Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Pyrenean Perigrination Part One

One downside of being a year round vegetable grower, is the logistics involved in leaving the valley...

Vital for sanity even in a 'lovely' job such as this.

Fabulous farm sitter booked in April....for September.
Then negotiations undertaken as to destination...

Yes Scotland is lovely, but with 18 days - the longest I've had off in as many years we could go further afield, perhaps somewhere a bit warmer?

But of course what with me being one of those awkward environmentalist types who doesn't fly..

It can't be too far away.

The Pyrenees were approved of in terms of terrain by OH (Our Hero?) and are very reachable by train.

Even from little old Whimple (where?) to which we were lifted, by the kindly 'Pea plant' for the first leg of our London Paris Pau journey.

All pretty straightforward stuff ,once you've got the hang of getting across Paris to make your connection..

Don't you just love the French attitude to tourists...?

Lady in Pau TIC feigns incomprehension at my request for bus times to Borce, our destination aspiration that night....


"Si Borce"

In my not really that bad French

 several repetitions later...

"Ah Borrce"

I make a mental note to make a great deal of rolling my rrrrr's this trip..

We tried; and failed utterly; not to look like plastic bag toting hayseeds

Pau has shops! And a Chateau! And everything!

After another scenic train ride, a bus, and a short walk up the hill, we arrive tired and a bit wobbly at Borrrrce.

 Beer in local bar - would be rude not to - where helpful proprietor tells us we can camp on the patch between the cemetery and the river

 1st pitch of the All New  - Very Exciting 'Trekker Tent', it had only been erected once at home, as it arrived by post just before we left...Phew !

We (he) did have a plan B, C, (and probably D) But as this had been custom built to OH's spec' by its Scottish manufacturer it would have been disappointing not to be able to give it a fair testing.

 This model is 'The drift' a door each side, and capacious porches.

Essential for maintaining the entente cordiale whilst on the trail. Very lightweight, at about a kilo (how vague!) it's held up with walking poles.

We carry half each, I get the cheery yellow inner.

It only seems fair to port it this way, plus it gives one pause for thought if the bickering gets too intense, near edges...

Uttita Hasta Padangustasana - whilst admiring new gaiters

Following morning OH wakes up "With a pain in the neck", I remind him that he did agree to come on this trip with me, so it's too late to start complaining now..

There is some condensation on the inside of the tent, but we are camped on grass, and both of us have a tendency to keep breathing all night.

As well as taking lots of tent shots, another side project was to get some 'yoga with scenery' pictures for my not-yet-built website (I've only been teaching yoga for about 15yrs..)

Brew up, pack up, and head off for our first day in the hills. Stopping off first in pretty, but rather 'done up' Etsau for proper coffee .

Heading up out of the valley, a first proper glimpse of my new best friends.

 - Barbie pink, camo' print 'Dirty Girl Gaiters' They keep all the crap out of your shoes, and garner admiring glances wherever they go. I think its jealously rather than incredulity?

If you spend most of your days working on the farm, wearing muddy colours (or indeed wearing actual mud)

Then nothing says 'holiday' like some eyeball searing cerise.

We stop for a snack by this remarkably tenacious tree, stamina in adversity, and still in good leafage..

Ah yes, now we're talking, a bit of wiggly tin, and a red elder..

Who knew you could get red ones?

He did of course.

 Shot from other side is justified by nice 'lump of rock' in background.

My Pa' was an academic geologist, a lot of family holidays were very thinly disguised field trips, to mountains and coast for the exposures.  No bad thing, for a child really... I came here first at about the age of ten.

Like most kids though, I didn't take nearly enough interest, in my parents interests so consequently my geological knowledge is pretty sketchy...Must try harder..

A Pyrenean mountain dog.....Only doing it's job... That is barking it's head off at passing walkers.

Innovative 'gate' at col de Barranq - sticks suspended on  horse containment tape. Or is it some kind of art installation?

He's very good at pointing things out. Here indicating our goal for the day; Lescun.

This one nearly gets the point too, but we're not at home now, so lets leave it be.

Neat, compact, purposeful farmsteads hereabouts, nice to see lots of small scale productivity. (And a bit of wiggle)

The GR routes (Grande Randonees in France) are indicated by white and red stripes. Here also
showing 'The path of least resistance' this is what happens if you tie things up with hairy string.

Teensy fields, big tractors, curious, barely room to turn, especially if your dogs are trying to 'help' with the mowing.

Can't resist a bit of homespun fencing..

Finally we make it, Lescun looks quite close from half way up the hill, but it's one of those treacherous valley villages that gets further away the more you walk towards it.

'Tautology'- the science of getting your guys tightly tensioned.

Pitch 2.       after 16'5km           1100m ascent       (for the stat's lovers)

Lescun campsite, was warm enough, but clouds still clung to the hilltops.

Totally in his element

Just what is this important looking hole for??

Walked into Lescun in the hope of  snaffling a Saturday night dinner out. 

Tantalising smells coming from various venues. But sadly no room for us. Never mind we have plenty of provisions back at the campsite.

A pretty village but we really should have booked a table 

Next morning, the clouds have lifted and we are treated to genuinely blue skies.

Pastoral scenes as we head south towards the National Park

Eeek! No one warned me that there might be polar bears! Even if they are quite chatty, I think I'll be giving them a wide berth as per instructions..

It's starting to look a little more rugged.

A picturesque stream, just inside the National Park. A 'fitting' spot for  application and display of...

His Glorious Gaiters, it took a bit of persuading to get him to go for something that wasn't black, but now he can't wear them enough (they've even gone to Scotland)

Fairly certain these creatures are not Polar bears  but why take chances? Can see the rocks from here.

There's lots to look at

Up and up towards the col de Pau.


Second-born son said this looked like a 'stock' photo. A compliment?
Or just a inherited tendency for awful punning?

Cute turf roofed cabin, nestled in it's place, for sheltering shepherds.

col de Pau...this way.

Another neatly placed cabin, found out (sadly not til later) that this one is inhabited by a shepherdess, from whom you can buy home produced sheeps cheese, and she'll give you coffee.
Transhumance is still practiced in these mountains, good grass, mixed herbage.
Must get a bit lonely up here all summer. with only sheep to talk to, they are good listeners but their conversation is a touch limited.

Perhaps these are her sheep inscribing lines up the hillside? Potentially leading astray the unwary walker..

Are you following me?

It's a Lammergier!!
It isn't but I'd love to see one, 'specially if it was dropping bones.

More than ten griffon vultures were circling the crags - pretty spectacular stuff, but hard to take pictures of.

col de Pau, our first sight of Spain, lots of geology over there. it looks much drier, less green.

Relaxed lunch preparation , despite the precipitous angle, spectacular views in all directions..

Some folks do make a point of lightening their load at all costs. Not this chap, he'd ported this tripod and bellows camera up here, with a hood n all. Would like to see resulting pictures.
His OH definitely had a 'longsuffering' air about her.

Slightly troubling 'matchy matchy' outfits too, you've got to watch that one...slippery slope..

Upland sheep are no respecters of international boundaries, or for that matter most efforts to contain them. The flock elders here wear enormous bells, do they find them annoying or do they feel them to be status symbols?

Heading East just under the ridge that marks the border, still in France but only just.

Ah I forgot to mention I 'accidently'  left my new sunglasses at col de Pau whilst taking snaps.....OH insists on running back for them...Gallant!
I was willing to leave them for the Lammergiers...Lazy

All just a sneaky ruse on my part to loll about looking at the pointy bits whilst he goes back.

It is all rather fine.

Nice bit of strata,

A friendly 'in milk' mare

Another seasonal residence, prosperous looking, churns lined up outside to dry, 'wiggly tin' milking shed. Cheese sales must be doing well.

Looking back down into 'hazy France'

Pitch 3. near Refuge d'Arlet @ 1986 m

Todays stats : 16km 1300m ascent

I put the tent up this time...all by myself...not bad for a first time, it takes a bit of adjustment..

Yoga thought for the day....Suffering poor posture is a bit like having a badly put up tent, some bits too tight, some too loose and the supporting structure goes all wonky. (Don't worry there won't be an insufferably self righteous, yoga thought for every day!)

We shared the most delicious meal in the Refuge with an international table of fifteen, couldn't finish it despite us all having third helpings, Soup, salad(!) a main of lentilles et boeuf, and pear and chocolate for pud. Astounding for 15 E a head. Especially considering they have to bring up supplies by donkey.
I think the very sweet french lady sitting next to me comprehended my explanation of dehydrating over a kilo of kale, and nearly same of flat parsley to bring on this trip...

It made her laugh anyhow.

Getting up for a three a.m. comfort break, the clouds had cleared.

Awesome , was not too big a word for the night sky, a perfect quarter moon hanging and a startlingly bright Milky Way reflected in the lake.

I must learn to drive camera well enough to take pictures at night whilst half asleep.

Maybe come back to get some of those envy inducing 'stars silhouetted by the mountains over a lit up tent' shots that folks keep annoying me with on Instagram... I know...Best to unfollow them

Not too shabby a morning shot..

And Yes! that keenly sought trophy of the 'High Camper' an inversion, mmm.

The Refuge... you're only supposed to camp near these in The National Park.

But as with all successful transgressions of  'the rules' discretion is key.

Oh no! I cut the crags head off. That's it then I'll have to go back..

Making a dash for the 'facilities' at the refuge.

'Product placement' Darn Tough Socks, on conglomerate.

I love these socks - like being shod with lambs fleece, and sooo pretty.

They claim they'll replace them if I can wear them out...No questions asked...

Not even "Were you wearing shoes??"

OH surrounded by his stuff

after James Ravilious


That, my friends is what Google is for....

Lovely as it is to loll about in the sun, we must be off (pointy) places to go..

Wait for me!

  I'm not dawdling, I've just got to post this first...
See y'all soon for further tales of late starts, and early lunch stops... It is supposed to be a Holiday....

More larks to follow......

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