A Blog by Dermot Dolan

A Blog by Dermot Dolan, all work is copyright of Dermot Dolan.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Reflections on the Trip - The finishing of the Gr10 Pyrénées.

 Myself on Canigou 

Planning a trip can take a lot of time and often the journey starts in front of a computer many months in advance. The purchase of the guide books, the choosing of dates and then the booking of the outbound flight. The flight booking focuses the mind. How much can I spend, how much will I need to carry, will I eat out or try to cook my own meals, will I bring a gas stove and all that goes with it.

I use a deuter act lite 40+10 backpack, a 2lt camel back water unit +1lt metal container. On this trip I used a silk sleeping bag liner, A Joby micro tripod (which I never used). Waterproofs, Haglof ultralight gortex jacket (approx 300grms), North Face HyVent waterproof Pull-ups, Waterproof backpack cover). One change of clothes, one fleece. With some food and without water 11kgs then 1.2 kg camera (Nikon D80 with standard 18- 135 zoom lens). So total weight with 3 liters of water 15.2 kg. I used Lowa Sterling boots and a pair of Teva flip flops for evening both worked great, no feet or leg problems, also used a pair of Leki poles.

Will I be physically able for this trip, will the heat get to me, the constant carrying of back pack, I don't speak French, I don't carry real maps (but where possible a guide book and the Frech Topo Guides in French which are brilliant). Is this crazy, will I be alone too much, will I get hit by lightning, yes storms can be a real problem in the Pyrénées and last year I got caught by two which frightened the living daylights out of me. I carried a "Tablet" this trip so to check on weather but found wi-fi hard to obtain.

At 6 am I locked my front door and put the key into by Backpack and in the breaking Dawn headed for Sligo bus station. Flight to Perpignan with 15 babies and Pat Rabbitte (He had nothing to do with the babies), it was the flight attendant told me the number of babies were 15 not toddlers but babies, a high number. Incidentally Pat Rabbitte did not look like a high flying politician, more like a man that was going to buy a few Heffiers at Manorhamilton mart. Now in Perpignan the trip has really begun.

It is hot in Perpignan at least 30 Celsius. I got on a bus to bring me to Bolquere which is to be my starting point for this trip it is a two hour journey which costs me the princely sum of one euro. I got on the bus at 5.45 pm arrived at 7.35 pm. It was one of the most beautiful bus journeys I have ever been on. The scenery was breathtaking, beautiful, magical, mystical etc etc. What made it so? Well for me that different shades of misty hazy blue on a high mountain. It is also a heat haze, winding, corkscrew roads that are very narrow and steep. The mountain has depth but also simplicity, it looks like a child's drawing of a mountain. The bus is full of many different people, some coming from work, some shopping, Grandfather bring Grandson to Perpignan for a Saturday outing, teenage girls texting one another while not giving a second glance to the magical mountain they are driving through.

I arrive eat a lovely dinner and to bed. The rooms in the small Gite I am in are named after peaks of the Pyrénées, I am staying in Carlit. Up at seven the following morning and off to find the GR 10 route. I finish at completely remote Refuge at 5.30 that evening, so tired I can barley stand. I sit down take off my boots put on my flip flops and look around me. This is many miles from any road, no traffic sounds just the sound of cowbells. They use a donkey to bring in supplies. There is a river in front of the refuge this is where you wash if you really want. There is a composting toilet 50 meters to the back of the refuge. There is a Source (spring well) 100 meters in another direction. The light in the evening is candlelight. Around 25/30 people are staying here tonight. Upstairs there is one room, a bedroom, it consists of 2 large bunks. The mattresses are laid side by side in these bunks you lay your sleeping bag down to claim your spot and hope for the best. Actually that night there were very little snoring or other sounds. You are so tired you sleep. The dinner was fine I meet may people at least 10 of whom would continue on in a "Caravan" of sorts to the end in Banyuls.

The following day I stopped at 12.30 in the hamlet of Mantet. I could walk no further. My body was packing in after one very tough day. I booked in to a Gite demi pension (half board). It was 30 Celsius outside, I went to bed and was that cold I had to wear a fleece and put 2 blankets on the bed. Got up at 4 pm went back to bed 15 minutes later. At 7 pm I got up for dinner eat something. Following morning a lot better I hit the road and walked until 3 pm. Now I convinced my body to behave itself and the rest yesterday helped. For the following 3 weeks apart from a sore throat and head cold I was like an ox. I done a few 11 hour days but mainly around nine. My feet were perfect and my legs would pull me through anything.

I was very happy. The walking/ climbing was tough but I loved it. I walked with people, I walked alone and loved doing both. I meet many nice people. The outstanding gang were the five from the Bordeaux region. They understood the Pyrénées they loved life and were loyal to one another and also to me. You live out of your rucksack everything you need for the month you carry daily on your back, therefore you got rid of a lot of rubbish you don't need, in my case I have generally enough of experience from before and don't bring it with me in the first place. You get to know people in a language you don't speak. It makes you tough physically and mentally, you don't let things get in your way. Above all you realise how lucky you are. It does not take a lot of money to do it, there are people who for different reasons cant do something like this. There are so many people who can do it but don't, if they only stopped playing with the "remote control". You put up all the excuses in the world for not doing something, but stop that crap and just do it.

I climbed the sacred peak of Canigou and came down its chimney. This was the highlight of the Pyrénées on this trip. Getting to Banyuls sur Mer  which is the finishing point of the GR10 was a big personal achievement but a little bit of an anti climax. I have found this on other trips as well as when I walked 1100 kms from Seville to Santiago de Compostela.

This is not a day to day account  you will get some of that in the rest of my blog. I should at some stage explain a few things such as what is the GR 10. It is a long distance path than runs the full length of the Pyrénées. It starts in Hendaye on the Atlantic ocean and finishes in Banyuls sur Mer on the Mediterranean . It does of course not follow a straight line and estimates of its distance vary from 700 km to over 900 km.  It takes on average 50 days to complete and has a total accent of 50,000 meters and a descent of 50,000 meters.

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