Martin on Cnicht

Martin on Cnicht

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Saturday 20 June 2015 - Pyrenees GR11 - Day 6 - Burguete (900 metres) to Sierra de Abodi (1350 metres)

 
 
 
Distance: 24km (Cum: 129 km)

Ascent: 1200 metres (Cum: 6000 metres)

Time taken: 8.6 hrs including 1.8 hrs stops (Cum: 43.7 hrs including 8.4 hrs stops)

Weather: perfect walking weather - sunny with a light breeze and not too hot (mostly)

I slept badly. I'm much better in a tent. Perhaps it was the bottle of wine (it came with the three course meal for €17.50, so I had to drink it) or perhaps my brain was constantly engaging and re-engaging on ways in which I could get the phone working again. I should have known it would be our provider's server that was the problem. Something of this nature seems to happen on every long trip, with problems ranging from unresponsive servers to disappearing drafts and crazy space bars.

There were a good thirty people in the hotel restaurant last night, dealt with efficiently by the boss, who sports meticulous 1/4 inch sideburns and a lower lip moustache.

From my lonesome table of:

Duck paté
Chicken and micro chips
Basque pannacotta type dessert with honey
Coffee
Wine
Sloe liqueur, on the house - surprisingly palatable

I could select my companions, and I drifted naturally to a table where Huan Jose (John Joseph) from Valencia was chatting to two motorcyclists from Stuttgart. JJ is a pilgrim. He's walking part of the Camino de Santiago. He was good company for the evening. He must have been, my interrupted sleep didn't start until after 11.30pm. That's late on this trip. He told me that if he stops for a rest on the pilgrim route he can guarantee another pilgrim will pass within a few minutes. What a contrast to GR11, on which I've seen three people in five days.

JJ is a runner. Now that he's slimmed down from twenty stone. He told me running is incredibly popular in Spain. He reckoned that any 'parkrun' initiative could really take off.

I was away before the supermarket opened - a bit of a faux pas not going last night, but I was intent on getting my washing done. Anyway I've survived on the crusts that have been loitering for nearly a week at the bottom of my food bag. The tea tastes a bit old.

Hordes of pilgrims were pouring down the street but my path was deserted apart from a lone mountain biker who stopped for a chat. It was a short chat as our languages didn't quite 'sync', but he was pleased to tell me that the weather forecast for the next week is good.

A fabulous day for walking. Just as well as I had another quite long day. They will be easier for a while after today. Sun glinted through the trees as the path undulated through woodland with occasional views. The Basque paths have impressed me - there has been virtually no tarmac. Today was no exception, though some folk would find the mud a bit wearisome. Ankle gaiters are very helpful with the trail shoes.

The phone started to work again at 9.30. That cheered me up a lot. By contrast with GR10, when we met new people at frequent intervals, my companions on this trip are mainly those with the patience to read these words and make the occasional comment. Conrad, Gibson, Alan, JJ, HMP3, Nick, Gayle, and especially Sue - you and a number of others are my companions and I do hope you are enjoying the trip.

I was really surprised not to see more people on a Saturday in mid summer. The trails are ideal for mountain biking, and where are all those people from the hotel? Driving around, I suppose.

Toby and Carol seem to have got left behind, and Mitxel is no doubt ahead, and apart from the mountain biker, I saw just seven people on today's paths - all at the end of the day, five men training for an ultra marathon and two hot walkers.

The day had a  number of highlights.

The flowers were absolutely wonderful. Limestone in the Pyrenees, early in the season, brings out the best. A plethora of orchids, including Burnt Orchid and another rare one that will have Sue drooling, and masses of bellflowers, columbines, trefoils, spring gentians, saxifrages and many more. Brilliant.

There were some great views as well today, some almost back to the coast and others ahead to the high mountains, with French clouds just lapping over slightly into Spain.

Huge birds of prey circled over the small village of Orbara, where Eskola Taberna fed me coffee, a huge bacon and cheese baguette and a cold orange juice, all for just six euros. That baguette solved any food (or lack of it) problem. There was just one other customer - an old man playing sudoku.

After Orbara, an hour along the grassy track to Hiriberri was absolutely sublime. The best of the flowers were here.

After filling up with water in the village (in the event I could have filled up 45 minutes later) I slowly rose to 1400 metres along paths that were exceedingly muddy, rocky or both - one common denominator being the need for constant vigilance to avoid being stung by tall nettles.

The Abodi ridge is laced with trees and the path is a little below the crest, so just occasional glimpses of the high mountains ahead were gained. In between those glimpses every effort was needed to avoid being stung by nettles or slipping on the limestone.

Eventually the 1400 metre summit is reached and the path drops out of the trees into a vast high meadow where cows and horses co-exist. Today there was a cool, brisk wind. I made my way over to some deep troughs in the limestone pavement near the cliffs to the south of the ridge and found a good flat spot out of sight of the livestock. In fact, it might be some time before anyone found me here.

But I'll be gone in the morning as I can't survive long on tea bags, a packet of tuna in mayo, a few cereal nuts, a bag of raisins and a litre of water. (That was written after my sumptuous feast!)

