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]

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Day 3 - Before Bidarray to St Etienne de Baigorry.

Today was approx 13 miles. That was about 1.5 miles too far. With hindsight, when we came to an unexpected water source about that distance from St Etienne, we should have made use of the nice shaded flat spot opposite it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing; we hadn't descended into the heat of the valley at that point.

Back to yesterday night, we enjoyed a pitch with a view, in the shade of a substantial stone-built animal shelter, which sits on the ridge right by where the GR10 starts its descent to Bidarray.

That steep down was, I think (ignoring the last 1.5 miles when I just wanted to lie in a cold stream) the hardest part of the day. It would have been easier in ascent.

Arriving in Bidarray the long way round (completely missed the turn for the proper route and didn't notice for far too long), we were pleased not to have been there last night. With the dregs of a festival still in town, I don't think it would have been a peaceful place to catch up on sleep.

A longer-than-intended stop was had in its bar/restaurant as we enjoyed coffee, juice and croissant. Supplemented by a bunch of bananas eaten outside of the shop, we went onwards to start the biggest climb of a day involving 1300m of up and 1700m of down.

The climb, whilst a sweaty affair wasn't as hard as I had expected and the rewards from the next few miles along the ridge were great.

Our first proper (not stilted) third party conversation of the trip took place on that ridge, when we met an English couple heading in the other direction.

At the halfway point of the ridge, in a lovely beech woodland, where the breeze blew nicely, we passed the only advertised water point of the day and considered staying there the night. But it was only 1415, so instead of stopping or picking up water to carry to a dry camp we opted to commit to the long day, down to St Etienne.

The highlight following that lovely woodland (festooned with waymarks and gloriously cool) was walking close to a rock on which not fewer than 24 vultures were perched.

The lowlight of the day, as you may have gathered, was the hot final 1.5 miles down the road to town, where the campsite was a further walk in the wrong direction (although the number of horse fly bites is also a contender).

At €6 for the two of us, it's excellent value, particularly as showers are included and my first priority on arrival was to stand under some cold water.

And now, I think it's time to blow up my bed and collapse into it (having typed this sitting on the hard ground outside).

(Incidentally, if the above comes over as doom and gloom, then I've misconveyed. Apart from the last couple of miles it was a great day.)

(Also incidentally, three other of the seven backpackers met at second breakfast yesterday are also at the campsite tonight; I suspect they'll go ahead of us tomorrow as we have a shorter day.)


  1. Ooo, hot. A lot of vultures, only a tad worrying...and a whole bunch of bananas between two in one sitting. That would repeat on me.
    Have a nice evening!

  2. We're following with great interest. Beers! There must be beers.

  3. I remarked on the enjoyment of that ridge, but it was in mist so no views At St. Etienne I posted my ice axe home. It's strange when you consider what you have just written and find it does not convey what you intended. That got me into a bit of an embarrassing spot with my summary of the Macmillan Way. It looks like Martin has caught up with you blogwise and I am in bother again with my anti-horse comment.

  4. Haha Conrad
    I remember Sue and I were busy trying to dry our tent one lunchtime when the horses thought we'd brought their lunch. We had to gather it together very quickly!

    Have you seen a basajaun yet?

    Beers? And the rosé wine is good where you are - and the restaurant food is great...

  5. You'll gradually get to know some of those other backpackers. Especially the ones who are a bit shy at first but can finish up as life - long friends.
    And Mick (in particular ) will have a good chuckle when you have your brief encounter with the pilgrims. (excellent restaurant just down and on the other side of the road to where they get their 'passports' issued btw.

    1. We probably would have got to know some of those backpackers, if we'd been walking on the same schedule. As it went, the longest period over which we encountered the same people was 2 days.

      I'd expected St Jean to be brimming with backpackers, but as it went it was very quiet indeed and we only saw a very small handful of people who we assume were pilgrims. And I thought that the second half of July would be verging on too busy for my liking!

  6. Horses, horse flies and now vultures.
    I'm not sure you're going to be in one piece by the end of this walk.
    Why on earth is Martin muttering about banjos?

    1. I'm pleased to report that we didn't have any adverse incident involving vultures, but we certainly fed the biting insects well!

  7. Replies
    1. No one ever admits to mentioning banjos...

    2. No one ever admits to mentioning banjos...

    3. No one ever admits to mentioning banjos...

    4. Is it me, or is there an echo in here?