Day 14

Wednesday July 31st     Pic du Midi d’Ossau – Lac de Bouys – Artigues  – home ?

I have slept in my tent for the last night. Spanish people sleeping in the tent next to mine, kept me awake for most of the night, and in the morning they were up really early to attack the ascension of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau. I’ll leave that for another time, maybe, although I don’t fancy myself really getting into cliff climbing again, but I hope my wish to be back one day will be heard. My camera has no space for any more pictures; all the batteries (cellular phone, camera, and my own) need recharging.

I enjoy a smooth descent to the Parking lot of Lac de Bouys-Artigues where I am lucky to be picked up by two young men (each driving in their proper car, so I choose for the van, which could easily take my backpack and with whose driver I started the conversation on the preybirds’ attack. He works in the Parks, but for his own account, and mentions that people to take care of forestry are hard to come by). I find myself lucky to be dropped off at the nearest railway station. Homecoming is always a challenge, that I don’t embrace, and this time will be harder than ever. The mountain and Basque encounters have changed me.

Whosever version is correct, I can only attest of what I saw, and that is that the National Park needs real care; I furthermore think that it would be a good thing to allot more acres to the Parks as they exist, as they are the only natural areas left on this planet for explorers to do their research. I hope this message will find its’ way.

 

Epilogue

One advice out of the numerous ones I can think of for survival is that you need to be aware of all dangers, without losing sleep over it. I kept going on tomatoes and lemons in the afternoon, biscuits in the morning and dried fruits all along the way. Not having warm food each day, I made sure to have at least one warm drink (coffee with enriched sugar milk although my liver doesn’t really agree to this), lots of protein in guise of dried fruit (dates and bananas-they are heavy in your back pack but give you the necessary proteins and some vitamines), biscuits and when suffering from extreme tiredness, pain (muscles, digestion, headache) or thirst, I chewed on the herbal leaves I managed to identify (Mentha Peperita, Oregon for digestion, thyme), but found little of them.

 

France, August 2013

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Day 13

Tuesday July 30th            Chemin de la Mature, Borde de Passette

 

Woke up and had to force myself out of the tent ; all is terribly aching, yet being able to feel all my limbs gives me the pluck to zip open into the day, which has well started. I break up and prepare myself a large breakfast, which I’ll soon regret – my stomach no longer used to a decent meal aches and no waters in the vicinity, I squat behind a big stone, only to see the helicopter appear from behind the mountain ridge ! Is this position really the one I’d like to be photographed in? They rapidly turn away which under other circumstances might not have been my wish, but now and thank heaven for some more discreet relief. The moon, this faithful satellite to our planet reflects in all her glory the first rays of that tyrant which starts to heat up the earth; faithfuly reflecting all vibrations, she stands out between the two passes that I leave on my left, not sure which one I’ll finally have to cross, but my legs keep following my commands and I reaching the col d’Ayous. Pic d’Ayous kept to my left, I aspire to the last stretch for the day, descending for the Lac d’Ayous  with its’ refuge, where I have a meal; it perks me up, and one appetizer based on white wine with bilberry syrup if I remember well (I’d like to make a note on appetizers-why are they usually so expensive? I am looked at from all sides and feel once again that strange creature which none seems to want to get acquainted with, I don’t even realize it is because of my luxurious appetizer, yet I won’t regret this needed healthy energy which moreover serves my bloodpressure, view, and more). It allows me to continue stiff walking for another five hours, amongst the various lakes, towards the refuge of Pombie.

