Day 19: The Variant

Eylie – Bonac
Distance: 17km

Elevation: 800m

Fuel: Rye bread and Nutella, peanuts, plate of couscous, cheese, salad and bread, rye bread and mackerel for dinner, mars bar for dessert, a couple of beers and wine.

Sometimes the GR10 offers a little “get out” clause, or an escape chute. Say you’re in desperate need of food and water, you could take a GR10 variant to skip closer to a village. Or say the weather is too bad to climb over the pass, you could take a variant onto a lower path. The variants aren’t always easier or shorter. They aren’t always there when you need them. And they aren’t always well marked. But they do exist. 

Until now we haven’t wanted or needed to take a variant. Until today. 

Mat’s shin was playing up last night after two days of solid, steep descents. He did everything he could to ease the aching, including dunking his legs in icy cold water for an hour, but it was still a bit sore. We had a choice: continue along the usual route with another 2000m ascent and 2000m descent in one day and risk making his leg worse (and him hating every second of the day), or take The Variant. 

No prizes for guessing which we chose. 
The Variant, beautifully named GR10E, would take us up the hill for two hours over Eylie. Then there would be a sign to take us down into a closer village, Borac, and then around the valley to join the GR10 lower down. Essentially, we’d go around the mountain rather than over it. 

So off we went. We reached the turn off and The Variant was really well-marked. “This will be easy!” we thought, a little smug about the whole thing. But the thing about the Variants is that they are not the typical trail, so fewer people take them. Fewer people means the trail is more overgrown, less well-maintained and a bit – how I can I put this nicely – shit.  

But it worked. Mat didn’t have to worry about his shin working overtime on rocky decscents. Instead, he was worrying about staying vertical on a trail that seemed to be made for goats. Baby goats. After 3 hours, we took the final switchback into Bonac, a tiny farming village on the edge of a lake. 

Now, we had planned to keep going to rejoin the trail. But then we saw a sign advertising the football final showing tonight at the one and only village pub/restaurant/hotel/bakery. What a coincidence. Now we’re here, it would be foolish to miss the opportunity to see France play in the final in a French village? Right?

So, to help Mat rest his leg, we’ve decided to stay. Sure, there might be a beer or two tonight if we happen to see some of the match, but it’s all in the name of recovery, right?

PS: It’s 8pm and France won in a crazy final. The tiny bar was filled with people who couldn’t tear their eyes from the white sheet which was showing the match. Back in the tent, all we can hear is car horns as people drive through the village celebrating! Well worth the stop 🙂

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