Today’s route – straight ahead, first down and then up and over the skyline…
Today’s walk was laid out before us from the col high above Pombie yesterday evening. The “up and over the skyline” bit was again Higher than yesterday’s High, but by now the expedition was firing on all four and “up for it.” The Guidebook Fibber had promised a bit of an exposed trundle on the other side of the skyline, which worried old Binder, but Jungle assured Binder that she would hold his hand and as long as he kept his eyes tightly shut and had a few pastis sharpeners beforehand, everything would be “Quite all right, dear thing.” “Besides, the old rusty chain that he would be clinging to very rarely snapped these days...”
With these merry thoughts buzzing about his bonce, Binder trotted off happily down the hill towards the valley bottom. Binder liked bottoms. They were reassuring snuggely places. It was actually quite late when we set off. Binder had enjoyed his lie-in. It was strange to find Jungle’s alarm clock under the twenty layers of clothing well past the time it had gone off so silently.
Now, it shouldn’t be possible to be mis-placed on your way down to the next valley bottom, but our team found themselves inadvertently facing a pretty little stream crossing on the way down. It was no bother though and Jungle navigated her way across by walking on water in her plimsolls. Binder admired her crossing style from the far bank.
You see, the thing with the Pyrenees is that places are actually not that far apart and so everything looks to be an “Easy Day, then.” The Horrible Reality is that even going down hill, things are a Very Long Way Away and it does take more time than you realise. It’s not like a quick nip around the Hemingford Round (which takes 82 minutes if you are sharpish about it). No – This place is actually Quite Big. It also has Weather. And the Capitals are Very Important Here. This Weather, on the French side of the Pyrenees, sneaks up on you, over your shoulder and bites your bottom, Very Hard Indeed.
Now, some people like having their bottoms bitten very hard, perhaps because they are “Ard” themselves. But poor old Binder is an old softy, and likes warm sunshine and cooling zephyrs. He doesn’t like lightning crashing overhead between the rocky ridges with hailstones the size of small family cars battering his fizzog. The idea of being electrocuted by a rusty old chain the other side of the skyline whilst being pummelled to death by Falling Ford Fiestas does not appeal to Binder.
As we dropped further down into the valley, the air got thicker and thicker and there was a buzziness about the mountains. The air was actually a funny colour. The forecast, read at the refuge in the morning, wasn’t encouraging. Thunderstorms for the next few days with hailstones the size of small family cars and electrical storms that would take out New York’s entire nuclear industry in one flash.
Finally, over luncheon at the bottom of the valley, Jungle came up with a route diversion. The expedition would have a siesta for the few days of thunderstorms and resume when the monsoons had blown themselves out.
It was a Eureka Moment for Binder.
A few hours later, after a wondrously successful hitch from a French Couple, who insisted on stopping halfway, at Gabas, to buy the team a very famous beer or two, the expedition found itself at Advanced Base Camp in Laruns. It would have been rude to use our own supplies and so fresh supplies were purchased and consumed from the natives of that fine little village. Later that evening there was a real belter of a storm, barely feet above our cafe table. The team stood their ground in magnificent British Style.
Jungle, testing the Native Supplies.