I witness a real attack from eagles and vultures combined, on a sheep not yet dead which I saw falling and rolling over. Such attacks are I know, but remembering a newspaper article from years ago which mentioned birds of prey combining their efforts in search for food (it was on the Navarre province I recall), I believe my eyes rather than all the flack I’ll receive the following days when relating the event. The attack didn’t end with the first sheep, it was still alive I fear, and they continued to attack others, but I ignore whether they were succesfull at it. I met the shepherd afterwards, who explained to me that it is rather the eagles that attack and the vultures come afterwards, yet I told him I clearly saw both circling together. I learned that it is yet rare for vultures to attack (they don’t have the claws to grasp their victim) ; they occasionally will attack a cow or other large animal having given birth and not eaten in time the placenta, and then it can happen the calf is eaten alike. I still shiver at the image and remember how those who related it, spoke in a very soft voice, which restores my belief in human nature. The event shook me up and relating it in the evening at the refuge of Pombie, nobody allowed me to speak out on the event. When I come to think of it, only the sheperd and another person who seemed to play a little more dubious role, really agreed and didn’t change my story. The employee of a forestry organisation added some story about ‘a myth’ that needed to be created by the people who run the refuge in the vicinity. Truth is often hard to come by, and only serious and unbiased thinking can lead to discern real from fiction and unveil reality. The reality when I think of it now, probably being the real overpopulation of prey birds in the Navarre province.

 I receive a rather reserved welcome from the people who keep the Refuge de Pombie, as I don’t want to pay for lodgings (I can’t afford it still) and ask if I can take a shower only (willing to pay of course). For the modest sum of 3 Euros I can rinse myself (with very little water). I hope they won’t have to suffer the thirst I’ve known, and when I start relating the story of the combined attack on the sheep, the poop hits the fan.

Where are those days when lodge keepers and hikers alike, shared their experience in a good natured way and truthful to facts of what they experienced? One would think the extremes in our excessive gain oriented society has even more taken root in the minds of these fellow nature lovers as I’d like to consider them. Yet afterwards I learn that it isn’t really in their interest to attest to what is really going on, and they would supposedly like to install a myth of vulture attack. To start with they made me believe they didn’t find themselves within the territory of the National Park of Pic du Midi d’Ossau, which was an outright lie.

 I will be talking about this with a few other people the next day, expressing my concern for the National Park and the implication of people living close to nature within them, and I vow a need to extend the frontiers of National Parks for the benefit of all. 

The night is long and restless, as spanish climbers having put up their tents next to mine, keep making hay until after midnight, before catching some sleep, and leaving for their ascension in the wee morning hours. How do they do it?

Tomorrow will be my last day. I regret having to leave, but did manage to see Pic du Midi d’Ossau, which was more than I hoped for.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Aside

Monday July 29th             

Waking up to another hot summer day, I have to wait until my laundry dries on the clothes line (not washed but just the main up keeping), and after a ride with the camping owner taking me back to the campsite after I visited a hotel run by an aquarellist who doesn’t show up (where do all these people hide out and why do they ?), I finally step away from civilization to which I nevertheless belong and wherein I will find myself again, altered I presume weren’t it alone for a few more grey hairs after this stiff walking in awesome scenery and under a baking sun, back into the trails of previous explorers.

I didn’t really meet a lot of people as I was walking fast and only started off late. Leaving the campsite I passed by a beautiful watermill that was taking energy from the river coming down from the hill. It made me happy and proud to live in this country where people, as everywhere in the world mind you, try to find ways to make nature work for them instead of working against nature.

The head full of images yet not being able to communicate with others, made this day a bit dreary, until I finally reach the famous ‘Chemin de la Mature’. I decide to take up the challenge once again ; ‘on attacque’ as we like to say in this part of the world, which expresses the vigour and willpower with which one starts work, even when work itself is for naught, as often happens these days with employees not knowing what the outcome for their company will be by the end of the fiscal year. An elderly man who sees me starting at the climb, looks at me saying ‘that is what I call courage’ ; my ego is flattered but he himself was pulling up his lawnmower on his very steep driveway, and it wasn’t the type of motorized ones we know nowadays, on which you think yourself sitting on your couch and just enjoying a ride. I smile to him and continue.

