meantime tried to get a rather attractive collie pup called Peanut into his rucsack. It was a horrible walk to Py. And the shop was closed. Stopped for wee rest then as lack of places to camp headed to col to find a suitable stopping point.
highs - start of day, cheese, hot choco, bed
lows - long day!, poor c/spot, food shortage
notes - oranges are a much under rated food

 col de jou - refuge de pinatell
started with potential water shortage as streams very dry. Decided on alternative route which involved scrambling and rope work.  Back on the GR it was boulder hopping, scree, erodded paths, in and out of corries. We stopped for essential refuel and could hear the thunder storm brewing (good decision this morning not to do peak). Decided to go for it and made it to refuge des cortalets. Had choco and could have stayed for 3 euros. So a bit further down the valley we came across Pinatell. A refuge which had just been built/renovated and the stove was still hot from a previous occupier! Fantastic. Ate nearly all our spare food as the shops should be open in Arles sur tech - or so we are told.
highs - cushy cabin, washed fed, escaped thunderstorm, beautiful night
lows - steep alternative route, tripping up
notes - sometimes going the extra kilometre can be worth it i.e cabin

refuge de pinatell - eco gite de la palette
great rest and reluctant to get up. Clean up had b/fast then off. just an hour after Pinatell was another hut also lovely with a horse in the shelter next door, but it was too early to stop.  Path up to col cirere 1731m, very windy. Passed Auberge de Batere, which was a rundown accommodation from the mines from the 80's. Path also a VTT route and cables and gantrys all around. In Arles bought bread and strolled to supermarket, only to find lady putting shutter down. Lawr in his best french shouted - ' autres epiceres overt?' She opened back up for us and said - 'with speed', which we did. And in 6mins we were back out laden with lunch. On full tums we headed up the 700m to col de paracolls then began a massive thunderstorm right over head. No escape. So sodden we arrived at a gite no camping anywhere. However we realised an error and only had pounds left! Lovely couple accepted sterling and we had nice stay and played with Whiskey the dog.
highs - b/fast, supermarket dash, not geting fried by lightening
lows - complete soaking, no money, rocky descent
note - wish we had more notes (euros)

eco gite de la palette - Les Perthus
cloudy start, soaked by grasses and bushes. Asked for directions, bloke turned out to be an irishman. Passed yurts in forest and up to col cereder. Passed roc de france and at col de puits de les neige crossed in to spain and back at port illas via the wartime escape route. Had lunch and spoke to kiwi who lived in Cornwall. Met GR-ist whom we tried to tell that our route was a varient but he ignored us and carried on the wrong way! 4x4 track to bellgarde then into perthus. Loads of shops and had to surrender smelly rucsack before geting into shop. The guy took them then went to wash his hands after touching them. After a meal with food bought in Spain we headed to the hills to a lovely c/spot but there was no water anywhere.
highs - food cheap in spain, c/spot
lows - feeling low today
note - can't walk with out poles and even we can't drink 5litres of water and 2litres of apricot juice in one sitting

Les Perthus - Banyuls sur mer
had a 15min lie in then up as we remembered we had apricots for b/fast. Day heating up, over first col dl Ouillat 936m. Spotted a refuge and had choco urge, but they only gave us two sugar lumps. Refreshed we started to pic neulos dodging french and spanish cows. Took a variation through trees to reach Pic des pradets 1175m and onto pic de 4 therms 1156m. lunch stop and looked out over spain then on to pic sailfort 981m. It was along climb and at the top said it was 3.20hrs to Banyuls. Another steep descent and got very close to hot, sleepy cows, but nothing was stopping us now. Had broken road section and paths through vineyards for the next few hours. Could not decide which village we were heading to, but kept going. Into Banyuls some what relieved and campsite without grass only stones and gravel didn't dampen out spirits, we had made it. So on with the washing festival - everything including rucsacks. Across the road a supermarket!
It was a massive challenge but we made it :)
highs - made it, everything clean, fig bread, lardon bread, artisan cakes
lows - Banyuls seemed to get further away the closer we got it, no target for tomorrow,  may take months to recover
note - song for today - Nobody's gonna break my stride

updates 23rd -28th May

23rd may
B de Luchon - Vielha
So after a peaceful night we are on the road to spain. Waterfalls on the way up quite spectacular. Just crossing into spain the roads were in poor condition and the GR we were to follow was poorly marked. Into Bossot and went to chemist for ibrufen; 600mg was the dose she 'prescribed'. Everything seems really cheap! It really was hot and we were nearly melting by Vielha. Girl in tourist office awful, but the ladies in the VTT office were fab. Ended up hot and bothered with no camping so in basic hotel and cooked on very small balcony (no smoke alarms so it was fine).
highs - distance covered, bidet, fluffy towel
lows - tourist info girl, no campsite or campspot
note - buy legal drugs in spain

