Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Saturday 1 August 2015 - Pyrenees GR11 - Day 48 - Argeles sur Mer (David and Jan's wonderful gite) to Timperley


 

 

 
 
The trip started in Timperley so it should finish here. Then there will be an index page and more comments about various other stuff, I suppose.

My trains home were booked for next Friday, so I could have swanned around this lovely part of the world for another week. But I know that jobs are piling up at home, and seven weeks is quite a long time to be away anyway. A call to Voyages-sncf confirmed that whilst my train tickets could be changed, I would have to pay the difference between my low cost advance fares and the fare on the day, which for the Eurostar leg of the journey could be considerable. Also, it looks as if I can get a refund for the TGV fare to Paris, though not for Eurostar or the bus to Manchester from London, which was very cheap anyway.

David is quite expert at the different ways of getting back to the UK from Argeles and he quickly found a cheap Ryanair flight from Beziers to Manchester, so that was booked using this phone, on which the boarding card was discreetly stored.

So by 10 am on Saturday I was back on the Avignon train, which takes an hour and a half to reach Beziers.

It was a shame to spend so little time with David and Jan, though I'm in two minds about getting out of today's task, which would have involved helping David to lay a synthetic lawn at his son's house in Argeles where clients are arriving tomorrow. I hope David can also resolve a minor problem involving the colour of the water in the pool!

Thanks again to D and J for having me and helping me to return to the English speaking world. And for a delicious meal last night.

Everything was quite fresh on Saturday morning after the first proper rain for two months - the lightning from the storm was quite spectacular.

The Languedoc Express duly deposited me in Beziers at 11.30. The bus to the airport didn't leave until 14.40, giving me plenty of time to explore the town - a reasonably pleasant place with a nice park near the station. But I'd had enough of lugging The Brick (my 15 kg rucksack in case you'd forgotten) around, so spent much of the time outside a café. I did try to get some goodies to boost my luggage to the 20 kg I'd paid for, but the insistence of shopkeepers that I part with my valuables whilst doing the shopping lost them the business.

The Ryanair flight saw me uneventfully back in Timperley before 7 pm.

Stuff:

Best Day: by a country mile - Day 13 over Cuello de Tebarrai.

Worst Day: by a country mile - the exhausting Day 34 out of Encamp.

I'm only aware of one other GR11 compleater amongst my encounters with other folk. That's German Martin. I expect that the Spanish dad and his twelve year old son also finished, as well as Ian and Jules who sadly I only met very briefly in Puigcerdà. This contrasts with at least half a dozen people I actually saw at the finish of my GR10 walk two years ago.

I was sorry to discover that Mick and Gayle had abandoned their GR10 walk in Luchon and returned home. I'd wondered how much they were enjoying it, but I'll miss Gayle's entertaining blog entries which I was looking forward to continuing to read over breakfast over the coming weeks. Mind you, I have 500 entries to catch up with on the blogs I follow, so that'll make a dent in my other activities.

Would I walk across the Pyrenees again? I've now strolled the HRP and GR10 and walked GR11 at a rather faster pace. I've also cycled across from east to west. For me the HRP was the outstanding route, GR10 was fun and sociable, and GR11 was more solitary and because of the pace I chose to go, more challenging. I won't be doing any of the walking routes again. What has been very obvious to me on this trip is the relatively straight line nature of a walk that passes by lots of interesting places. The same applies to GR10. So there are many more places to explore, both on the French and Spanish sides, from excellent bases with good accommodation and food. It might even be nice to devise a tour using the Spanish Paradors.

The only coast to coast route I'd consider would probably be east to west, more in the foothills and passing through places of interest, on a mountain bike. No camping would be involved. I'd love to do that with Tobi, if he could put up with my gentle pace, and Markus would also be a fine companion. It might take about three weeks.

Gear:

I'm pretty happy with the majority of my gear.

There's a slight question mark over my choice of footwear, as it may have contributed to my pressure sores. But the Keen Targhee ll shoes have worn well and would probably do the trip again. Except when my feet were sore they always felt extremely comfy.

Silk liners for sleeping bags wear out. I should have started with a new one.

My lightweight sleeping bag wasn't used very much, other than as an occasional blanket.

