Pyrenees 2009

The Pyrenees GR 10

The trail GR 10 runs between Hendaye by the Atlantic ocean and Banyuls-sur-Mer by the Mediterranean ocean on the French side of the Pyrenees. It is divided into three sections the west, the middle and the east.  It takes about five weeks to walk the entire length.  You can choose to  walk only a section depending on how much time you have and what part you are interested in. We decided to start at St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. A lot of people start their walk from there but most of them are on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain , making the famous pilgrimage. But we walked in the other direction, following GR10 going west. It was beautiful and alternating. We found it difficult and were always really tired in the evenings, but this was our first longer hike in the mountains and we didn’t really know what to expect.  I don’t think we would find this as difficult today.

This part of the GR10 is not really touristic, we didn’t really meet tourists other than the ones that were doing the GR10. There is a gite (cottage) in the end of every stage were you can sleep. You can also sleep in a tent near the gite but it is also permitted to set up a tent in the wilderness. It’s possible to have dinner in the gites, then everybody eats the same food together. The food was really tasty most of the time and it can be a nice social thing to do sometimes. Often there is a kitchen in the gite if you prefer to cook your own food.  If you put your tent outside the gite you pay less but you can still use the facilities. Some nights you spend in small villages where you can buy some food in a store. At some gites you could buy some food like bread, pasta and gas for your stove.

We didn’t find the breakfast at the gites appealing, most of the time it was only bread and jam, we made our own breakfast most of the time. You can always buy coffee at the gites, but the quality wasn´t always good. The wine, on the other hand, always tasted good. We really loved  the farm houses we passed quite often on this trip where you can buy cheese.

 

 

Water was never a problem, there was fresh water everywhere in the gites and we often passed small streams while hiking.

 

 

The guidebook we used was Trekking in the Pyrenees

by Douglas Streatfield-James from Trailblazer, we really liked it and we can really recommend it, you find everything you need to know in this book written in a personal way.

More about this trip will soon be out!

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 1

St Jean Pied de Port – Phagalette

We ran around in Pied de Port the whole morning. Anna had forgotten her jacket at home and we went to the sport store to buy a new one and we shopped food. We started our trip around lunch. The sun was shining. We walked straight and there was not so much ups and downs. The landscape was green and we saw some birds of prey.

 

 

 

After two hours we started to climb little more upwards. In the beginning we had problems with the breathing, but we got use to it after a while . It was a good start for us on our first day of hiking in the Pyrenees mountains, as we only had an ascent of 500 meters this day.

We saw many Griffon Vultures flying over our heads on the way down again.

Esterencuby

We came to a sweet little village, Esterencuby. We had a small break and decided to continue little further up to the gite at Phagallette. This place was warmly recommended in our guidebook.

 

 

We came up to the little gite, some guests have all ready gathered at the terrace, drinking bear, smiling at us and all looking very relaxed. We both where exhausted and hungry. The gite was full but we could set up our tent in the field in front of the gite,  We took a shower and our energy came back, we sat down with the others and had a lovely four course dinner. This is really a nice thing with staying at the gites, dinner is served a 7 pm and you sit together with all the other guests. This way you meet a lot of different people.

The couple next to us were French, he could speak some English. They where really nice. The where as we call them, taxi-hikers, as they where only caring what they needed for the day, the rest was transported between the gites.

 

 

After the nice dinner we went to bed.

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 2

 Phigalette – Chatlet Pedro

We woke up late, 9.00am. The sun was shining and everyone else at the gite were gone. We took it slow and ate our breakfast. Later we’d learnt that it’s better to get an early start in the morning as it gets harder and warmer to walk in the afternoon. But we learnt the hard way!

 

We left the nice gite two hours later, it was already hot.

After a while we realized that we were on the wrong track! We followed a narrow road upwards and it was not untill we’d reached the top we found out that we’d gone the wrong way. So we had to turn back and walk down again, this cost us about 1 ½ hours.

 

We found the right track and started to climb up again, it was tiring as it started to get very hot. We had read in our guide book that we would pass a farmer that sold cheese, we had decided to have our lunch break there but it seemed for ever before we finally reached our goal.