24th may
Vielha - Borda Perosa
as the sun came up we followed a very good path on the GR211, we knew we were in for a cooking day. Passed through villages that were very wealthy. We think it is to do with the skiing. They were beautiful, but we didn't take any pictures, of course.
There is still an awful lot of snow at 1600m; come on the wind and sun!
As we passed the ski station at Beret the horses and cows were just getting released into their summer pastures, great... Started to walk along the valley Aran, (it is beautiful) and heading for Montgarri refuge. It opens tomorrow, so on we went looking for nice river spot of night. Meet frenchman (funny that) who told us of spot next to refuge, over 2hours away which was lovely. Oh well its early we reasoned. Absolutely fantastic spot, but the cows founds us and we had to put up defenses of strings and sticks to keep them at bay. Must find out why Montgarri was abandoned.
highs - walking paths good, good incline, snow melting, cow defences worked
lows - fording rivers in bare feet, refuge full of mouse poo
note - naked ramblers almost caught

25th may
Borda Perosa - Rouze
headed off saying moo to the gentle coos. Climbing up towards the col d'Aula 2260m. The snow was melting but there was still many patches to cross, but watching a chubby marmot cross it we felt confident. There was a fair bit of wildlife round us - lemmings, isard, fox tracks. At the col we descended into soft snow to a shut cabin at 2150m which was brand new due to old one destroyed by a storm. Had an easy walk to col d'pause, where we stopped to watch a fox hunting 50m below us. The path now followed the gullys and we had overgrown paths to Conflens then a wood track up to Rouze. Planning to camp but the gite was wonderful and it was on a goats farm which sold fresh goat cheese!! so bought honey & lemon cheese, garlic & herb cheese and a young hard cheese. Watched the thunderstorm roll through. Then went to watch the goats being milked and the gite owners told us that the kids are used as meals for the gite. Sounds very sustainable to us. Also met a patou! She was really friendly :)
highs - col over 2000m, soft snow, gite goats, patou, cheese, no blisters, touched cow
lows - Lawr lectured on having an ice axe for the wet snow by french walker. Lawr patiently thanked him, then muttered muppet.
note - Lawr converted to goats cheese, although I ate most of it, apparently.

26th may
Rouze - Aulus les Bain
Took ages to get ready, we don't want to leave. Walked up and looked back over yesterdays col. it is quite far away now! Walked through some lovely but deserted hamlets, apart from one which is being lovingly repaired, with no road close it was some job, but it was 'guarded' by two enthusiastic dogs.
It was a cool morning through the trees,but the coffee rush was similar to that experienced on a sunday coffee stop. Through to St lizer where a guy was putting up new Gr signs. Lunch at the campsite epicere, with cheese, bread and 'fatigued fruits'. Had to take road from col latrappe as paths non existant. Rain and thunderstorms around us into Aulus, but the shops are shut! Off to campsite for warm shower and dry clothes. Tea in bandstand - the best balcony around. Wet weather due tomorrow but not going over 1800m.
highs - tree and hamlet walk, fantastic views, gite b/fast, cheese
lows - weather outlook, flipflops in rain
note - not worried about cows any more, we are in bear country.

27th may
Aulus les Bain - Vicdessos
woody walk next to streams. up to col de saleix. picked way around large cornice into lovely valley. Through trees to Auzut. Clouds forming, pitched tent asap and then the heavens opened. Have ordered some food with gite in next town.
highs - valley walk, dry in tent, late afternoon siesta
lows - Lawr burst my cup
note - it's now pentecost sunday, so no shops open again.

28th may
Vicdessos - Estang Laparan
rushed along road to get to gite for our rations. Bread and fruit. through trees to col at 1900m then down to 1700m to go back to 1900m then down to 1050m to back up to 1410m. Hard work on boulders and very steep in trees over roots, rocks and leaves. Visited cabin clarins and had a couple of tins of food. Decided to push on and go up towards dam to find nice campspot. River wash but flipflop came off, luckly it was trapped in eddie and rescued, by the fearless lone ranger. Anything for a damsel in distress he said!
highs - fruits, distance covered, sun and shade, c/spot
lows - distance covered, not knowing when to stop, blisters
note - best meal yet, cheese and apple sandwich - a valleys speciality apparently.