The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Day 19 - After Col de la Coume to Bagneres de Luchon

There's nowt like a sudden and unexpected thunder storm to get us moving in the morning. It was 6.22am when we first heard a rumble and, having arrived at our pitch in awful visibility we had no idea how exposed (or conversely, how well protected by nearby prominences) we were. We did know that we were still very high and thus quickly decided that we should get moving.

No cups of tea were drunk (in fact we ended up ditching the entire 2 litres of water we walked so far to find yesterday), no breakfast was eaten and away we packed. We didn't beat the all-time speed record held by the night of the wild horses, but that 16 minutes from bed to walking was in dry conditions. Today we both had to pack away completely in the confines of the tent, and waterproof everything* before going out into the lashing rain. It took us 31 minutes from lying in bed to setting off. Still not bad, I think.

Off we went, sometimes in the murk, sometimes in the gap between two layers of cloud, until 45 minutes later we reached a cabane just outside of Superbagneres. I was just eyeing up the covered porch of the cabane for breakfast purposes when a Conrad-esque** incident occurred: the shepherd poked his head out of the door and asked if we would like coffee.

Did we ever?! The poor chap had no idea, when he put a pan of water to heat and we stripped off our outer layers on his porch, that he was committing himself to an hour of communication difficulties (he would have much rather have had you round for coffee, Conrad!). Fortunately he was a very good communicator, with great powers of expression, such that only once did he have to resort to drawing a diagram to explain something we just couldn't grasp (in our defence he was telling us about a caterpillar-tracked digger with arms which grasp the hillside enabling it to operate on extremely steep hillsides - he later pointed it out to us in one of the clearer interludes, where it is sitting in an unfeasible position, digging the foundations for a new ski lift). It was a very enjoyable and informative hour but eventually we felt we ought to move on, even though the rain was still bouncing off the roof.

We went all the way to Superbagneres (maybe 10 minutes away) before next seeking shelter. With none of the cafes yet open we simply stood as inconspicuously as we could in the corner of the lobby of the Grand Hotel (where no cups of tea were available, or we would have happily given them some custom; we still hadn't had anything to eat either) and dripped gently onto the floor.

There was no option for an easy out from here: the gondola to Luchon had been closed (or, rather, not opened) due to the weather. Thus, off we set for the final couple of hours down to Luchon.

The walk was quite nice. The weather was pure comedy, as the most ridicously heavy rain fell and fell and fell (and thunder still rumbled). I would imagine that if we'd had a long day ahead we might have been made miserable, but with town so close, the weather was a source of amusement.

Pleased to have reached town, and very hungry indeed, we found ourselves an eatery with covered outside tables (we were way too wet to go indoors) and got well fed before finding somewhere to stay. It was by luck rather than judgment that the place we went for has a drying room, where our outer layers are now residing, whilst the other wet stuff adorns the room.

Sitting here this afternoon we have considered our options and concluded that whilst we've enjoyed the first half of the GR10, neither of us is feeling any great enthusiasm for finishing it. We can't put a finger on why. The walking has been straightforward enough (demanding but not excessively so), the surroundings often spectacular, and we've enjoyed the majority of what we've done (the major exception being the night of the storm below the Pic du Midi d'Ossau!); we just can't drum up the enthusiasm to continue. So, unless either of us has a change of heart tomorrow***, we're heading out to Toulouse and from there home. I'm sure we won't be home for more than a few days before we head off to do something else. Maybe one day we'll come back and finish what we've started ...or maybe not. Who knows? We will, for certain, return to the Pyrenees.

*In my rush I failed miserably in waterproofing everything. The camera died as a result. The quilt and my spare clothes are drying out.
** for those who don't know Conrad ( he has an incredible record of being offered cups of tea, and even meals and the use of people's gardens as a camping pitch.
***it's now definite that we're going home. Tickets are booked.


  1. Amazing! Exactly where I packed in. Never been so cold in all my life! I was still shivering on the plane! I returned a few years once I had thoroughly warmed up :-)

  2. If, for whatever reason, the magic ingredient is missing, there doesn't seem much point in continuing. Have a good journey home.

  3. I have been in that position myself, in particular when I bailed out at Clacton-on-Sea on my planned walk round the southeast/south coast after starting from Lowesoft. I felt I owed explanation to my various followers and did my best to put my reasons into words, but on reflection now I don’t think I really got to the bottom of the complex emotions and reasons I felt at the time. I know you have enjoyed what you have achieved and that you will always be back for more. You owe no explanations to anybody and you have my admiration for your self honesty.

  4. Conrad is right: you don't owe an explanation to anyone. Somehow, I think you probably know that though!

  5. I agree with Conrad & Gibson.
    If the fun isn't there, just, Don't.
    And Geoff's comment made me laugh a lot.
    It's been a riot following you both (as always).
    Have a good trip back.

  6. Luchon can be a bit wet and miserable but the next section of GR10 is outstanding so I do hope you return.

    Hoping you sort out another trip soon, I was looking forward to a daily read over breakfast. See you soon, and do have fun!


  7. You both did well, your blogs are always a joy and an inspiration to read. One of these days you will have to consider writing a book??

  8. Sorry to hear you decided to have a rethink, but - as others have said - if it feels more like a chore than an adventure, it's probably the right thing. I often think that way these days about books - given the finite amount of time I have, why bother persevering with a duff one? Life's too short, and all that ...

    It's been great to read about your adventures, though: thanks for all the entertainment!