Sunday, 29 August 2010

Pyrenean Assault: Spain

Cloud Inversion Refuge D'Arlet An early start

"Half past five?"

"Half Past bloody Five! You cannot be serious!" spluttered Binder as Jungle was setting the alarm on her phone.

"Tomorrow's an easy day, but you heard what the Spaniards said in the Refuge over our meal - more thunder and lightning due tonight and tomorrow afternoon, with torrential rain, so we need to get off early"

"We could always have a day off? Perhaps let it pass and then carry on. After all said and done, they do have beers here. And Wine. And Good Food as well..." but Binder knew it was hopeless. Jungle had the bit between her teeth and tomorrow promised a supposedly easy high level section with sumptuous views and the expectation of treading Spanish soil.

Quite how the team found themselves on a road at the bottom of the valley, thumbing a lift, miles from Candanchu as the storm broke with incredible ferocity mid afternoon, puzzled Jungle. They had indeed set off at some ungodly hour of the European morning and had strolled on a beautiful grassy track with wonderful views to right and left. Jungle had recorded every single plant and snippet of wildlife that cared to wave a frond, petal or proboscis at her lens.

Jungle, with Spain behind herSpain creeping up on Jungle

"I think that perhaps we should have turned right, back at the top of the pass?" suggested Binder. "It's these maps. They don't show all the paths. In fact they don't show many of the paths at all and it's all in bloody French. That's just typical of the French. Me, me, me, me ME! And how come the paint splashes brought us here then?"

We had been following another GR Route - either 10 or 11, it matters not which one, for the Haute Route apparently doesn't have splashes all the time... "Now she tells me!"

Anyway, lunch had been fabulous with an airy perch for bread, cheeses & saucissons all washed down with more of those French Pasties.

The Spanish couple spoke absolutely no English at all as we sat, soaking their car's upholstery with gallons of Pyrenean rain. They appeared very concerned when we pointed at the small skiing village on the map over the border. "Candanchu?" they repeated several times, each time with more "are you absolutely, bloody well sure you want to go to that Godforsakenhellholeofaplace" intonation.

We did. And so they bravely took us up the long windy torrent that pretended to be a road, through the Pyrenean maelstrom, to deposit us at the Godforsakenhellholeofaplace called Candanchu. The place was straight out of a Spaghetti Western. A steaming deserted single street, with boarded and shuttered hotels. All the shops were shut. There was not a single dog to be seen. The only thing missing from the place was the tumbleweed.

As they drove off, horse's burial consumed us totally. Welcome to Spain.


  1. Locals not speaking English! I am shocked. You had a hard task manager there Alan. 5.30 start. Shocking. Anyway It is a fine read so far. Nice photos as well.

  2. You've found your very own Miss Whiplash ... HA! ... [descends into hysterical giggles].

  3. It's the "HA!" that's so hurtful Phil... That, and the giggling, of course.... And Half past bloody five too....

  4. It sounds like a fun trip. Well, apart from the thunder and rain, the middle of the night start and the rubbish maps! You partner sounds like me in wanting to examine every plant or other wildlife.

  5. Sound like an excellent trip. Despite all the ups and downs of the trip it is so nice to go back home and share to people a wonderful and remarkable story.


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