Saturday, 21 June 2003
Distance 12 km
Duration 3 hours 10 minutes
Ascent 229 m, descent 1096 m
Map 69 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Topo-guide (ref. 1086) Pyrénées Occidentales
Knowing that we had a very short day ahead, we slept in and did not leave Bugger-Jack, as we fondly called it, until after 8. We took the low variant of the GR so that we could stop at the village of Larrau for supplies.
Villages are rare in these parts and there would be none for the next few days. The wind on the grassy shoulder of the col was enough to make us stagger, but the view was majestic. Larrau was visible on a little shelf of land far below.
We followed a small path, more slithering than walking, to cross two loops of the road and then join it.
As it was Saturday morning, the amateur cyclists were out in droves, dreaming of the Tour de France in their fancy lycra outfits. Most of them looked as if their last hour had come, this far up the hill. There were hardly any cars about.
After a sharp descent, we turned off the road onto what looked more like a dry river bed than a track, plunging interminably through steep fields. At last we came to a farm road and a woman came out and told us we were lost. We were not surprised, as this route is not marked with GR signs. She pointed us in the right direction and eventually we made it to the river and the tar road, from where it was only a short tree-lined walk to the village.
This was a sweet little place with whitewashed, grey-roofed houses, a shapely church and some shops. To us the best thing was a hotel looking out onto a small square full of tables.
At the boulangerie we bought bread for three days and two apple turnovers, which slipped down beautifully with large, delicious coffees under a tree in the square. Just as we were reluctantly thinking of leaving, David arrived and ordered coffee, so we waited while he drank it. He had no pastry, as the boulangerie had run out between our visit and his.
We walked together the half-hour down the road to Logibar, with suffering cyclists coming towards us constantly. Logibar is a single building at the river crossing, serving as bar, restaurant, gîte and chambres d’hôte.
We made our usual request to be allowed to camp in the grounds (there was a little lawn at the back) with the usual result – a flat refusal. So we signed up for the gîte and a boy showed us into the common room and the dormitory.
After a while Richard arrived in a lather of sweat. Then David made a discovery – some other rooms up a staircase, much nicer than the dingy dormitory we had seen, each with its own bathroom. We all moved up there, chose our rooms, had showers and settled down for a rest, at which point the woman from the bar appeared, furiously ordering us out. We were in the chambres d’hôte and they were booked for the weekend. The guests were expected at any moment. It was strange that this had not occurred to any of us.
Later another English-speaker came in. He was a thick-set young Welshman named Nigel. He too intended to do the complete traverse of the Pyrénnées and he looked well capable of it. He had come all the way from Esterençuby in one day, admittedly hitch-hiking the last leg from Larrau. We are much too puritanical to do a thing like that.
The whole of the front terrace of Logibar was packed with tables, chairs, umbrellas, postcard stands, and passing cyclists. In spite of the heat, we spent the afternoon there, and at dinner time all five of us ate together.
The meal was simple but surprisingly good – crisp salads, then omelettes. When we went back into the gîte, a group of drunken Spaniards were playing cards, with the smoke of their cigars forming a cloud round the No Smoking sign above their heads. We left them to it and made the best of the hot, stuffy dormitory.