Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sunday 28 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 44 - Stage 33 (variant) - Étang de Bassiès to Auzat, via Vicdessos

Distance: 14 km (Cum: 651 km)     

Ascent: 100 metres (Cum: 36,770 metres)
                     
Time taken: 5.75 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops                                     

Weather: cloudy with light rain at one point, but sunny periods developed later. Pleasantly warm

To my surprise, it rained in the night, with distant lightning flashes but no thunder. 

I'd planned a lie in, and woke late at 7am, but there was no sign of the sun, and the mozzies seemed lethargic, so I was almost ready to go when Graham set off at 8am.  He was anxious to get to Tarascon - about ten miles beyond Vicdessos - in time to catch his train tomorrow morning. There are no buses today, so he will have had to hitch or walk, though I did spot a taxi firm in Vicdessos. Anyway, if we had set off together he'd have been far ahead in no time at all. 

The mist was down and the rocks were slippery, so I descended slowly past Heather and Honeysuckle, then past giant toads and large clumps of Yellow Saxifrage, to an ancient aqueduct at 1160 metres. I chose the eastern descent path, not GR10, and I don't think it's marked accurately on my old map. The upper picture shows the sort of sunken lane that GR10 uses quite a lot, though this one is slightly off that route, which heads to Mounicou. My 'variant' missed the delights (or otherwise, according to some reports) of that particular spot and headed down a rough road rather than down the steep path that would be accessed from the GR10 route. 

Once down at the 'main' road, pleasant woodland paths on the west bank of the river led amiably to the outskirts of Auzat, once a town to be avoided, and a place about which I was a little apprehensive due to its aluminium factory. 

It had taken just over three hours to get there, but after staring in amazement at the state of the art athletics stadium where I was expecting an aluminium factory, I avoided the village for now and took a minor road that led past Vicdessos's campsite, bringing me to the southern end of that town. It was noon on a Sunday. I needed an épicerie in order to stock up. The next shop I would pass would be in five days' time. I walked all around the town and eventually found the shop hidden round a corner just near my arrival point. It was a good one though. 

Graham was nowhere to be seen. He has gone home. He is no doubt enjoying the pleasures of Tarascon's campsite tonight.  

Several kilos of food later, a picnic bench under a magnificent lime tree was found, my tent was pitched next to it to dry out, and I set about consuming a heavy lunch. Objective only partly achieved, I then stumbled back up to Auzat, where Sue had mistakenly booked both Graham and me into l'escalette B&B.  We had realised the mistake and Yves and Sophie don't mind me being just one person, having received a clarifying call from Sue. 

Yves and Sophie don't mind having a quiet night tonight - they catered for a garden party of 115 yesterday.

Yves greeted me with more English than I was expecting. I must have looked thirsty as he provided a second beer 'on the house'. I must have been smelly as he then offered to 'process' my dirty clothes. Both I and my clothes are now really clean, and I'm pleased to report that I'm also re-hydrated.  

So rather than the planned rest day here tomorrow, I'm having a half day today and am setting off up a big hill in the morning. 

When I was last in this area, with Dave Scruby in 1994 (we spent a day in Vicdessos writing postcards), Auzat was a place to be avoided. Its huge aluminium factory was chucking out all sorts of pollutants. Today, those times are remembered by way of an 'aluminium walk' - a tour of the village highlighting its days as an aluminium town from 1908 to 2003. There was strife in the latter year, when the factory closed due to maintenance and safety issues, with four hundred families left without employment. 

The transition from aluminium factory town to a sports and leisure mecca will no doubt take some time. The stadium was only opened last year and Yves tells me there have only been two meetings there. I noticed the local restaurant doing a four course meal deal for just €14, which is cheaper than we've been seeing. I suspect that this B&B will be on the verge of being unacceptably cheap! I'll find out tomorrow. 

Tonight I ate on my own for the first time on this trip. A slightly odd experience, but I did enjoy a chat with Yves every time he brought another course to my table outdoors on a very pleasant and insect free evening.  An excellent meal: 
Goats cheese and courgette tart
Veal cutlets with buttery pasta and ratatouille
Chocolate cheese cake with raspberry jam
With the usual red wine and coffee. 

And they can do breakfast for any time I want it, not the usual 'from 8am'.  Well done Sue, you found me a top place. 

Auzat's fête is in full swing, with baton waving girls and a brass band. Not quite Morris Dancing, but the girls are more attractive (sorry Rick).

The lower picture was taken shortly after I arrived here, when I was being plied with beer.

Keep commenting (I like your comments Chantal, wherever you learnt your English they need to be congratulated!) and I'll be in touch in a couple of days - there's virtually no chance of a signal tomorrow night. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

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