Upon the trail, which is rather narrow, I meet an ‘Indiana Jones’ coming down ; he tells me the ‘initiation course is finished’. I don’t ask him which initiation course he’s talking about, assuming that it is one held further up on the mountain, and indeed, the next day I will pass a resort that gives all sorts of mountain exploring, recognition and orientation courses, but today I still have no clue of that. I only ask him if it is still a long way, my legs not wanting to move as I’d wish they’d do. He nodds that it isn’t really far anymore. I should have been wiser, knowing that even though coming down is harder for most of us, he certainly was used to long distances and for him it only seemed easy walking maybe. Or didn’t he want to discourage me? anyhow, when I finally can’t see more than a few meters in front of me, I decide not to play with my life any longer, and not finding the trail marks (I probably can’t see them for the finsterness and tiredness both play a role in my ability to perceive something) I come back on my steps to where I had seen a cabin. At the village, Estauts that is, people had told me that the cabins were kept open for people to be able to sleep in them, but the word means something else to me. So I decide to place my tent right before the cabin, at the only place which wasn’t too uneven, in between the cow-pats, within walking distance from a mountainstream. I am a little apprehensive as the field only a few yards away is covered with a vegetable that comes to my waist, and I have to go through it to fetch water. Snakes are a possible danger, yet I am lucky and too tired to cook for myself, I drink a hot coffee and put my head down.

I hope the cows on whose path I stretched my legs, won’t run over me, in a frenzy caused by ? By what ? Well, for instance a nasty horsefly bite, or a fire ? The memory of the article I read on the fire deliberately set up to clean the earth (ecoburning I believe it is called) and taking the lives of five hikers, still haunts me. My legs kept me awake all night, just as they kept me going all day, and this consistent going of all parts of the body, turned my head into a swirling toll. Yet, in mountain high and outdoors living, I find peace and some rest.

Day 11

Sunday July 28th

The chapel of Saint Engrace which we visited yesterday evening (I invited Lieve to come along) was breathtaking ; it is a UNESCO classed monument and the walls heave over so much that you think yourself in the tower of Pisa, only with the more humane and romantic character of the roman art that is displayed. As it is closed, I will not paint again today and decide to start off after the four other hikers towards Pierre Saint Martin have already left. I finally am able to walk again; not thinking about my feet will help me; they look much better today! I catch up with the others after the canyon of Kakouetta, and although tempted to explore it, having read it made up for a paying visit, and still wanting to keep going for my aim, I declined the invitation of some cool shelter. Ahead of all of us (a French couple, Lieve and I) walks a 70? year old gentleman; he really sets the pace, and I can only thank him for it. We arrive at distant times at the ski resort, Arrête La Pierre Saint Martin, and after a good meal, I continue, saying goodbye to my fair companions. They stay engraved in my heart and I’ll be missing them throughout the next days and longer.

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Finding the indication to get through ‘l’Arre de Soum Couye’ takes me over an hour! Very poorly indicated, I again conclude that certain indications must have been removed on purpose. I finally decide to follow my intuition which so far never left me, and I am overwhelmed by the arid and wild beauty of the scenery; feeling smaller than a mouse and blind as mole, I keep climbing (probably at the speed of the latter) hoping my feet won’t slide on some rock to catapult me from impressive heights and risk serious injury. In the end I turn around at the ‘Pas de l’Osque’ 1922 meter and the scenery is compelling, seemingly crying out ‘don’t go further! Yet, the devil in me hasn’t quieted down yet: come and take your chance at measuring yourself!’

I can’t decline even if I’d have liked to; my real intention ‘Pic du Midi d’Ossau’ is within reach, yet I still don’t know whether I’ll go that far.

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It is a very long and beautiful descent towards Lescun where I am brutally left on my own after asking a lady with her two children for indications towards the camping. It is dark now, drizzling rain starts falling, and my eyes can’t discern the panels on the road no more. I just keep walking, hoping to find the way, asking once again at an elderly couple in their car, if I am on the right track. Always straight ahead they tell me, not even taking the time to stop, while the road doesn’t stop swirling and showing intersections at about each turn! Hopefully I won’t end up becoming like them I think to myself; their hurrying to me is more a sign of rudeness than rush, but who knows, probably they are both : hurrying and rude; what a pity for them.

