The problem with staying in a region where the geography is long, deep, parallel, glacial valleys is that it’s hard to get from one to the other without going all the way down one and back up another or driving over twisty and wild mountain roads. We decided to take a full day out from our home in the Tech valley to the on to the north the Tet valley to visit a couple of well know local sights.
Whilst the drive over the rough tracks is bumpy and wild (more worrying scrapes on the car chassis) it is undeniably spectacular especially on a clear mountain day. We drove over the pass that holds the Tour de la Batere where I’d walked with TJS last year.
We stopped off for a brief wander around Villefranche de Conflet, a walled town very much like Prats de Mollo near our own holiday home, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its a popular and busy but charming nonetheless.
We took a long walk around the ramparts and explored its various nooks and crannies. The ramparts are covered so that enemy troops who may be spying on those in the town can’t count the numbers or see their movements. And there was me thinking that it was to keep the soldiers nice and dry!
Like Prats de Mollo the town is overlooked by one of Vauban’s castles, Fort Liberia.
It also has a long and steep climb to explore its inner reaches as well as an underground passage to the top. However it was hot and we decided a nice lunch in the town square was a much better idea. Interestingly the mountain railway line, Le Petei Train Jaune (The Litle Yellow Train) that runs into the high Pyrenees runs behind the town. It’s an electric line and with the high voltage third rail. To access the castle you cross the railway line directly with just a small and understated sign asking you to take care as treading on the third rail might be somewhat bad for your health. That’s how it should be, a simple warning and let you get on with life unhindered. Health and Safety people in the UK take note. Rant over.
After lunch we drove higher into the mountains to take a walk in the Goreges De Caranca. I’d read about this walk and longed to see it.
You enter the narrow gorge through a rock tunnel under the railway bridge and enter it’s narrow and deep confines and very impressive it is too. However the best was yet to come
After a short climb the path levels out and the gorge, whilst much wider than the few feet at the entrance soars to amazing heights (or depths, depending on how you look at it). The views are spectacular as the path traverses through the woods.
Then you round a corner and are suddenly faced with a vertical wall of rock out of which the path has been carved.
A wall of rock and handrail on one side, a path perhaps 6-8 feet wide with a drop of about 1000 feet on the other. It’s quite simply an amazing section of walking, I was in my element and TJS was loving it but the Funsters were a little unnerved and took a while to slowly walk along. As the path is hewn out of solid rock it’s rough and without care it would easy to stumble, the result of which would be short free-fall to the bottom of the gorge if very unfortunate. I loved it!
As the path continues on its merry level way the gorge comes up to meet it and you eventually reach the river. TJF in particular wasn’t really enjoying this so returned with TBF. Me and the TJS moved on to the second and equally exciting section where the path closely follows the river in its narrow rocky bed. The route is enhanced by several ladders, steel walkways and bouncy wire bridges as it twists and turns into the mountains. Great fun.
As the valley opens out there are glimpses of the high mountains that were beckoning us on. It would a fabulous walk to the mountain hut and lake high in the Pyrenees but we had to turn around and head back as time was pressing, returning the exciting way we had come
Rather than descend to the car park the way we had come we took another rock-hewn path that exits right at the sudden end of the gorge.
From below it looks unfeasible and vertiginous but it was much wider and easier than the first section but equally rewarding.
We descended steeply back to the car, catching sight of the famous yellow train as we went.
An amazing place, well worth a visit with the usual caveat that as a well known spot you won’t have it to yourself although once into the higher mountains beyond the gorge you’d lose the crowds
To finish off the day in style we decided to have an evening picnic. After another bout of off-road driving and another frighteningly loud bump and scrape on the underside of the car we found a spot high above the valley at the Col de Milleres with views west towards the higher Carlit Massif where the sun was setting.
The views were just amazing and sitting in warm evening sun scoffing the usual picnic fare and watching the setting sun casting its glow over the mountains was just the finish a long and interesting day needed.
We were last home that night but well worth it to see some of the finest sights this part of France has to offer. A walking holiday here in spring/early summer when the wild flowers are out and before the heat of summer would be amazing