The cheese was the loveliest cheese you could ever imagine sold by a sweet young women. We sat down in the grass outside and had our lunch.

 

After a short rest we continued our walk, up on the road we meet a French couple. They told us that they had walked all the way from Saint Jean Pied de Port on the same day. They didn’t seem a bit tired. We were impressed.

We followed the road. After a while the weather changed, it got more and more cloudy and soon it started to rain. We decided to take a short-cut as we already were a bit behind.

 

We arrived late at the Chatlet Pedro gite. It was too late to get something to eat but we were happy we could get a bed inside and a hot shower. It had started to rain more heavily.

We made some food on our wood stove (we will soon share information about this nice stove on this site). We had tested it before but not in such bad weather. It took us some time to get the fire going and we almost gave up. The couple that we met earlier lent us their gas stove. But as we are both stubborn, after a while we got a good fire started and made a nice supper for ourselves. We made potato soup/stew.

 

The couple were quite curious about our stove and our dried food. Later we found out that they worked in the military which explained a lot about their physical condition.

We managed to persuade the owner of the gite to sell us some wine even though she had closed the bar for the evening. We drank one glass and went early to bed.

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 3

Chatlet Pedro – Logibar

Bad weather day. We got up quite late but we felt good despite the rain.


Someones leftovers

After about two hours of walking slightly upwards Anna found some berries she wanted to pick, she climbed up on on a rock, but the rock was wet and slippery and she felt on her face. She cut her cheek quite badly and the blood gushed. We didn’t have adhesive plasters or desinfectants. Really stupid but we blame it on that we were  beginners.  We didn’t really know what to do, but suddenly from out of nowhere three French guys passed by! Some days we didn’t meet anyone while we were walking. The guys stopped and took out their first aid kit and nursed Anna. Thank God! We call them the three angels.

 

 


Anna after her accident

Anna was a little chocked and she was not feeling very well. We walked for about an hour before we came to Chatlet d’Iraty a restaurant in a small skiing resort. We sat down and ate three dishes for lunch, salad, beef and cheese. It was raining outside and we took it slowly. We decided to take a shortcut to Larrau. We started by walking downhill, after a while we almost took the wrong track, but we were lucky even this time, we met a couple that were coming back after two hours on the wrong track.

 

We turned around and continued through a really nice valley.

 

We were tired when we came to the small village Larrau. We bought some food in the store and then we decided to continue for 3 more km to Logibar in the bottom of the valley.

 


Larrau

We arrived really late I think it was about 7 pm. The auberge had a big kitchen and we warmed up our leftovers from the night before. The kitchen was full of people, almost all the people we had met the passed days were there (except for the three angels, they were going the opposite direction). We ate our food and talked to the people. It was a nice evening but we were really tired. We went to bed early our bodies were hurting and we were both thinking that we would have to take a day of the next day. We didn’t sleep very well. We were in pain.

 

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 4

Logibar – Ste-Engrâce

We woke up early! for the first time on this trip, all our tiredness and the pain we had the night before was gone. We were both full of energy and eager to get started.

We started to climb, it was a little steep and tiering but we were in a good mood.

 

 

After a long climb we made it to the top of the day. There were some cows looking at the beautiful view, who can blame them. We enjoyed the view for a while before we started walking down.

 

 

 

It was a long, beautiful and a various walk but it was really hard! Our knees were hurting and we wished we had brought hiking poles. This we have realized is necessary when hiking in the mountains. It saves your knees downhill and gives you extra stability.

 

 

It became a really long day and when we finally made it to the village Sainte Egrege we could hardly stand up! We asked a women that was working in her back yard for the way to the gite, she offered us a ride in her car. I guess she saw how tired we were. Luckily we said yes, since it was about 3 km to the gite. When we got out of the car the ”military” were sitting outside the gite having a beer. They asked us to join them and we did. We drank a couple of beers with them and talked, it was nice.

 

Later we put up our tent outside the gite and we cooked dinner Thai stew with cous cous. We got ready to go to sleep but before stepping into the tent we had one glas of red wine and talked about the upcoming day.

