Apart from a slightly damp sleeping bag, we were able to keep everything dry last night. We were very lucky, since it didn’t stop raining all night. After some coffee and two chocolate buns, which have been living in my backpack for almost a week, we head for the épicerie of the village, which fortunately is open today. We buy all kinds of things in cans and powder form. Enough to last a few days in the middle of nowhere. I also take three baguettes and put them on the counter together with our other groceries. If only I hadn’t done that, because it results in a furious shop lady. “Who took this bread ?! Nobody touches a loaf of bread here …! Only I serve the bread here,” the lady rattles furiously. I am perplexed. “Tranquil, tranquil”, (calm down, calm down) Wim responds, but it does not have much effect on the French fury. She puts the loaves back in the basket and there is no way she is selling one to us. Reluctantly we pay the rest of our groceries and we leave the village a bit appalled.
A few feet higher up we walk passed a church that must date back to the Middle Ages. Crooked metal grave crosses along the church look a bit scary and at the same time fairylike.
We climb further through the woods along a narrow path. To our left we see a river. It seems to flow into four natural baths, each of which is marked with round boulders. Steam rises from the basins. Wim puts his hand in one of the reservoirs and he immediately starts to undress. It turns out to be a hot spring …! We don’t hesitate for a second to take a bath. We hang our clothes on the branches of the trees, and no three seconds later we are both enjoying our warm bath in the middle of the forest. We don’t mind the smell of rotten eggs, which unfortunately is inextricably linked to hot springs. We probably even smell better after our rotten egg bath than we did before …
Someone from the village also comes to take a bath. He has aching joints and apparently these hot springs should work wonders. We start talking and the man sees that we are both wearing a ring. Those have to be taken off immediately, because the sulfur in the water causes gold to dissolve, he warns. We obey and quickly rinse our wedding rings in cold water. We dry ourselves and get dressed again. After all, we still have to do some hiking today …
Our skin tingles as we climb further and further up. A young man with a small backpack passes us by. A little later we pass him again. Then he passes us again, we him again, and so on … Until we finally start a conversation. He is just hanging around in this beautiful area because he likes to walk. We also tell our story, whereupon he warns us about the snow on the Porteille de Bésines. His worried look in his eyes makes us feel a bit uncomfortable. What is awaiting us this time…?
We climb further through the narrow valley, where a large river is master and king. To the left and right of us, the mountain flanks rise hundreds of feets above us. Gray clouds hide the mountain tops, which are much higher than they appear to be. At a waterfall the young man returns home. We continue our way. When we arrive at the end of the valley we take some time for a picnic. Because the sun occasionally gains ground, we also display our wet clothing on the rocks around us. It almost looks like an outdoor laundry room.
The clouds quickly find their way to the laundry room, so we pack our bags again to move on. Wim picks some wild rhubarb along the way. We both eat a few of those fresh green stems. The path leads to a beautiful mountain lake. The water is so clear that you would immediately like to take a few sips of it.
We walk along the lake, make an effort for a final tough climb and then arrive at the top of the summit together with the clouds. It is very cold, and the fog soon catches up with us. Fortunately, the snow the young man warned us for isn’t to be found anywhere.
We descend immediately and only an hour later we are already ordering a beer in the Refuge des Bésines. We ask at the refuge if we can pitch our tent nearby. We can do so and we don’t even have to pay for it. But there is one condition: we have to order the daily menu in the refuge tonight. We look at each other a little doubtfully and ask what the daily menu entails. The gardienne (indeed, a woman) starts to sum up the entire menu. At every word she speaks Wim’s tongue starts to drip more. Drooling all over the place, we take a seat at a table for two. And we do not regret our choice, because the vermicelli soup, the boeuf bourguignon with mashed potatoes, the cheese and the chocolate flan taste wonderfully. We eat enough to get through probably a whole week.
We end the cosy evening with our befriended Settlers of Catan and our equally befriended red wine. Around 10 pm the gardienne says she’s turning the lights off, so we crawl into the tent a little earlier than we’re used to. Ii hear the raindrops hit the tent canvas again, but I’m sure these really are the very last ones …