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]

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Day 17 - Vielle Aure to Cabane Ourtiga

So tired was I last night that when I went back out to the supermarket to pick something up for tea, I couldn't face thinking about the other things we needed. So, this morning, after breakfast, off I went again for a shop that was successful save that I was thwarted in my tomato purchase by having forgotten to weigh and label it before I got to the till. If only the Carrefour supermarkets were consistent on the point!

It was gone 9.30 by the time we left the campsite under grey cloudy (slightly mizzly) skies and ambled off up the hill, where with great relief I skipped up the hill without trouble; so off-colour had I felt yesterday afternoon that I dreaded another day the same.

Two notable things happened as we ascended into the cloud to our high point of the day:

1) we encountered mud obstacles! 250 miles of walking and that's our first significant mud - pretty good going, I'd say.
2) on a nice level piece of path, Mick went 'ooh la la' (or some such British equivalent) as his knee 'went' with an audible graunching sound. There was no stumble or fall, no drama, just an unfortunate twisting motion that disagreed with some soft tissue.

He limped on, finding that it was fine on most terrain but that on certain cambers it would give way. Not good.

Elevenses was had at the top of the shoulder, before we started our descent to Loudenville (the supermarket croissants had for elevenses weren't a patch on those I'd bought from the boulangerie van which appeared at the campsite just after I returned from my shopping trip this morning). It was as we sat there that, with incredible rapidity, the clouds suddenly disappeared. Wow! There were impressive mountains all around us - and lots of paragliders jumping off them.

The path down to Loudenville was steep and eroded but soon we were there and there we intended to stay. Except, as it was only 1pm it seemed sensible to get the next bit of ascent out of the way and stay in Germ instead. So, an hour and a half after arriving (proving once again our inability to arrive in a village and leave again within the hour) we headed up, up and up in the warmth of the afternoon. Twenty seven degrees said the display outside of the chemist, but it's not nearly as humid as last week so it didn't feel too bad.

We knew that we could pitch at the gite in Germ, so we headed there but found the 'bivouac terrace' to be dreadfully sloping, except for one spot which was already taken. That spot was the only bit with shade too.

We had a brief chatette with the host of the gite and she confirmed that there was good camping around Cabane Ourtiga about an hour and a quarter further on. We were feeling fresh and lively enough and had no trouble deciding to go on. So much for our short day!

It was quarter past five by the time we came upon Steve camped on a tufty and slopey bit of ground on the east side of the magnificent bowl in which the cabane sits. We poked around a bit on that side of the bowl before deciding that beside the cabane was the best bet. It was a bit of extra distance but was perfect: a bowling green pitch and a bothy, with table and chairs, in which to cook.

The tent was up, tea being cooked and cups of tea being drunk when it all started to go pearshaped with the arrival of four chaps, who gave all appearances of being city boys. Their intention was a night in the bothy and a fire outside. Our tent was outside. It didn't look like we were going to get a peaceful night. So, as soon as tea was eaten, away we packed and back down to the riverside we went. Such a shame, as it was such a good pitch (and free of cow pats; there's a lot of livestock around here and most places are liberally adorned), but I'm sure the four lads will have a better night too, knowing they're not disturbing us.

We're now pitched just across the river from a French family who we first saw yesterday lunchtime (an inquisitive cow tried to steal their tea tonight!) and it's almost guaranteed that we'll be visited by cows at some point in the night. As long as they don't trip over the tent...

As for tomorrow, I promise that we are going to have a short day. If we don't, you have my permission to roundly abuse me.

Other random stuff:
1) Conrad asked about the availability of screw top gas canisters. I've not specifically been looking for them (we're using a stove which fits either screw or Campingaz, so have been using the latter) but I have noticed screw top cylinders in four or five places, including a couple of very small shops, so it looks like their availability is pretty good these days.
2) Lying here in the tent (on pitch no 2) Mick said he could see the shape of a giant gingerbread man in the hillside. I did think he was losing his marbles for a second, but he's quite right - I can see it too :-)
3) I cannot believe I have phone signal here!


  1. So after dragging him through a muddy bog Mick has a hurty knee and you refuse him an afternoon off with some healing beers! Instead, you drag him for hundreds of extra miles and thousands of extra metres of ascent!
    And then, the icing on the cake, you make him pitch the tent twice!
    If I were Mick, there would be words...

    1. It's a good job he's such a mellow, laid-back chap, isn't it?

  2. It just wouldn't be a good read without the tales of woe and minor mishaps and inconveniences.
    Such fun!

    1. Exactly! We need a bit of adversity to spice things up a bit.

  3. Hoping Mick's knee is ok - that's one problem I haven't had (yet).

    'City Boys' - probably Lambert's lot, up for a cheese and wine party. I'm surprised they are allowed to light fires.
    But, aah - you are in France, where rules are made to be broken. I love it.

    1. The knee was okay - except for on certain cambers, when it was decidedly not okay. Fortunately, those cambers didn't happen too often.

      The city boys were very polite and did check with us (firstly that we weren't going to be using the fire ring, and secondly that they didn't mind if they did) before they lit the fire. Obviously, we did mind, but didn't feel that it would be reasonable to say so, hence we moved.

  4. Cow pats - not good news when you have to get up and go out in the middle of the night.

    1. Indeed - particularly as I don't usually bother taking a torch out with me. I do, however, always put my Crocs on before I go out.

  5. Hope Mick is ok? Gosh, the trials and tribulations of long distance backpacking fraternity!

    1. As I've said to Martin above, Mick's knee proved to be fine, as long as he was on the right sort of terrain. Narrow, deeply eroded paths were definitely bad news, but they were largely avoidable.