The Terra Nova Solar Competition 2 tent, despite having gone across the Pyrenees a couple of times and across Scotland at least once, has never been tested in strong winds. I'm more than happy with it though. Obviously it does withstand heavy rain. (I must have turned into a fair weather camper!) I later discovered lots of small holes in the groundsheet, perhaps from the pine needles on Day 44; a repair kit will be brought into service.

The Lowe-Alpine Nanon Hyperlite rucksack that I was given to test in 2011 has now been tested from cradle to grave. It has been an excellent and very comfortable rucksack, much better than its Go-lite Quest predecessor. But like the Go-lite it lacks long term durability. Stitching and zip failures, as well as serious deterioration of the shoulder straps and numerous holes and small tears in the Dyneema fabric, mean that this item will soon become landfill.

The Thermarest Neoair now leaks rather more than I'd like. It must have a pinhole puncture that needs mending. Now I'll be reverting to using the Karrimor Jaguar 65 litre rucksack, I'll have room for a Karrimat that is lighter and perhaps a better insulator than the Neoair, which Sue may continue to use if it can be mended.
 
I was disappointed that my two litre Ortlieb water carrier started to leak. Perhaps a thorn got it. If it's a problem with a seam I'm sure they will replace it.

Waterproofs kept the rain out as they should do, but the waterproof linings in the Keen shoes could only repel heavy rain for a few hours.

Tilley hat number four was for me an essential piece of kit. 

Gloves and water filter weren't needed.

Cooking equipment - MSR Superfly stove and Snowpeak titanium pan, worked flawlessly as usual.

Saucony Hattori running shoes were perfect for river crossings and for use in the evenings.

The GR11 strip maps at 1:40000 scale that I bought in 2004 were more than adequate, though if I go to the area again I'll try to get up to date mapping on a phone or tablet.

Technology: the Solarmonkey Adventurer charger was used but not really needed, and the Canon G16 camera and Samsung S5 phone both worked adequately. 

That's about it regarding significant items of gear. If anyone has any questions I'll be happy to answer them by email (martin@topwalks.com) or by way of comments hereto.

Today's pictures:
David admires his estate
Arriving in Beziers (the nearest I could get to a tractor!)
Leaving the Pyrenees - a sad moment after nearly seven weeks, but happy that the objective was achieved and that there were numerous memorable moments. 

Now to download the photos ... (2000 of them, and the first technological challenge of my return as the Canon G16 has decided it doesn't want to communicate with our computer)

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6 comments:

afootinthehills said...

Home sweet home Martin. If I'd been asked, I would have guessed your 'best day' though not your worst!

Phreerunner said...

It was a good walk and a good place to camp on the 'worst' day, Gibson, but because of my illness I found it totally exhausting, and the 'comfort' breaks weren't at all pleasant, nor were the 'going back to fetch something I left at the last comfort break' episodes exactly pleasant!

The photos have now been downloaded via a Lumix camera, so many happy hours will now be spent editing them...

Gayle said...

If I gave the impression via my blog posts that we weren't enjoying the walk then I very much misrepresented reality. The bits that I didn't enjoy (including the 3.5 hours of night time thunderstorm - definitely the low point of the trip) were truly tiny overall. The vast majority of what we did was both enjoyable and enjoyed...which is what makes our decision not to complete the walk right now even more difficult to explain.


Phreerunner said...

I suspect I've fallen into a psychological trap here and knowing you had stopped at Luchon I conned myself into thinking you perhaps hadn't found it as enjoyable as you obviously did. Sorry about that.

You could easily construe some of my own entries as 'not enjoying it', which at times may have been true, but there was an overwhelming satisfaction at having completed the route despite the setbacks and my own unintended efforts to make it harder by way of long days and walking when sick!

I've just washed the tent. Very Dirty Water...

Fancy meeting up for a walk next week?

afootinthehills said...

Actually Martin, I thought your posts were remarkably upbeat even during the pressure sores period and other upsets. That's why I said I couldn't have guessed your worst day although clearly I knew there were several that were less than totally enjoyable!

Phreerunner said...

I always try to look on the positive side, Gibson. On this walk I was always ahead of schedule, so I knew that if I needed a longer break I could have one.