At the camping the warden and his wife who runs the camping look at me with great surprise; as if they saw a ghost. Luckily (for them?) I don’t play those parts and the lady shows me to a very neat and clean dormitory where I’ll be spending the night alone. She leaves me to my own, not asking nor saying much, but telling me payment will be accepted in the morning (they were just going through the accounts which caused some differences ; this capitalistic system destroys more families than it helps to create new modes of living). The dog comes to lick my feet, I seem to remember.

I sleep well after a shower.

Day 10

Saturday July 27th            des canyons de la Soule à Saint Engrace

On the plateau d’Ardakhotchia, I find the GR10 indication in direction of St Engrâce ; passing two canyons the views are magnificent but still pastoral before I will reach St Martin de Pierre two days later.

As the scenery changes almost completely going from one valley where the water of the mountains gathers into the next one, called ‘gaves’ the fresh air of the mountains in the morning is filling me with the necessary lyrics and food for writing. Yet, I need to keep walking so writing is another story ; Continue reading

Day 9

Hello again to all!

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Sorry I didn’t follow up over the last week, but was away on a writing seminar and so here’s the ninth day report on Travels through the Atlantic Pyrenees on the GR10.

Just to remind to you where we left off, I am slowly starting to access the higher plateaus of the Atlantic Pyrenees, where I don’t know how far my strength, money, and good humor will stretch, before I give in to the time that is given to me, which is always too short, when you have two legs to hike Continue reading

Day 8

Thursday, July 25th          Col Bagargiak Ugartzé and Larrau

 

I regret not having made the effort to find a more even spot, and the sloping hill kept me awake, as well as the bites on my legs from horseflies and all sorts of flying insects. No, I can’t agree to this attack on my body, yet suffer with all the patience that is left in me. I won’t quit until I see the forest of Iraty. And then?

The morning makes me cover a fair distance up to the Chalêts d’Irraty. The path quickly turns into forest (mainly beech) and hampering over the pass ‘Col Bagargiak’ leaving Iratiko to my right; I’ll arrive at the ‘Col d’Héguichouri’ (1319m) and descend towards the ‘Châlets d’Iraty”. It is a real easy hiking to the Bagargiak pass as I stay above 1000 meter all the time; and afterwards I will decide to take the direction of Larrau, where I will be able to buy food. I didn’t have much left for breakfast; the scenery and people I met made up for all the discomfort and I leave thinking nothing better will be ahead. I wasn’t far off, because the friendliness I’ll encounter is unlikely to be equaled again I keep thinking.

There I check out the Tourist Office, but don’t think I’ll find the information I need, having worked at tourist offices in this country, and quickly step out. I meet another hiker who seems more confident than I am in finding the right route, so we march together for a while, until I discover that I have the better intuition for route finding, and decide to leave him at his pace (which he prefers). It is a nice walk bringing me into the forest of Iraty; my overall impression remains poor; our planet suffers from human presence, then again, maybe our presence will alter something? (I will write on this more extensively one day)

I am glad I prefer walking to driving and feel sorry for those with their cars, driving up to get here, and then staying in their same lives. I think I’m more in touch with nature and feel completely transformed by this experience.

As said, I decide to take the variant that will lead me to Larrau, being very tired and in need of food shopping.

Larrau turns out to be an absolutely wonderful hangout; the village is well populated with the large, four star? Hotel at the entrance, serving what looked like a very extensive dinner course, but with the scent of my clothing and the apparel I didn’t yet want to put on, saving it for worse to come, I decided to look a bit further on to find something to eat and a place to sleep. I got a fair reception at the camping site Ixtala ( should mean a little brook someone told me, but also the dawn in the morning), where I decided I’d stay two days to recover and enjoy the scenery, as I would be leaving Basse Navarre for the Pays de Soule, where I’d decide on the rest of the journey.

A visit to the local bakery store, already closed now, but women taking in the evening on the porch told me I could come in the morning (not before 9.00 hrs though!) to have shopping done. I asked no further, not wanting any more than what I had had.DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA