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]

Friday, 22 July 2016

Day 9 - Goulier to Cabane Balledreyt

Wednesday 20 July
15 miles; 1750m ascent
Hazy start then hot with some sun then a bit of rain then a sudden change with a strong wind whipping up in an instant.

We were very nearly the last to leave the gite at Goulier at 7.30 this morning. Everyone else seemed to anticipate that breakfast would be available earlier than the stated 7am (as did we, but not by quite the same margin as the French visitors).

The main reason for staying at the gite last night was because being in Goulier (a place I hadn't even planned to pass through until reviewing our options yesterday afternoon) positioned us better for what may otherwise have been a hard day today, but there didn't seem, from the map, to be any campable terrain nearby (much steepness). Of course, within minutes of leaving Goulier behind we found a pitch in the woods. Always the way. (Incidentally, leaving the gite took 2 attempts, as after about 100m progress, I put my hand in my pocket and found a big lump of brass with a room key attached; Mick kindly ran back with it whilst I had the 'did I pack all the electronics' panic unpack).

The only people later away soon overtook us on the way up the hill, as we paused to apply DEET. It's not a substance I like to use, but the horseflies were out in force and after taking a rather nasty reaction to a bite I picked up yesterday, it seemed the lesser evil today.

The going was shaded and easy as we headed gently up over a couple of passes and down to Siguer where we were pleased to have opted to deviate from the route in passing through the town as doing so took us past a water tap (or, more precisely, a turn-the-handle water pump).

We needn't have bothered with the extra weight, as the next bit of ascent was nicely shaded too and we still had plenty of water spare when we got to the next village up the valley side. There we paused at great length, for a snack, for more water, to apply suncream as the day was now sunny and hot, and to seek assistance from the UK on the subject of what the implications are of overdosing on hydrocortisone cream* (the bite on my leg now being slightly alarming in its size (tennis ball diameter) and its swelling).

It was 1230 by the time we set out for our next climb and we feared the heat, but once again the climb proved surprisingly easy and very shaded.

We did, of course, arrive at the top with all of the water we'd carried from the previous village but even so, I wished we had carried more. Next we had another 500m of up, most of which was shadeless and we were about to reach the hottest part of the day, so I stuck to plan and took a packless detour to the nearest spring, just under a 1km round trip away. It was deliciously cold water I got from there, the bottle immediately covering itself with condensation.

Back with Mick on the pass, we thought we may as well have lunch and by the time we finished rain was in the air. It didn't amount to much and certainly didn't require waterproofs.

I found the climb up to the summit of the hill Plat du Montcamp (1904m) hard going but it's always true that if you plod on you'll get there in the end, and plod I did.

Our intention had been to stay near Cabane Courtal Marti, which we could see from the summit, but the surrounding area was being heavily grazed by cows, horses and mules, so having discounted the option of a night in the cabane, we sat outside for a few minutes considering the maps.

What a change in the weather in those few minutes! The nice breeze which had kept us cool since lunch suddenly became a strong wind, whipping dust up all around us. By the time we left the spring 300m away (yep, yet more water needed, to get us through the night this time, adding itself to that I'd diverted for at lunchtime, which hadn't been touched - it was just a day for carrying too much water!) it was raining and cold enough for me to don a jacket.

Making a meal of re-finding the path, down to Cabane Balledreyt we went, expecting it to be a ruin as that's what one of my guidebooks said. It turns out that it was rebuilt in 2014 and is now a very smart bothy complete with a camping stove, food and drink supplies and an honesty box.

A solo lady (who got subjected to my fumblings with her language as she spoke no English, but she seemed to understand me) was already in residence, but there are two separate rooms so we could have had the other. We opted, however, to camp. If I hadn't gone on such a big tour of the local area looking for the best pitch, and had taken the first option Mick had pointed out (which is also the one we finally used), then we would have had the tent up before the rain came. I'm sure the solo woman thought us mad to be pitching in the rain and stiff wind when there was a perfectly good building next to us.

None of the other eastbounders from the gite last night have been seen. Either they have had really long and fast days or the reason they were so keen on an early start and to scoot off was by way of a race for the 6 free beds available, on a first-come basis, in Siguer. The gite there closed down last year and for those without a tent it's a long way from Goulier to the next accommodation which isn't a cabane.

Well, tea has now been had inside the cabane and my chocolate mountain has been reduced a little (it was cheaper yesterday to buy five cheap slabs of chocolate than one branded slab, but I couldn't bring myself to throw the excess bars away, so we set out this morning carrying over 700g of chocolate), so our food bags are finally reducing slightly. A retreat to the tent has now been made. It's a midgefest out there. Wherever did that wind go that so battered us just a couple of hours ago?

No photos today - very hazy so no good views. (Actually, here's one of our pitch, taken the following morning:

(*thank you Louise - again :-))


  1. Our resident pharmacist confirms that you can't overdose on (external) application of hydrocortisone cream! We hope it's working.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Doh! Can't believe I didn't think of Sue when I was trying to think of someone who would know the answer to that one. I'm pleased to report that the slightly alarming bite reaction is no longer alarming. Many other bites are also receiving hydrocortisone, but only at the recommended dose.