Pyrenean Traverse FEATURE

The Pyrenean Traverse, Day 25: The Bassiès mountains

Ice-cold white snowflakes fall on my hands as I zip open the tent in the morning. “Is it snowing?”, I ask Wim in disbelief. I get an incomprehensible answer. Wim always needs a bit more time to fully wake up. The first signs of life usually only appear by the smell of coffee. I crawl out of the tent and see that the tent canvas is colored white. It must have frozen last night, but we have noticed little of that in our cozy tent. It is still freezing outside. The coffee that I make in the awning can barely warm my numb fingers. While we are breaking up the tent the sun is climbing slowly above the mountains. The cold will quickly disappear. The cabin-dog comes to give us a farewell kiss in the tent.

Along mountain lakes we descend from the Bassiès mountains. Here and there, there is still snow on the frozen water. It seems like we are walking through a snow-white sea of the purest diamonds. It is so beautiful. I have got a feeling that I will never forget this part of the Pyrenees again. Wim shoots a short video of the breathtaking panorama. He too is overwhelmed by the beauty of this place. I think it is heart-warming to see him enjoy it that much.

The GR-trail makes a detour of up to three miles (5km), which first cuts deep into a valley towards the village of Marc, and then turns back again via the mountain flank on the other side. Crossing the valley straight would probably be just a half hour’s walk, but we decide to do the detour anyway. The GR does not just send us away for so many extra miles for no reason, we assume. In Marc something phenomenal has to be on our trail.

To reach the little village we walk over a long aqueduct covered with concrete slabs. For years it was the only water supply between Auzat and Marc. In the beginning we quite enjoy to walk over this historic construction. We appreciate to gain a bit of culture. But after a while it starts to get boring. Concrete is ultimately only concrete. We have more than enough of that in Belgium. We did not come all this way just for that…

The village of Marc is unfortunately also a bit disappointing. And the ascent of about 1,500 feet (500m) does not reward us with beautiful views either. Perhaps we got too spoiled in Bassiès, making us set our expectations too high for today. Yet we do not regret the long detour. Of course it was not terrible either. And in addition, those extra miles are a good training for our muscles.

We leave the GR to descend to Auzat. We do this for two reasons. On the one hand we want to make the crossing to Goulier tomorrow, which is much easier to reach via Auzat. On the other hand, Auzat is the only resupply possibility for the next five days. Our backpacks are going to bulge again tomorrow!

Wim imagines Auzat to be a lovely and picturesque village with nice restaurants and bars. An impressive power station with lots of rusty parts and concrete poles lets us abandon this hope rather quickly. Besides the ugly power plant, Auzat has very little to offer. The only restaurant in the village only serves meals at noon. And at the “auberge” where we are referred to, they do not do any cooking at all.

Because Wim really wants more than a simple instant meal prepared on our stove, we gamble on a questionable shed that is located near the campsite. “Snacks & Pizza” promises a messy sign on the outside. The ramshackle hut is held together with barely three screws. Some notable figures come to waste their evening at the bar. We hope to score a pizza, but for one reason or another it could only be ordered at 9pm, says the young lady at the shed. “But it could also be 9:30, or 10pm”, she adds. Doubting whether we schould not opt for that instant pasta in our tent, suddenly another young lady spontaneously offers to prepare us some dinner. She wants to try and bake a pizza for us, she says. So, pizza it will be …!

On the handwritten menu, which is full of spelling mistakes, we choose our last supper before a few days of hunger. While waiting for the oven to heat up, we each drink a glass of rosé. If the pizzas are as big as the glasses that we get put in front of us, we will be able to eat another three days of this Italian delicacy. But the glasses of rosé apparently create false expectations. The pizzas turn out to be extremely thin, not very large, without any taste and especially pitch black from the oven. But we do not dare to complain, because the girl has made such great efforts for us.

Five minutes later our plates are empty. We pay and leave for our tent. We only need one look into each other’s eyes to get our burner out of our pack with laughter and prepare that instant pasta anyway. After all, we are both still very hungry.

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