Col d’Harrieta – Esterencuby via St Jean Pied de Port
Distance: 42.1km (plus a couple of k’s extra looking for a campsite!)
Food: 1x CLIF bar (mint choc), 4 x CLIF bloks (berry), Pain au chocolat (Oh how I love French bolangeries!), 1/2 baguette + peanut butter, bar of Milka, Yoghurt, Apple juice, 250ml Pilsner, Apples, Coke Zero. (You might be able to tell we’re loading up for the next three days where there will be no shops…hopefully a bakery or two though!)
Gear Fails: Zip broke on my Nicki’s bag. I love my Salomon bag but the zips really are rubbish.
FLIES. There’s no getting around it – today was a day of buzzing, flapping, stinging, swatting, swearing flies. They started attacking the moment we left the tent – we could see them swarming outside waiting for us. Granted, this made us speed up our morning routine and we got out within a record-breaking 25 minutes. But we ended up with teeny tiny bites all over our legs.
With half a CLIF bar in our tummies (we needed to hit the next village for supplies), we hiked up the first couple of peaks. Whatever hangry fly-hating feelings I had at the start soon disappeared as Mat pointed out cloud waterfalls ahead. The next few k’s flew by. We were flying! So fast, in fact, that I didn’t realise I’d run through some spiky grass until it was too late. A red rash covered my legs and I was almost crying from the urge to scratch. Mat told me to man up, poured cold water over me and we were away.
Down in St Etienne-de-Baigorry, we filled up on bread and supplies before starting the long hike up and over the next Col. I’m not sure what a Col is exactly – maybe a saddle? I keep forgetting to ask/ look it up when we’re in wifi areas! Anyone who can translate, please feel free 🙂
The flies followed. This time they were big black round b$%tards. And they bite. The most frustrating thing about them is that they don’t go away; it’s like they see you playing hard to get and want to follow until they win you over. I’m putting it down to the sheep pastures we were hiking through. Or our smell. Though we’re both wearing merino tops, and they’re actually not too whiffy…
At 1pm, the sun came out for the first time so since Hendaye. And she burns! We could see our final peak ahead of us, with a few horses grazing at the top, so we put our heads down and got the job done. At the top, we were thrilled to see huge falcons and vultures swooping from the rocks and circling above. We stayed mesmerised for a few minutes, along with a couple of English hikers. Here’s the thing about this hike – everyone greet everyone else with “bonjour” so usually I you have no idea who is French and who’s just got a weird way of pronouncing bonjour. But these guys were so typically English that I didn’t say bonjour – I yelled “hello!” And they replied in English. Chances are most the people we’ve bonjoured are English speakers and we didn’t give them a chance. C’est la vie.
It’s a wonder we didn’t buy the whole shop, and the air conditioning. But we restrained (correction: mat restrained me) and two tubs of yoghurts and a litre of apple juice later, we were on our way.
I should probably explain why we did what we did next. We saw the weather forecast for tomorrow (Saturday) is a scorching 35 degrees. Great for the beach, not great for the biggest single ascent of the whole trail (1800m+). So we had a choice:
a) stay in St Jean and enjoy 13km with 480m elevation on Saturday.
b) do an extra 13km today, then get up super early and tackle the climb.
Any guesses which we chose?
Let’s just say at 5pm we hit the road again for a final 13km. More on that descision tomorrow….