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 5

Ste-Engrâce– Arette La Pierre St Martin

We got up at 7.15am. It took some time to make breakfast and take down our tent, a rather late start, 9.15. But we knew this would be a rather short day.

 

The first climb was tough, about two hours through a forest. It was nice to come up above the trees.

 

We sat down and had our lunch. Two guys, Harmen and Frank, with whom we later became very good friends with, were drying their tent behind a ruin. We said hi to them. Two English guys passed us, they stopped and talked to us before continuing.

 

We continued upwards, it was heavy and the track was going in wide zigzags, sometimes we took short cuts, which is quicker but harder. Further up it started to be mistier. It’s not so good up in the mountains as you easily can lose the track and get lost. But as we followed a small road we felt safe and continued. Further up as it got dryer and also rougher we noticed that the flora had changed. At the top (1780 metre) we got totally new views over a landscape with limestone and pine, a landscape that got us thinking about the Wild West. We also realized we were looking at Spain.

 


Another landscape – another country (Spain)

We continued down and passed a farmer house where we bought some more cheese. Their house was full of annoying flies but the cheese was lovely.

Later on we came down to a car-park, on the side we looked down into a big deep cleft filed with loud crows but also a lot of blue flowering Aquilegia. We followed a boring asphalt road for a while before it turned back into a nice trail again. When we reached the top of a small hill we got a bit surprised to see an ugly ski resort in the middle of this nice landscape. The gite was located just besides this place. Happily we managed to ignore the ski resort; maybe it was the nice surroundings that made us somehow neglect the resort.

The guide book mentions the owner of the gite and describes him as a joker, and we can just agree to that!

 

For once we arrived early, at 4 pm. The ”military” were of course already there; unfortunately the male had been drinking some unclean water and was sick. One of the doctors we’d met earlier helped him. We started to talk with the two guys, Harmen and Frank that were drying their tent earlier. They came from The Netherlands and where following the GR10 to botanize. Frank was a biologist and had been studying in Sweden for half a year and he spoke quite good Swedish and he knew plenty of flowers by their Swedish name.

After taking a shower we made a short walk down to the store to buy some supplies. The resort was a bit spooky as it was quite deserted in this time of the year. Back at the gite we sat down outside the house in the sun and the shifting mist.

 

At seven it was time for dinner, duck with pasta, really tasty. We sat together with the two nice British guys we had met at lunch. After dinner we went outside again and talked some more with our new friends from Holland before it was time to go to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 6

Arette La Pierre St Martin – Lescun

Ýrr went to the store in the ugly ski resort to buy some bread. We ate breakfast outside the gite and we started to walk around 9 am. Pretty soon we caught up with Herman and Frank (the dutch guys) and we started to walk together. We really enjoyed their company, they showed us all the flowers they found on the mountain. We saw among many things Black Vanilla Orchid, Nigritella Nigra and some Alpine Rose, Rhododendron ferrugineum.

 

It was a barren and a beautiful landscape, it was not so exhausting but a little scary since it was steep. At one place, Pas d’Azuns (1873 m) we had to climb up 5 meters between two tops, it was terrible! it was a bit scary. There was one tiny rope to hold on to. Harmen helped us up with our bags, and that made it easier to climb up. We where both very happy that we had their company.

 

At the top preparing to climb down

Finally at the top we sat down to rest for a few minutes and looked down into the valley. (it was a bit scary standing on the narrow edge)

 


Harmen looking at the view

A long the way we meet a strong women that was hiking with three teenagers. One of them was tired and whining and refused to walk and carry her own package. So the women had to carry it for her, first taking her own and then walk back for the other bag. And still they almost kept the same speed as us. But off course we where walking slow as we stopped every now and then to look at flowers.

 

We started our way down.

 

We arrived to a little farmers house with some donkeys and cows, Gabane du cap de la Braigt. Donkeys, cows and sheep’s where walking freely around the house. They also sold cheese but we still had some left. There was no road up to the house, the last part was only a narrow path. We decided to take a lunch break and cool down our feet’s in the cold water stream from the mountain.

