Ascent: 2050 metres (Cum: 27150 metres)
Time taken: 10.2 hrs including 1.7 hrs stops (Cum: 203.2 hrs including 40.3 hrs stops)
Weather: I could have fried eggs on the rocks
Camping next to a children's playground in Spain. I should have known better. Spanish children play until midnight. And they took delight in tripping over my guy lines.
I didn't hurry this morning. My plan was for a leisurely start and a thrutch up and down to Estaon. That didn't transpire. Instead of a thrutch it was a steady ascent and descent on ancient paths reminiscent of those found on the GR10 route.
I started past the Panta de la Torrassa lake, with fishermen reflected in the still waters, past a machine gun nest built by Franco between 1947 and 1952 as part of his Pyrenean defence line. It seemed quite strange to me, not knowing very much about Spanish history.
The ascent did start off up a fiendishly steep path, but it soon saw sense and assumed a more sensible gradient.
Dorve provided my last water for the morning. By the time I reached Estaon what was left of it tasted like warm bath water. Today's temperatures were around 30 to 35C but with a light breeze it didn't seem too bad.
The hamlet of Dorve was full of incomplete buildings, with nobody around until I heard banging and crashing from one of the buildings. A brown cat appeared and ran off, the only inhabitant.
Guide book writer Brian says this is the easiest place on GR11 to get lost. Not with the new signposting. Just follow the signs to Lo Caubo.
I caught up with a French trio with day sacks at the first col, Collado de la Serra, from where there were views back to what I imagine are the iconic twin peaks of the Parque Nacional de Aigüestortes. Humphrey has alerted me to them as follows:
"By now you'll have passed through the St Maurici National Park, which is probably my favourite region of the range, bar none. The iconic twin peaks – Los Encantados (The Enchanted Ones) have their own legend. It seems that a couple of the boys decided to skip Sunday mass and go off after ibex instead. As a result they got turned to stone."
There were so many mountains and lakes. These two skipped my attention. Sorry HMP3, I'm a failure.
Surprisingly lovely gently rising paths through shady woodland led to the high point of the day, Coll de Montcaubo (2201 metres).
[Just to let you know, I'm writing this under duress. The room I was in had no lights, which I could cope with, then the tap exploded, which I couldn't cope with. I'm now in another, 'normal' sized room. That means it's about eight times bigger than the old one.]
Now then ... an eagle circled over the summit as I walked down towards Estaon and bumped into Martin, who had set off from Hostal Orteu half an hour before me. He was looking very chilled, albeit rather warm in another sort of way.
The long descent brought me to a pretty hamlet (Estaon) with an enticing Refugi recommended by Tobi. I filled up with water and perused the menu. I would have succumbed to any offer, but nobody was around. I'd planned to spend the night here, but it was only 12.45.
I decided to continue to Tavascan.
I'm glad I did. It was a delightful walk along ancient pathways including a spectacular high level traverse at the end of the day. Much care was needed and that section was only very slowly completed.
There was nobody else on the path, and silence apart from twittering songbirds which included a shrike. Butterflies fluttered, oblivious to my presence. The path was lined with clustered bellflowers, harebells, yarrow, crosswort and wild thyme, to name just a few.
On arrival in Tavascan a man advised "You'll need a beer?" Jenny will know the answer to that one. So that's how I was enticed into the chaos that is Casa Feliu.
I wasn't alone. The other Martin turned up after I'd done my chores and a German couple coming along GR11 in the other direction also spent the evening here. The food was ordinary and erratic - the owner kept forgetting to bring things like bread and ice cream. We were promised breakfast at 8 am when we arrived, but now she can't do it until 9 am, and my shoe box of a room had its problems as previously related, causing me to be moved from the dark cubby hole to this more normal room above which someone is rearranging the furniture.
I'm sure I'll sleep well eventually!
NB It's rumoured that guide book writer Brian is currently on GR10 heading east to west, so Mick and Gayle, who have just started GR10 from Hendaye, may bump into him coming the other way. Apparently he looks a bit like Alan Hardy.
You can read Gayle's excellent reports on their GR10 traverse at http://gayleybird.blogspot.com
She and Mick had a more disrupted night than mine on their first night of wild camping!
Early morning by the lake
The distressed village of Dorve
Looking back to Aigüestortes from Collado de la Serra
Tavascan from the high level traverse
Next Day - Day 30
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