The Pyrenean Traverse, Day 21: Medieval route

In yesterday’s newspaper a picture of the students who were helping the victims of the floods in Loures-Barousse makes us realize how bad the situation over here really is. The students are now immortalized as heroes. And rightly so, of course. The promise that same newspaper made yesterday about the weather forecasts, the paper was not able to keep. Or this “very small chance of some rain showers” happens to be a “very big chance” around Mauvezin de Prat. Fortunately the other promise that was made yesterday is being kept: some delicious coffee, going with the two croissants we ordered. It brightens us up a little, because the umpteenth day of rainy weather on our honeymoon is starting to bite…

There are a few other camping guests having their morning coffee as well. They all seem to be good friends. When we explain what we are doing over here in the Pyrenees, we are promptly offered some gingerbread again. The friendly land lady gets her laptop to check the weather forecasts for us. Apparently the weather will clear up this afternoon. Good prospects …! In addition to the laptop, the woman brings something else: a small pillow on which she has embroidered a little fairy. “Happiness in love” is written on it in French. And happy I am, indeed … She gives me the pillow as a present. It does not weigh much, so I gratefully put it in my backpack.

True to tradition we set off in rain clothes, in anticipation of the clearings that are to come. For the time being the weather is still dry, but the gray sky looks as of it can not wait to rain us all wet again.

Along our way horses are galopping in a pasture. The riders on their backs are wearing a shirt number. They fill their Sunday afternoon with a dressage competition, or something else I do not know the exact term of. It all looks so nice and cozy. Wooden sheds, from which the horses curiously put their head out, make the western picture complete. Unfortunately we can not stay to watch the competition so we continue to the next village, which looks very medieval.

After the medieval village we follow muddy paths and a lot of asphalt roads. Because we constantly have to map out new routes as a result of the unpredictable weather conditions, it is unfortunately not always possible to keep the track interesting every day. Yesterday Wim found many nice paths through the forest, but now asphalt is the order of the day. It is just a small detour to stay outside the flooded area. Eventually we will catch up with the GR10 trail again. So we will have to grit our teeth for a while. In three days we should be back on our long-awaited GR.

But that teeth gritting is not going that well today. The final hour I am really down to my gums and I almost beg Wim to take a time-out somewhere in the village of Saint Lizier. Wim obeys obediently and we go look for a bar where we can dry and warm up a bit. Just like in Saint Bertrand, a sign at the entrance of the village tells us that we are entering “un des plus beaux villages de la France” (one of the most beautiful villages in France). Both villages do look quite similar: built on top of a rock, surrounded by ramparts, breathing ancient times, … It looks beautiful, that’s for sure. But finding a bar that is open is almost an impossible task. After having seen the whole village three times from top to bottom, from bottom to top and another five times from left to right, we spot a pub of which the door is ajar. Wim pushes gently against the heavy wooden door. It opens and we happily install ourselves at a table for two. I order hot milk and Wim asks for a mug of hot chocolate. I’m too cold to take off my rain gear and drink my delicious hot drink, fully wrapped in my warm clothes.

I find it difficult to head back into the rain again after this pleasant break. Wim tries to motivate me and says that we only have to bite our teeth for one more hour. He is right, because an hour later we arrive in Saint Girons. Since it does not look like it will stop raining soon, but also since there is no camping site in the village, we go look for a hotel. This quest turns out to be a huge ordeal, but to make a long story short: we are staying in hotel Le Valier. Small, simple and friendly. Nothing more, nothing less. We are happy we even found a place to stay in this little town. It is a village you would probably never visit in your whole life, except when you are hiking to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean and you somewhere in between – due to avalanche danger and flooding rivers – have to deviate from your route. We put all the clothes and the tent to dry in our hotel room. At 10 pm we are still waiting for the clearings that would be covering the region this afternoon. We wait. And wait, and wait, and wait, and wait …

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