 

We had heard that it was supposed to be thunder later in the afternoon. So we decided not to stay to long at this nice place as you can easily get trapped in the mountain.

We walked down the valley and soon came in to a forest. After a while the path became a road. In a ditch we met the ”militaries” for the last time. The man was still very weak after the bad water and now they where waiting for there ride home. We took farewell and continued. The last part we past through a green tunnel of leaves (this green tunnels are very common closed to villages in this area).

 

In the outskirts of Lescun we past a nice guy cutting his hedge, he invited us for some drinks in his garden.  Afterwards he walked us to the gite.

 

Drink in the garden in Lescun


The gite was nice, we had some dinner at a restaurant together with our dear friends and the two British guys. The chicken tasted more wild than at home.

We all where very tired, our legs where swollen and we decided to take a resting day the next day. And Lescun was the perfect place for that.

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 7

Lescun

We decided to take a resting day in Lescun. It seemed like the perfect place to stay in. Our bodies where longing for a day without our backpacks and Annas knees where quite swollen. We said good bye to the British guys, who had stayed at the same gite as us.

 

 

We took a walk in the village, a really nice place and we where happy that we could explore it for a day, not jut passing through. It’s an unique place with a lot of old intact typical houses from this area.


 

 

At the church we meet our friends, they where also enjoying there rest day. We sat down for a few minutes but  they where busy  updating their flower journal so we left them alone. We invited them for dinner at our place later on.

 

We took a walk outside of the village, it also looks nice from a distance. We found a hillside where we laid down in the shadow. Wrote in our journals and had a piecefull afternoon in the grass.

In the evening Frank and Herman came by and we made dinner together. We had bought some wine, pasta and tomatoes and we used some of our dried vegetables. The guys where impressed that it tasted to good. We had a great dinner together.

After dinner we went for a last walk in Lescun and saw the sun go down and coloured the sky and the mountains around us pink.

We said good night to our friends and we went for a glass of wine before going to bed.
 

 

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 8

Lescun – Etsaut

We woke up at seven o’clock.  We packed and left Lescun at 8.40.

 

We first walked down into the valley. When we had crossed the valley it started to go upwards. We walked rather fast as we knew it would be a hot day so we wanted to be able to take it slower in the middle of the day. The first part was mostly in the forest and it was a quite boring climb. There was a lot of flowers and we walked into Frank and Herman a couple of time.

 

We reached the top, Col de Barranca and we started to go downhill. We sat down under a three and had our lunch, a nice pasta salad.

At four o’clock we reached Borce, we sat down at the church while the clocks where ringing. It was unbearable hot. We looked in our guidebook after some gites and decided to pick one in the neighbour village, Etsaut. It was very close.

In Etsaut we found a spring where we cooled down by putting our heads under the running water and drank the well tasting cold water. We found a nice gite in an old stone house.

 


The gite in Etsaut

We shared room with an older man who was on his way home. He was following the GR10 from the Mediterranean Sea towards Hendaye. He lived in Biarritz which is close to the end of the GR10 trail.

We made a really nice dinner, pasta with mushroom cream sauce. We sat down to eat in the back yard of the gite. A little skinny cat came by. We both where very tired, we took a short walk and went early to bed.

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 9

Etsaut  – Lacs d’Ayous

We woke up early and left Etsaut at eight o’clock. We came up to Chemin de la Mature, a long narrow path, on one side there was a vertical steep slope and on the other a wall of rock. It was a bit thrilling and exciting to walk their. The path continued upwards for an hour.



Chemin de la Mature

We walked in some forest and at a bridge where we met Frank and Herman again. We continued together. After a while we came up to a valley and out of the forest.

 

At the Cabane de la Braigt de Sencours we stopped for lunch. Frank and Herman took a bath in the cold spring. We only dared dipping our feet’s. It was refreshing but biting cold. We ate some pasta salad we had prepared the evening before.

 

The hike continued upward into a fantastic valley with cows and a lot of flowers.

