The Pyrenean Traverse, Day 10: Road diversion

In the local shop we buy some groceries before we set off again. The owner of the store has apparently already heard about us and our hiking plans, because he asks us if we really want to continue our journey. Doubtfully we nod our heads. The man takes a newspaper from the shelves and points out the weather forecast. Today it will be sunny, but tomorrow it will be back to square one. The man is very familiar with the mountains in this region. He tells us that when we would continue to hike the GR10, we would get stuck again after less than 20 kilometers because of the snow. Apart from that, there is currently a great avalanche risk, he adds with a warning glance on his face. It seems that we are not allowed outside his shop before we promise him to descend to the valley. The man sees that we are very disappointed. He gestures to follow him and dives with his nose in some of his store shelves. Some minutes later he pulls out a few hiking maps, on which he draws a nice alternative route for us. He recommends following the GR653. The GR653 is a route that also runs in eastern direction, but a few meters lower than the GR10. This way we can bypass the high mountains in the coming days, but still make progress towards the east. When the snow starts melting and the biggest avalanche risk has passed, we can easily get back to the GR10 again and continue our route. We find it a difficult decision. But everyone in the shop agrees unanimously: high up in the mountains it is currently super dangerous. We therefore surrender ourselves submissively to the will of Mother Nature and put our new hiking map in our backpack.

When we descend from the village, an unkempt dog with matted fur follows us for an hour and a half. In the next village we see that the front door of a house is open. We stick our heads through the door and see how a lady is diligently sewing. The whole room is stacked with endless pieces of fabric. On numerous clothes hangers we see long dresses in bright colors. She could probably dress half the French population with her beautiful craftswork. We leave the dog behind with the tailor. She promises us that she will personally make sure that the dog will be reunited with his owner.

In the same village we end up on the GR653. It is this route that will lead us further north. We walk along narrow paths and here and there we get some asphalt under our feet. Pleasant and small roads connect the picturesque villages that we pass through. In the late afternoon we arrive in Sarrance. We call it a day and want to enjoy the sun in Sarrance. We ask if we can put up the tent in the garden of the monastery, but in exchange we are offered a simple room for two.


Hikers often stay overnight in the monastery. After all, Sarrance is on the route to Santiago de Compostela. The “gardien” who welcomes the pilgrims over here insists that he carries my backpack up to our bedroom. He clearly did not expect that this backpack op mine weighs twenty kilograms. Because after five steps drops of sweat are shining on his forehead. Wim finds it amusing that the man has so much trouble with my heavy backpack. “Elle est forte, hein” (she is strong, hey), he says to the man. The man puffs and shows a cramped smile.

We purchase a bottle of wine, a bag of crisps and some pickles in a shop. Like gods in France we spend the rest of the afternoon in the sunshine. In the evening we have dinner in the only restaurant of the village. Wim drools over the duck he is served. At home I could never please him with a plate of water bird, but here he is completely head over heels over this tasty dish.

We enjoy the beautiful evening and I realize that I have learned an important lesson today. Both in life and here on this trip, not everything is always going as planned. You have control over certain things, but you have absolutely no influence on so many other affairs. In that case it is just a matter of adjusting the plans. Making the best of it. And doing everything in your power to still achieve your final goal. Although in the meantime our route no longer resembles what we had mapped out in advance, the final goal is still the Mediterranean Sea. And I do not care how many annoying detours we will have to make. I do not care how many unexpected obstacles we will have to overcome. We must and we will achieve our final goal.

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