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 8 - Aulus les Bains to Goulier

Tuesday 19 July
Wall-to-wall sunshine

Another fabulous meal was had last night at the Gite in Aulus. Absolutely enormous, with three courses (and what is it with getting two puddings apiece in these places?), with produce fresh out of the owners' garden. The cost for this feast? €12 per head. It was a ridiculously cheap night - far more so than it should be for the quality of accommodation and food provided. Definitely one to recommend (although if you get a room on the side of the building we were in and have to sleep with the windows open, as we did, then expect to be disturbed by the church bells chiming every hour in duplicate).

As for today, with the temperature forecast to hit 34 degrees we opted for an early start, which didn't require us to get up any earlier than usual - we just skipped breakfast and omitted our usual faffing, and were away at 6.30, stopping on the trail after an hour for cereal and coissant.

A thousand metres of ascent was on the agenda this morning but thanks to the early start and lots of trees we were comfortable for the first 700m.

Then, almost immediately after collecting some 'just in case' water* from an not-entirely-satisfactory stream (it being just below a busy car park), we popped out onto a road, lost the shade, and found a water tap.

We had feared that the next 300m of ascent would be uncomfortably hot, but we had beaten the heat and were blessed with very oversized switchbacks, making the going easy.

The views on the way up and from the pass (Port de Saleix) were outstanding and we sat there a while enjoying them whilst contemplating the group heaving themselves up the next bit of the GR10.

It is from the top of this pass that the GR10 route becomes very indirect. My description to Mick, when I was studying the maps at home and he was away working, was to imagine a pair of pendulous breasts. The GR10 traces their outline. Alternative paths exist, the most direct of which goes from "armpit to armpit" (if I continue the breasts analogy). It had been our intention to continue on the proper route for a while longer from the pass, but with the day heating up, and with the reality of the climb ahead of us, the armpits route (another Tour du Pays) looked the preferable option.

A few flood damaged bits of path made the going marginally tricky in places, and shade was rather lacking. In fact, it was at the first bit of shade we found that we stopped for a very early lunch - right in the middle of the path. No-one came along; we didn't think they would. It was an indulgent lunch today featuring a jar of duck pâté.

Missing a turn down to Auzat (we may not strictly have missed it but rather misidentified it), extra distance was added to our day as we took the less direct path down to Vicdessos instead. As it goes, Vicdessos was where we needed to be, to top up our supplies at the shop there for the next four shopless days.

We struggled to locate the shop once we got there, until I remembered that Martin ( had also done a circuit of the town before finding it right by his entry point. As he had also described his route into town, we thus found it, although not before we had spent half an hour sitting uncomfortably on tarmac under the shade of a tree trying to work out where to stay tonight. Thanks to some text message assistance from the UK, for which we were very grateful, we obtained the phone numbers of the gite at Goulier (see Footnote 2) and the B&B at Auzat. The phone call to Goulier was not a roaring success. Eventually, we located the Tourist Office and had them call for us. There had been some confusion but the main message was the same: if we wanted to stay it had to be half board.

Repairing to a bar for a cold drink we dithered at great length over our options (with me driving Mick mad by going around in circles). Eventually we decided that even though we really didn't need to eat out again (we'd like to reduce the food bags - somehow our bags are currently heavier than when we left Luchon, even though, theoretically, have the same amount of food) we would stay at the gite.
Sitting on a bench under a different tree, where my thermometer confirmed that it was 34 degrees in the shade, we questioned our wisdom at setting out for another 400m ascent, but we knew it made sense, so as to make tomorrow less taxing.

It was 5.30 by the time we arrived and we're less than impressed. We were, of course, spoiled by last night's experience, but this place is so much more expensive yet nowhere near as nice. We weren't even allowed to bring our bags to our room, even though we have our own room and our bags are small.

I wonder if they'll be amenable to giving us a breakfast tray so we can escape early in the morning? We'll find out soon as we're just off down for dinner.

(Post blog note: dinner was the worst meal of the trip to date by a long way. Breakfast has been agreed for 7am so hopefully we'll be away by half past. Excitingly we met our first Brits at dinner. Easy conversation without a single misunderstanding. Oh, and Wonky Pack Man and Le Flasheur turned up too.)

(*I didn't want to lose the shade only to find that none of the steams from there on were running. By picking up water it guaranteed they would be, because our experience is that water sources are only dry when you're desperate for water.
2 - I did have a phone number for the gite but it has been changed and despite listening to the recorded message of the new number four times I couldn't get my brain to translate the numbers quickly enough to write it down


  1. Good to hear from you, the entries must be queuing up! I'm glad I helped you to find the shop in Vicdessos, but it's a shame you missed the excellent B&B and the interesting industrial archaology in Auzat.

  2. That section of the walk wasn't big on phone signal! I have plans for us to return to the Pyrenees in Colin and most specifically to Auzat/Vicdessos to walk some of the 'pendulous breasts' loops that we omitted, and also to Plateau de Beille, as we're sure today's ridge would have been spectacular, if we could have seen it.

  3. Agreed, that's a good idea. Sue didn't do this section of GR10 and we also fancy returning to this and other areas of the Pyrenees where some 'peripheral exploration' could be the basis for an excellent trip.