Wednesday 29 July
Just as the light faded from the sky last night, the cows all around the bowl started loudly and persistently to bellow. We peered out of the mesh of the tent (we generally sleep with the fly sheet tied back) but couldn't see what was going on. After about five minutes of the fracas there came a human shout. Today we learned that one of the herds wanted to be where Steve was pitched and had become a bit agitated at his presence. The shout was at the point when one of them shoved its nose down into the flysheet, understandably causing alarm from within the tent, not knowing if a hoof was going to follow. At least it's not just us who has occasional trouble with livestock!
Happily (and very much to my surprise), not a single cow came to trouble us in the night. I would, therefore, have had a good long sleep, if I hadn't made a stupid error at 8pm. With a headache that was showing signs of getting really stuck in, I took some painkillers. When, at about 11pm, I was still feeling wide awake, it occurred to me that maybe I had taken the wrong ones. A shufty in the first aid kit revealed that I had. Instead of plain paracetamol I'd taken the stronger painkillers which contain caffeine. Doh! I don't usually take those after 3pm. Eventually, after much audio book listening, I dropped off.
After a bit of a lie in (short day ahead and all that) we set off this morning for the first climb of the day: 500 metres up to a pass. Very pleasant it was too, with the descent down the other side made more interesting by a big band of vultures which had found a meal. We stood and watched a while (what an evil sound they make) before starting the drop down the very steep valley side to a bar/restaurant at the bottom, which we had earmarked for coffee.
The steep drop turned out to be fast and easy thanks to well graded switchbacks, although we did dead-head and cross the stream (dry-shod) at the bottom rather than detouring, per the proper route, to a bridge further along the valley. We were at the cafe by 10.45 and only 45 minutes from the intended end of our day at Lac d'Oo.
Joined by Steve for coffee, over an hour was spent chatting before we headed off to the lake - along with the rest of the world and his wife. That path really was ridiculously busy, so much so that we wanted to be out of the crowds ASAP, and thus took the ascent at quite a lick (only possible because it was another gently graded one).
Well, I know that I promised a short day today, but we couldn't stop at quarter to one, and besides it was too crowded at the lake to make stopping an attractive option. Instead we went on a little way to a patch of shade and had lunch whilst admiring the surroundings.
It's no wonder it's such a popular spot. Just the shape of the bowl in which the lake sits is impressive enough but added to that is the spectacle of any number of waterfalls tumbling into the lake, the most impressive of which is a big gusher standing 273m tall. Our lunch spot had a great view of the biggie.
With lunch eaten (peanut flavour wotsit-type corn snacks, anyone?!) the third climb of the day was on the cards, this one being the biggest of the day at 800m. Again it was relatively friendly, as ascents go, and once we turned off from the path which leads from Lac d'Oo to Lac d'Espingo we lost most of the crowds. Unfortunately after about 600m of ascent we also lost the views, as the cloud came down to meet us. We have no idea what our surroundings were like for the rest of the day.
Our day wouldn't have been as long as it turned out to be if we hadn't erred with water. At the last guaranteed stream we picked up two litres apiece (not wanting to carry more so far up and over the pass), knowing that if push came to shove we could make it through the night with that. Based on experience to date it seemed almost certain that one of the subsequent seasonal streams would be running. They were all dry, and we really didn't want push to come to shove and to have to manage with what we had.
So, we didn't stop at the next flat area but continued on up another two climbs to get over the next pass (bringing the total ascent for the day to 1950m), in the hope that the spring mentioned in the Trailblazer guide book (mentioned in a "don't rely on it" way) on the other side of the pass would be running.
Seldom have I been so pleased to see running water. I may have even done a little happy dance. Then I collected up 2 litres whilst Mick went scouting for a pitch. Where we've ended up is not going to win any Pitch Of The Year awards. The whole area is liberally scattered with dried sheep and cow poo. But, given that it was raining by this point, the quality of the pitch was pretty irrelevant; we found somewhere flat, level and reasonably poo-free and we're now ensconced in the tent until morning. Maybe by then the cloud will have lifted and we'll find we have a stunning view...
As for that short day we're due: tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow.
Other random stuff:
You may have noticed that I'm not giving a daily distance figures at the top of each post. That's because I don't generally know how far we've walked, as we're not following the guide book stages and I can't be doing with measuring with a bit of string. Ascents are usually easier to work out, hence I'm mentioning those figure more frequently.