Today's pictures:
Sadly the one of distant high mountains wasn't up to scratch, so...
A typical Basque country view
A flower that isn't in Gillian's Alpine flower book (*i**** ****i*)
My campsite without an extensive view, but it's very private and is sheltered from the wind, which is quite brisk

Next - Fun in the Pyrenees

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13 comments:

Sir Hugh said...

All very evocative.

Your pilgrim man reminds me of my friend Pete. On arriving at a minor road that perhaps only sees one car a week, Pete, who has an aversion to invasion, has the theory that a car will come past within minutes of you stepping onto that road. We both live in Arnside which is an AONB attracting many visitors and Pete's aversion extends forcefully to them.

I looked up your tent. I have a Terra Nova Competition which is designated one man, but yours says two. I suspect that you have a little more room for very little extra weight. My Comp. pitches in one, fly sheet and all whereas yours pitches tent first. I suppose once you get the knack there isn't much difference.

Bonne continuation.(Spanish - buena continuación).

afootinthehills said...

A tranquil scene in top and bottom photographs and nice to see the blue skies at last. The wooded hillsides remind me of parts of Austria.

Would two plus gear be a bit cramped in your tent Martin? I note you took the Nallo on the TGO Challenge this year.







wuxing said...

Glad to see your weather has improved. I think it may have moved on - just arrived in Hong Kong, where it's raining. Heavily.

Enjoy the sunshine and the peace!

Humphrey Weightman said...

Grunting and guzzling! Am enjoying your narrative immensely - it's all coming back. Looks like the GR11 has been re-routed since '99. In those days it struck up north to the frontier via Roncevalles. That sloe liqueur is Patxaran (aran is Basque for sloe). Very easy to make at home!

In a couple of daze you'll come to Isaba - if conditions are good do take what's now a GR11 variant and go up and over the Peñas de Ezcaurre ridge before dropping down to the campsite at Zuriza. Your first 2000m top!

Nallo Lady said...

You'll be able to relive your sloe liqueur at home, as we still have a small amount of sloe gin I the cupboard. You had better weather yesterday than we had at St Nicholas park in Warwick. Thank goodness Helen borrowed a large gazebo, which not only got a good team spirit going during putting it up (it was tricky!) but sheltered us in the torrential downpours! Finally though, the sun came out and kids, big and small took pedloes out on the river Avon. Still, good to see that the weather didn't put off 42 family members turning up! Many sen their regards, including Rachel and Frank who have just walked 200 miles across Scotland!

Nallo Lady said...

Oops, I meant Ireland. Sorry about the typos.

John J said...

You've certainly shifted that grim weather away....in a northerly direction. Timperley is decidedly chilly and grey - typical Summer Soltice conditions!

Phreerunner said...

A huff and a puff and away it went JJ. Sorry to hear it landed in Timperley - it wasn't even cold when it left here.

In fact I thought I'd blown it to Hong Kong!

Conrad, the 'pilgrim JJ' wasn't a real pilgrim but I'm sure he was right about the numbers on that trail. He enjoys a few days easy walking in the company of a wide variety of folk, but most pilgrims stay in cheap dormitory accommodation whereas JJ likes a room to himself in a hotel.

Conrad and Gibson - the Solar Competition 2 is designed for two people doing a mountain marathon. The rucksacks would be outside. It's spacious for one, but inferior in design to the Phreerunner, which Sue and I used for both of us, eg on GR20 in Corsica, before we bought the Nallo for the HRP in 2004. The Nallo is a superb tent for two, weighing 2100 gm, the same as the Phreerunner. I'm using the Solar Competition because it's only 1400 gm, and it is a good tent.

HMP3 - good to hear from you. Yes GR11 was re-routed from Burguete to avoid tarmac and a paucity of accommodation. The new route is excellent, if a bit muddy in places.
Apparently the official route from Isaba was changed because the old route could be dangerous in wet weather. I'll be taking the old route unless it's a foul day, as you suggest.

I think that's all (I was coming to the end of the first version when Sue called and I lost all the text, but it was good to chat, Sue - and thanks for the hotel bookings).

afootinthehills said...

Yes we have the Nallo which we love - best we've ever had.

Gayle said...

I certainly am enjoying your trip - and the presence of blue sky and views in today's photos!

Meanwhile, my GR10 spreadsheet is now almost completely populated ... less than 3 weeks till the off :-)

Phreerunner said...

The weather was certainly hot today Gayle. My plan was fully populated a few months ago (see link on www.topwalks.com) but it isn't really being followed. I'm just taking it as it comes and planning a few days in advance, whilst including a bit of flexibility so that I can stop when I feel like it. Carrying enough water for an overnight stop has been hard work but we'll worth the effort.

I'm sure you'll have a ball on GR10, but you'll find the nights drawing in and some of the facilities closed by the time you reach the end. Draw breath and maybe take a day off in Amelie-les-Bains?

Alan Sloman said...

This really is excellent news! With Martin on the GR11, and Mick & Gayle on the GR10 I will have bang up-to-date information on which to make up my mind for my next big walk.

Now then, you lot! I want accurate reports each and every day!
Which, of course, Martin always provides.
:-)

Phreerunner said...

I do my best Alan. I think Gayle is planning weekly reports. It'll be interesting to compare their GR10 experience with our battle against the elements in 2013.