Runaway Travel Stories

Day 2: Mist and Mountains

Ainhoa – Col d’Harietta via Bidarray

Distance: 30km elevation: 1960m

Fuel: 2 squares of weird bread with peanut butter, pain au chocolat (yay for cafes that open early!), 2 cafe au lait, packet of margarita CLIF bloks, 2 bread squares with jam, Coke Zero and coffee, CLIF bar (choc mint), 2 bread squares with peanut butter / vegemite, half a chorizo. Tomorrow we need fruit and veg!!!

Gear fails: Mat’s ibook went back into the cloud so he couldn’t read it 😦 the zip on the tent also got caught letting all the midgees into the tent. Epic fail on Mat’s part.

Today we really hit the hills. After finding a small bakery open in Ainhoa (small miracle!) and fuelling on coffee and a pain au chocolat (naughty but turns out it was a good call!), we climbed straight out of town up to the Col des Trois Croix. Mist had fully descended by now, but while it wasn’t quite raining, we were still soaked. But god, it made for an incredible sight: three crucifixes rising from the thick grey mist. 


We followed our red-white stripes around a few more hills, through farmyards and eventually reached the descent. The book says this: 


And it had been raining. So we basically threw ourselves down the ravinne, skidding over rocks, trying not to slide off the edge into the river way way below, and somehow found ourselves at the bottom relatively unscathed. Nicki & Mat 1, GR10 Nil.


I think I’ve made all this sound like it took about an hour. It didn’t: it took six. The climbs were lonnnnnnnng but uneventful, and that descent took over an hour alone. So as we trotted into Bidarray, our legs like jelly, the church bells told us it was 2.45pm. 

Time for a drink. 

We lucked out and found a small bar-restaurant which had good internet, bad 80’s music, coffee and Coke Zero (I’m not normally into fizzy drinks but when I can’t have wine….). We could have quite happy set up our tent right there in the bar, but the afternoon was creeping on and we had our heart set on camping in a beech forest I’d read about. 

Oh, just one little problem: there was a 1000m mountain in the way.

In Australia, there’s no way we’d set off for another huge climb at 4 in the afternoon. But it’s daylight til 10pm, so we still had heaps of time to reach the top. Little did we know the first 800m ascent was in the first couple of kilometres. We saw a couple of French guys coming down the sketchy trail, who said something I translated as: What are you crazies doing going up there?! Go back to the bar and enjoy a gin and tonic. 

Or maybe they were just wishing us a Bon Journee. 

Just as reached the peak, no jokes, the mist cleared for the first time today and showed us the spectacular view of where we’d been, and are going. I dragged Mat away as I spotted a scattering of beech trees in the distance. I’ve never been so happy to see a tree! 


A few words about our camping style: even if we’re eating our right arm from hunger, mat always insists on us putting up the tent first, filling it with eerything we need, turning around three times, touching our toes and searching for water, before was are allowed dinner. I may have been a bit hangry, but we got there. 

Just as I was about to call it a night, Mat called out from the edge of the forest: he’d found a water source. Turns out, some beautiful people installed a water tank up here complete with filter. And that’s why we’re going to bed un-smelly tonight. 

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