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 26 July 2016

Day 14 - 2 miles before Lac de Bouillouses to Orri de Baix (Eyne valley)

Monday 25 July
16 miles (ish), 500m ascent
Wall-to-wall sunshine much of day, clouding as evening came around.

It's been an eventful day - although not in terms of the walking.

It started just before 6 this morning when I very nearly brought our trip to a premature and somewhat catastrophic end. Breaking two of the cardinal rules of using a backpacking stove, I not only set it up within falling-reach of tent fabric, but I also turned my back on it.

It was as I was furtling in my food bag that a shout from Mick alerted me to the flames next to me and with much repetition of a naughty word, the stove was removed and extinguished. I think it was sheer luck that the pan of water doused the same bit of tent fabric as where the stove head came to rest, and I must have avoided melting a hole in my Thermarest by millimetres. Happily, a miss is as good as a mile and a minute later, having established that the only damage was a 3cm slit burnt into the bathtub part of the tent floor, I had a fresh pan of water on to boil. There was also a bit of mopping, but as I so nearly demonstrated, there are far worse things than that can happen than having a pan of water dumped in the tent first thing in the morning.

With our mission to get to the post office in Bolquère before it closed for lunch, we kept up a very good speed as we went past Lac de Bouillouses...

...knowing when we were getting close to the hotels and car parks by the number of day walkers coming towards us. An even faster pace was kept from there to Pyrenees 2000 (odd name for a place), as, save for a few short eroded stony sections, we were mainly on good fast tracks.

It was as we approached Pyrenees 2000 that I realised that I'd sent our parcel to the 'wrong' post office. That is to say, I realised that the PO mentioned in the Cicerone guide wasn't the one I'd used, and that the Cicerone-mentioned one was closer to the route. Ours was only about a 10 minute detour, and had other benefits, so it wasn't really a problem ... except that when we got there our parcel wasn't there. I'd identified it as being for a GR10 walker, and they'd thought "she's sent this to the wrong place" so they forwarded it on down the road to where they thought I wanted it. That was all very well, but we weren't going to make it down there before they closed for lunch.

There were some things to distract us in the meantime though. The advantage of going to Bolquère via Pyrenees 2000 was that it also took us past a sports shop and a big supermarket.

I managed to get new shoes in the sports shop, opting for the best fitting of their selection (of unknown brands) they had in my size. They're cheap and pink and (horror) have a waterproof membrane (urgh!), but they have a good sole and no holes in the uppers, so hopefully they'll prove serviceable for the final 100 miles.

It was with some distress that just around the next corner was another sports shop which didn't just have my first choice of footwear make and model, but my second choice too. It was too late by then, though, so down to the supermarket I sulked.

Supplies bought, a picnic lunch was had on the concrete outside the entrance where, just as we were finishing up, a man came over and said that he had a table and chairs in his garden and we could eat there if we liked. How nice (even if we did decline)!

Moving on, we arrived at the next post office only ten minutes before they reopened, so I took the opportunity to tape one of my toes. This didn’t bode well for the new shoes. By the end of the day both big and both little toes were taped. Admittedly, spending a few miles on tarmac probably didn't give the best 'wearing in' conditions.

There was no way I was going to ditch my old shoes with the unknown entity of my new shoes (if only I'd found the Salomon and La Sportiva vendor first; I would have had confidence in either of those), so I now had three pairs of shoes, including my mock-crocs so something had to give. As we packed away the new batch of evening meals*, the mock-crocs had to give way for food. It was a sad moment, binning them - they've been on almost every backpacking trip with me since Land's End to John o'Groats in 2008.

With our bags now heavy with 4 days' food (very heavy, I thought but maybe it was just because it had been so light this morning (see Footnote 2), we had a decision to make: to continue on the GR10 or to pop onto the HRP for a couple of days. The HRP won and off down the road to Eyne we went (as instructed by the Cicerone guide; I realised too late that there’s an off-road alternative shown on the map).

Our objective was to make it up to 2000m, as the guidebook tells us that an overnight camp is permitted beyond that point. The signs don't indicate that is so, so we're currently sitting waiting for the day walkers to clear off so that we can pitch (in fact the only signage near here tells us to be very careful of the cows. We can't see or hear them, although evidence is all around, so we hope they stay wherever they are for the night).

There’s been another marmot sighting whilst we've been sitting here. A loud whistle/squeak drew our attention, and there it was, standing on its hind legs on prominent rock just across the river.

Well, I think the time has come to pitch the tent...

*we posted ahead homemade evening meals this year, having established last year that I can't bear consecutive days of soup/pasta/rice/fish (as the lightweight choice available in supermarkets/local shops). I'd forgotten that I'd also thrown a big bag of mixed nuts into this parcel. Had I remembered I wouldn't have bought so many nuts in the supermarket. Of course, if the post office had believed the address I'd written on the label was the one I meant, then I'd have known what was in the parcel before we got to the shop.
2 the quarter kilo of jelly sweets won't have helped. These are fruit flavoured. The last lot were a bit surprising, with the green ones being menthol and eucalyptus - a flavour which, in my opinion, has no place in a bag of sweets that look like fruit pastilles.


  1. Here's a way to skip a bit of road-walk on Thur/Fri. After Ax-les-Thermes the GR10 takes a southerly loop and comes to the tiny settlement of Montalba. Continue on the GR10 to the Spanish border at Roc de France, and then after about 45 minutes through beech forest (still on the GR10) hit the border road at the Coll del Pou de la Neu. Cross the road and follow a path 700m downhill and SE to reach the Mare de Deu de les Salines sanctuary (big rectangular 18th c building). There's a tiny cafe, but only open at weekends. Great views into Spain, and possibly the Med. From here take the track that leads SE to touch the border at Coll de les Cordes (2.5km) and Coll de lli (4km). Here look out for a small gate on your left about 50m from the track, which leads to a path crossing back over the border and leading downhill through woods, ememerging at Las Illas (5.5km total distance from the sanctuary). Excellent restaurant on your left run by humans!

  2. A close call indeed. A pity about the shoes. Hope your new ones prove ok! by the by if this comes up under another name (Solitaire) it is Dawn.

  3. A good chuckle before breakfast (not the firestarter bit, honest!) Thank you!

  4. I hope you don't regret not continuing to the excellent camping spots at Plateau de la Beguda. HMP3's suggestion looks good - I recall the road down to Las Illas being a bit tedious. By then you'll be entering an area where wild camping is more stealthy and the gites and small hotels (the Hostal at Las Illas is better than the gite) are convivial, with good food. [I needed them after abandoning my camping gear at Amelie-les-Bains.]
    Enjoy the new shoes. I recall binning my boots on the outskirts of Banyuls!