Goats at Mas Nou
Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 53 - Thursday 16 September 2004 - Stage 44
Homely Gite to
More trees and blackberry lanes as we head east in fine weather- 7.3 hours, 21 km, 1000m ascent
Despite being nearly at our final destination, we only caught occasional glimpses of the
today, as we progressed from the nice gite at Las Illas to another gite at Col
de L’Ouillat. We travelled an undulating
road (mainly dirt tracks bordered by succulent blackberries) down to a dreadful
place called Col du Perthus, where the streets were crammed with people trying
to buy cheap booze from the many supermarkets.
Then along a quiet road for lunch by an ancient fountain, before taking
woodland paths up to our destination.
The views from the gite were breathtaking, west to Canigou, and south
into . But the gite was fully booked! This turned out to be to our advantage, as we
had a meal there at 6.30 and were in our cosy tent in the forest when the party
arrived, all in 4WDs! We were able to go
to sleep early, in preparation for an early start on our final day.
Diary Entry (by Martin)
Ann and Vincent move early as they have to be at Col de L’Ouillat by 3 pm, and they are determined to get there in time. They are very quiet but this still gets us up by 7 am. We join the others for breakfast - they leave soon after 7 am, and we eventually get away in clear weather at 7.40.
There's a cool breeze as we go (dressed in shorts and t-shirt as near the
Sea) up a lane from 550 metres to 730 metres. First home cooked
breakfast for some time - muesli - and Sue has stomach ache. Nurofen sorts it
Look down on the red roofs and yellow walls of Las Illas - a pretty village. Trees everywhere now, so views are limited. Pinks are still in flower, and ragwort and others. The blackberries are superb. The sun pops up briefly at 8.25, but for most of today we are in the shade of hills or trees. Cacti are occasionally seen. In the
Pyrenees? We continue to Mas Nou through dark beech woods
penetrated only by thin beams of light.
The peaks ahead are covered by mist, but this clears as the day develops into a crystal clear autumn day, with deep blue skies and distant views into both
France and . Our immediate surroundings,
mid-morning, resemble an October day in Spain .
The view north is across plains and to outlying peaks of the Cheshire Pyrenees
foothills. Glaring sun blinds as we go past banks of heather and lanes laden
We reach Col del Priorat at 10.10 and admire the magnificent border stone number 565.
Next, and until the end of today's walk, we are in a cork tree zone. The trees are stripped up to about 10 feet high, freshly stripped trees showing bright red, with the stripped wood darkening with age. The cork seems to gradually grow back.
A message from Vincent and Ann, (written on a piece of paper and secured by two rocks in the middle of the track!) alerts us to the trees we have already admired. We pass a medieval priory and an even more magnificent border stone, on a point with extensive views both north and south, below a 17th century fort. It's very windy here at about 350 metres, as windy as at any time on this trip.
Border stone number 567 and Panissars Roman remains
A view into
before Col du Perthus
And so to Col du Perthus, a pretty nasty place full of traffic, supermarkets selling booze (a feature of French/Spanish border towns) and crowded streets. We quickly got adequate supplies to last until Banyuls, but skipped the fruit due to the lack of a grocery. 12 to 12.30.
Banyuls now signposted at Col Perthus
Then up a cool, shady road for lunch at an enclosed fountain - Fontaine Ste Marie (1885).
Fleeces needed despite the low venue and close proximity to the
Blue cheese / pâté went down well. Then
we ascended on nice paths - GR10 all day - up to the café / gîte at Col de
L’Ouillat, before where a message from Vincent and Ann told us their taxi was
here, so 'au revoir'. We missed them by just a few minutes, as we arrived at
the at 3
pm, the time their taxi was due.
This is a superb spot, with extensive views south to eight lines of ridges in
to the south west and south
south west - perhaps 50-60 miles to the furthest, high, line of hills.
But dominant on the horizon to the west is the Canigou massif. It looks close, but it's four days walk away! We are unable to identify the main summit.
After cold and delicious Oranginas, Sue makes an approach about staying in the gîte. It takes forty people, so this is a formality as we seem to be the only people other than Vincent and Ann staying in gîtes. But no! the luck Vincent and Ann have brought us deserts us. The gîte is full! So we will camp outside and they can provide a meal at 6.30. So that's ok really as we don't fancy another 1½ hours to the unmanned Tagnarede Hut, and camping should enable us to get an early start on tomorrow's long, final stage.
The meal was good. I had anchovy salad (more like small rollmops) and Catalan grill - lots of grilled meat and a slab of potato and salad, black pudding, bacon, pork chop, steak, sausage etc. Sue had a goat's cheese salad and duck in a honey sauce with peaches. All very good; the chef was relaxed even if the other two 'guardians' were pacing around, apprehensive about the large number of customers about to arrive. They did arrive - in about ten four-wheel drive vehicles, around 9 pm, after we had gone to bed. A fortunate camp, the gîte with 40 late night revellers would have been awful.
Sunset from Col de L’Ouillat
Stats and route (Viewranger):
23 km, 1200 metres ascent, 7.3 hours