 

 

 


Looking down at the valley we had walked in for some hours and where about to leave

 

 

After some hours of climbing we came up to Col d´Ayous. This day we started at 650 m and climbed up to 2185 m. It was tough but worth every step as you pass through a fantastic landscape and on the top the view is magnificent, down below on the other side you could see the lake Lac d´Ayous.

 


On the top

 


The gite at the Lac d´Ayous and Pic du Midi

We started to climb down to the gite at the Lac d´Ayous. Annas knees where really hurting so she climbed down very slowly. We definatly had realized by this time that next hike in the mountains we would use walking sticks.

Even though the gite was big, 70 places, it was almost full. There was only two more beds and we let Frank and Herman take them. We found a nice place for our tent with an fantastic view over the lake.

We made some dinner, couscous and vegetables.

 


Lac d´Ayous and Pic du Midi

After dinner we took a walk together around the lake. It was a beautiful evening. Down below in the valley we could see the clouds but over our heads we had clear sky. We looked at the sunset and went to bed.

 

When being in this kind of place, high up in the mountain with a clear sky we recommend to wake up in the middle of the night and take a look at the sky with all the stars. It is indescribably amazing and totally worth a break in the valuable sleep.

 

 

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 10

Lacs d’Ayous– Gabas

We woke up to the sound of bells, looking out we realized we where surrounded by cows. They seemed harmless and didn’t pay any tension to us. We wot up and made some breakfast. We agreed not to stress, we didn’t mind staying at this nice place a little longer. Frank and Herman left about 1-2 hours before us.

 

We started to walk along the lake. At the end of the lake the track continued down and we past another lake. On our way we met alot of day hikers on their way up to visit the Lacs d’Ayous.

 


The lake below Lacs d’Ayous

 

We came down to a valley. It was hot, and when we past a lake we took a refreshing bath. This was the first lake that wasn’t to cold.

We rested for a while in the sun and ate some snacks.

 


In this lake we took a refreshing swim.

We followed a asphalted road until we reached Gabas. We where hungry and managed to get a big salad in a restaurant even though lunch time had past. We saved the leftovers for later.

The weather changed and we decided to stay at the gite in Gabas, as the next etape was suppose to be quite tough. Our idea was to have one lasy day before a tough day.

We visited a small chapel and bought some cheese at a bar before we went to the gite.

 


A little chapel in Gabas

The gite was nice and peaceful,  it had a summer house feeling. We where lucky and got a big room for our selves. We washed some clothes  and took a long nice nap.

We ate some dinner and had a shy French guy at our table. He was a teacher. We ate soup, stew from the Basque and some cake.

We went to bed early, a little worried about what kind of weather it would be the next day. If it was to be bad there was a big risk that we would have to wait another day.

 


The Pyrenees 2009 – Day 11

Gabas–Lac d’Anglas

We woke up early and had breakfast at the gite. The sun was shining so we were happy that the bad weather was gone. We managed to buy some frozen bread and some pasta. We were packed and ready to leave at 8 am.

 

The etap was calculated for 8-10 hours so we were planing to camp along the way as we didn’t believe we would finish it. The day started very beautifully going up through a forest almost like in a fairytale.

 

Some parts where a bit scary as the path was very narrow and steep. But on most places you could hold on to a rope. We also had to climb over a big old tree laying over the path.

Midway we past a nice waterfall and we continued upwards. At some places the path looked like an old cobble-stone stairs and you could imagine all the hard work behind it.

 

After like 2-3 hours we came out of the wood and for a while the ground under our feet, levelled off. We past a lot of flowers, Iris and Lilium martagon.

 

We stopped for lunch, lovely cheese and bread. It started to get very hot and we were running out of water. Not a good combination. At a creek we filled up with water and for the first time we used one of the Micropur tablets to disinfects clear water and destroy bacteria, amoebas and viruses to make it drinkable.

We started to go upwards again, on a gravelly bad path that on some places was quite slippery. So we had to climb carefully. At this point, almost illusory, we met three teenagers leaping down the mountain dressed in white clouths. They didn’t carry anything, it felt very strange since this place was quite remote from anything else. Were did they come from?

