Distance: 20 km (Cum: 141 km)
Ascent: 1480 metres (Cum: 7430 metres)
Time taken: 7.25 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops
Weather: heavy cloud, slowly clearing but returning later, with a cold NW wind - temperature as low as 4ºC before taking account of wind chill
We expected sunshine today, but woke to heavy black cloud, down to about 1200 metres. At least we got our first day without the need for waterproofs, but three layers of clothing and warm hats and gloves were the order of the day.
The rustic gite provided breakfast from its fridge, with no sign of the guardian, who took our money last night. I think Pierre's team must have made the coffee, and they were thoughtful enough to make sufficient for the four lazy Brits, with Chantal restraining François from scavenging our baguettes!
It wasn't the best breakfast ever, but it served its purpose.
By 8.30 we were strolling up the road, admiring the remnants of the Spring Squill that carpeted the Apennines in April. The flowers on this trip have so far disappointed us, perhaps because of the nature of the soil, perhaps because of the late spring. We have observed quite a bit of Love-in-a-Mist, which is probably appropriate given the conditions.
A man with two paint brushes was tarting up the waymarks at Col d'Ithurramburu. We stopped for a chat whilst he took a break from his red and white daubs. He shook his head when we told him we were heading for Luchon. "Too much snow" he claimed. However, he also expressed reservations about our ability to get to Iraty today. (We arrived here at 4 o'clock.)
We passed Roland and Marie, from Bayonne, who have been quietly in attendance since we started at Hendaye. Like Pierre and Yolaine they are aiming for Banyuls.
John and Paul soon shot past with their day sacks, and we overhauled Pierre's Annecy contingent.
Above Col d'Irau (Sue is pictured near here with a view back towards St Jean) we entered a zone of lovely stone waymarks. Stone circles and the remnants of old buildings were just visible in the mist. Skylarks tried to cheer us with their melodic song. The birds on this trip haven't disappointed - it's disappointing though not to be able to identify more of them. Today I'm sure we saw several different types of lark, but I can't say more than that.
After visiting our highest point to date - the 1466 metre summit of Occabé - we headed down some revolting forestry tracks to Chalet Pedro. The old tracks have recently been gouged by huge tree trunks being dragged down them, leaving horrid muddy grooves.
John and Paul were lunching at the bottom, where Simon, a new member of the cast, made a brief appearance. He's hoping to complete Georges Veron's version of the HRP. We may not see him again as he has continued beyond Iraty to camp. He looks well equipped, apart from his footwear.
Soup - a massive bowl - and hot chocolate went down well at Chalet Pedro, setting us up well for the last two hour ascent to Iraty, where we have a more than adequate room with two bunks and a scary notice about bed bugs. I'm itching at the thought!
Reception is 700 metres back down the road, and they didn't give us any shower tokens. This blow was resolved when Roland and Marie turned up and immediately (seeing Sue's distress) gave us one of their tokens. It gave enough time in the shower for both of us, and Roland and Marie were rewarded with a cup of tea.
Of the thirteen of us who left Kaskoleta this morning, all* are now here and only François was absent from the restaurant at Iraty tonight - the rest of us were all, so far as I could see, tucking in to their €14 randonneurs' meal. Very tasty it was too.
*That's me and Sue, John and Paul, Pierre's team of four, Roland and Marie, François, and two men - possibly father and son - who appeared last night with huge packs, which are a puzzle to the rest of us. It's a pleasure to be on holiday with such a friendly group of people.
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary