The Pyrenean Traverse, Day 27: A beasty day

Around 8:30 am we take a seat at the breakfast table of “Le Petit Bonheur de Siguer”. The offer made by the manager of this “bar-épicerie” yesterday was way too tempting. We get farm-fresh croissants and chocolate rolls with a whole pack of Swedish sandwiches, on which we can spread butter, jam and honey to our heart’s content. And it is not just ordinary honey. This honey comes from the local bees from Siguer itself! Yesterday we saw the beekeeper at work with her black-yellow striped friends. In addition to coffee with hot milk, we are also served a laptop on which we can update our blog. While we enjoy all the goodies, we meet just about every resident of the village. One by one they come to the modest shop to buy bread. Apparently we are the very first GR10 hikers of the year to come through the village. Our passage does not go unnoticed. Everyone greets us in a friendly manner and wishes us nothing but good and especially better weather for the rest of our journey.

We stick for two whole hours in “Le Petit Bonheur”. Our fully loaded backpacks are not going on our backs before 10:30 am. But in the meantime we have learned not to look at the time and instead enjoy blissful moments like these. Once on the road we are forced to climb for four hours. Although the sweat is already dripping from our backs after just a few miles we are not thinking about how hard this tough climb puts its teeth in our calves. We are, however, constantly chatting about how much we enjoyed Siguer. What a friendly village that is. There must have been something in that coffee from “Le Petit Bonheur” too, because at a record pace we leave 2,000 feet (600 m) below us. If only we had brought a jug of that awesome stuff …!

We have a picnic on a col with a nice view of the mountains through which we have hiked the last few days. It is again a first-class picnic area. The blue sky above the mountains only makes the picture even more beautiful. After our lunch break the secret power of the coffee has taken off. Climbing gets more difficult and we think we have arrived at the “Col de Sasc” three times before we finally get there.

Behind each mountain top a new one is hidden. It feels like an endless climb, but finally the fourth top seems to be the real deal. A sign confirms that we are indeed on the “Col de Sasc”. Even after this col our calves are being put to the test again. Because we are not able to pass a snow field, we have to climb higher to make the crossing above it. When we are descending again on the other side, we see that we have made a wise decision, because in certain places the snow field ends on a treacherous slope.

We descend further through a flat snow field over a vast mountain meadow, where loads of cows and horses are grazing carefreely. Would they even realize how beautiful it is out here?

We arrive at a wooden chalet. Two cheerful little girls are walking towards us. “Voulez-vous du fromage de chêvre” (do you want goat’s cheese), they shout in unison. They ask it in such a cute way that we can hardly refuse. Their mother comes out. We ask her where the mountain hut for hikers is. We have read somewhere that there should be an unattended cabin nearby where you can spend the night for free. She points to a little concrete building which stands a bit lower on the hill. We are going to have a look and find a cabin that might be fine in extremely bad weather. But the strong urine – or worse? – smell in the cabin makes us decide to put up the tent here anyway. We do, however, make use of the supply option offered. There are tins of rice pudding, fruit salad, lentils and cassoulet. There is also beer, coke and water. As can be expected from the two of us, the beer cans in particular get our full attention.

I suggest to go and try the “fromage de chêvre” (goat’s cheese) of the little girls. Why not? It is still early, we do not have much else to do and there is always room for an artisanal cheese. We are offered two types of cheese by the mother. The first is super fresh and not yet salted. She recommends eating this with jam and she adds a jar of homemade blueberry jam. The other cheese was salted only yesterday and is therefore not fully permeated with flavour. We decide to buy one of each type. We only have to pay 1.5 euros each. Unbelieveable! And what is even less believable is that the woman suggests that we spend the night in their chalet. They are going to their home in the village tonight, so we have the chalet all to ourselves.

Before they leave for the village, the father is going to milk the goats. We watch him fill a bucket to the brim with fresh milk. We also get a liter of fresh milk for tomorrow morning. And as if all this is not enough, he also points us to the freshly laid eggs of their chickens. At times like these, a person cannot say “merci” (thank you) enough. When the lovely family drives away, the girls hang out of the car window to wave us goodbye. I cannot erase the more than sincere smile from my face.

We immediately feel at home in our tiny house, together with our dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, guinea pigs, goats, hamsters and rooster, all belonging to the chalet. And also, of course, with the 600 cows and 300 horses on this vast mountain meadow. There is a real animal theme going on here. The two of us are badly outnumbered, and this whole zoo is aware of this, since they all do nothing but constantly provoke us. For example, the chickens just walk in to steal the cat food, the dogs bark the whole valley together while they are teasing the grazing horses, the horses in turn try to kick the dogs and the cats crawl inside through every possible crack knowing that the owners have told us that they really have to sleep outside.

During all this “animalsitting” we almost forget to enjoy the phenomenal sunset, which draws a colorful line under an unforgettable day …

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