From Bolquère to Banyuls on the GR10

Cet article est également disponible en: French

Thanks Dermot for this guest article and the beautiful photos. More on his blog.

Walking the Pyrenees has been a special journey for me. I started just two years ago really by accident. I was walking with a Swiss companion and we ended up using the GR10 to get from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Irun. In those first five days, the mountains stole my heart. Last year, 2012, I spent 36 days walking from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Bolquère.

 

near the Refuge de l'Orry on the GR10

near the Refuge de l’Orry on the GR10

The GR10 in 2013

 

GR10 sign in Bolquère

GR10 sign in Bolquère

 

I arrive in Perpignan on the last day of August, a very hot Saturday evening, and catch the one-euro bus to Bolquère, a two-hour trip. The bus journey is one of the best I have ever been on: the colour of the mountains with their misty blue; their outlines with the simplicity and beauty of a child’s drawing; and the expectation of what the next nine days would bring. I stay in a gîte d’étape called les Ramiers, in a room called Carlit. They seem to have named the rooms after the different mountains of the Pyrenees.

 

view from the window of the refuge at the Ras de la Carança

view from the window of the refuge at the Ras de la Carança

 

In the morning it takes me about 40 minutes to pick up the GR10 and off I go. I find the first day tough and at about 5.30 pm I stagger into the refuge at the Ras de la Carança. There I meet five lovely people from Bordeaux with whom I will walk until the end at Banyuls.

 

Heading for Mantet on the GR10

heading for Mantet on the GR10

 

On Day two I stop at Mantet in the lovely gîte ‘Chez Richard’ and eat great food. When I arrive I am not feeling well and even though it is 30 Celsius outside I have to go to bed early afternoon, frozen. By dinner I feel a little better.

Day three takes me to Mariailles and by this stage I am feeling well.

 

the scree between Mariailles and les Coratlets

the scree between Mariailles and les Coratlets

 

Canigou seen from the Cortalets

Canigou seen from the Cortalets

 

Next day I go to the Cortalets hostel. I walk to the bottom of the Canigou massif but decide against taking the variant going over Canigou itself. That would involve climbing the chimney which is a sheer rock face of sorts; I only took up serious walking two and a half years ago and I am not a mountain climber.

 

at the summit of Canigou

at the summit of Canigou

 

Canigou chimney viewed from above

Canigou chimney viewed from above

 

At dinner with an English couple and my five Bordeaux friends, three of the Bordeaux gang decide they want to climb Canigou the following day and that I should join them. We start at 8.20 am and by about 10.30 reach the magical summit. It is a beautiful day, the views are superb, and the feeling is just incredible. But the fun is only just starting: we have yet to descend the chimney. As someone who will not clean the eaves on his two-story house, what follows is indeed a challenge. I overcame some fears that day and Canigou and the chimney were to become the highlight of the Pyrenees for this trip. It is 6.45 before I arrive at Batère, exhausted but very happy.

 

near Canigou on a variant of the GR10

near Canigou on a variant of the GR10

 

I will not give a day by day account of the rest of my journey; only say that it was a magnificent experience and that nine days after leaving Bolquère I reached Banyuls at 4.30 pm on Monday 9 September 2013.

 

near the Col du Puits de la Neige

near the Col du Puits de la Neige

 

Puig Sailfort on the GR10

Puig Sailfort on the GR10

 

Vines above Banyuls on the GR10

vines above Banyuls on the GR10

 

Arriving at Banyuls gave me a great sense of personal achievement but it was also a bit of an anti-climax. That feeling is not uncommon as I felt that way after walking 1100km from Seville to Santiago de Compostela.

I did find the heat on this section of the Pyrenees difficult. Even though I have suffered high temperatures elsewhere, the heat near the Mediterranean was harder for me to deal with.

The next day I went to Le Puy and walked part of the Stevenson Trail, the Cevennes, Mont Aigoual, and Causse Méjean, another great walk.

I have trekked about 6,000 km in the last two and a half years and the Pyrenees will always remain special in my heart. Maybe someday I will walk the GR11. In any case I will almost undoubtedly walk certain parts, like for example around Aneto.

 

sign marking the end of the GR10 in Banyuls

sign marking the end of the GR10 in Banyuls

 

If you are reading this, and have never walked the Pyrenees, just do it! Obviously take into account practical details like your fitness, preparation, time of year etc. Stop making excuses and just do it!

 

Dermot Dolan, Ireland

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