 

We came up to a nice place, suitable for a camp-site. We sat down and had something to eat while we where discussing if we should continue or not. The time was five o’clock in the afternoon. We knew that it would be at least a couple of hours before the next good campsite and that we first had to climb to the top and then down again to a lake. We rememberd that our Dutch friends had planed to camp at the lake and the idea of joining them made us continue.

We filled up with new fresh and good tasting water and started the climb. It was a heavy (300-400 m) and hot climb for about an hour.

 

 

We reached the top and it was magnificent. Up there the wind was fresh and chilly.  We took some pictures and started our climb down on the other side. We past an old shelter, that could be used if you got stuck in bad weather. We continued and after a while we saw, deep below us, the lake, Lac d’Anglas, our final destination for the day. We detects our friends with our binoculars and after a while they also saw us and waved. It is a steep climb for an hour to get to them.

At 8 pm we reached the lake and our friends, they served us tea and were happy to see us. We made a very late dinner and Yrr also made some strawberry compott for desert. It was a really nice evening.

We said good night to the guys and before we went to bed we shared a mini bottle of Baileys outside our tent while looking at the sky and the stars. The night wass a bit windy which kept us awake för some time.

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 12

Lac d’Anglas – Arrens-Marsous

We took a slow morning, we didn’t feel like rushing away from this beautiful place. We said good bye to Frank and Herman, they where taking another route so this was the last good buy (at least what we thought it would be). It was a bit sad as we had became really good friends.

 

While the early morning past our calm camping-place slowly got more visitors. Mostly early day-hikers and some fisher-mans. It was time for us to leave. We packed our things and started our way down the mountain.

It was all most crowded with day-hikers on our way down. We have chosen a very popular place to sleep last night. Understandable.

 

On our way down we came by a farmer that sold some cheese, lovely as usual and we just had to buy some. We had some lunch and some refreshing foot-bath in the stream.

 

We soon reach a ski-resort where our plan was to end this day. But where both very eager to leave as soon as possible as it was a not a place we wanted to stay. And luckily it was early in the day so as soon as we had booked our train-tickets from Tarbe to Paris we continued on the next etap on GR10 towards Arrens-Marsous.

 

The climb up from the ski-resort was really thought as it was really hot. It wasn’t the best time of the day to do this climb. But there was nothing that could make us turn back so we continued.

After a few hours we reached the road. It started to be late in the afternoon and most of the trail would be on this road so we desided to hitch-hike the last part.

A your french non-english-speaking guy picked us up. He was very sweet and took us the whole way to the gite. The stills amaze us how nice everyone up here in the mountain have treated us. We believe they like hikers and that they are very proud of their mountains.

The gite was a very nice place to stay. We took a double room, with our own shower.

There was still time before dinner so we took a walk in the village. It felt bit sad, this was our last hiking-day for this time. But we soon became very happy as when we turn around a corner we bumped in to Herman and Frank. They had also changed their plan and we where all happy that we made the same plan to end in this village. It also turn out that they where staying at the same place as us, so we had a really nice dinner together.

Before going to bed we took a short walk through the village.

 

The Pyrenees 2009: Day 13

Arrens-Marsous

We had breakfast with our friends, and took a last good buy. But we think and hope that we will rejoin with the some day on a hike in some other mountains.

We decided to stay one more night before we left the mountain to head home.

 

 

We bought some goat cheese and Mediran wine and had a really nice lunch at the slop close to the swimingpool. After lunch we had some siesta.

 

In the afternoon we took a walk in the village and found a sanatorium with a church with a lot of strange but interesting decorations. We made some nice shoping to bring home with us, some wine, foix gra and cheese jam.

 

 

 

 

At the bar, we had a drink of Rikard before going back to the gite and having the last gite dinner. We meet some we had meet before but not talked to so much before, one women and two men from France Wales and England. They where really nice and they have meet once a year for a long time to hike in the mountains.

We had a drink with them and went late to bed, at 11, late at least when hiking in the mountain.

The next day our way back home started, we went to Tarbes and took the night train to Paris.

 

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