A big day out in the Tet Valley   6 comments

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.

Tour de la Batere

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.

Villefranche de Conflet

Villefranche de Conflet

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!

Villefranche de Conflet

Villefranche de Conflet

Like Prats de Mollo the town  is overlooked by one of Vauban’s castles, Fort Liberia.

Villefranche de Conflet, Fort Liberia

Villefranche de Conflet, 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.

Gorges de Caranca

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

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

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.

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Then you round a corner and are suddenly faced with a vertical wall of rock out of which the path has been carved.

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

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!

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

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.

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

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.

Gorges de Caranca

From below it looks unfeasible and vertiginous but it was much wider and easier than the first section but equally rewarding.

Gorges de Caranca

We descended steeply back to the car, catching sight of the famous yellow train as we went.

Gorges de Caranca, Le Petit Train Jaune, The little yellow train

Gorges de Caranca

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.

Col des Milleres

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.

Col des Milleres, Carlit Massif

Col des Milleres, Carlit Massif

Col des Milleres, Canigou Massif

Col des Milleres, Carlit Massif

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

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6 responses to “A big day out in the Tet Valley

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  1. Spectacular stuff. You seem to have crammed a lot in that day! Makes the day in the Wolds, I’ve just posted about look a bit dull!
    How do you fancy taking my boys along those vertiginous, exposed paths?

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    beatingthebounds
    • It was a very long day but well worth it as you can see. I was just thinking about what a walk along there with the Dangerous Brothers would be like – heart stopping. Have you run that past TBH? 🙂

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  2. That town looked wonderful, and the gorge path amazing – although I think I might be with the Funsters on that one. We did have a short section of path a bit like that when we went down the Grand Canyon and although you do get used to it quite quickly, I do have a memory of holding hands on that section….a good excuse for being romantic I suppose!

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    • I really enjoy those old walled towns but I’m not so sure the kids do. Even I was a little “edgy” (see what I did there) on the path at first but on the way back it was much easier when you realise that as long as you are careful there is no problem. Spectacular though – I don’t do romantic really (I’m sure TBF would agree)

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  3. Awesome. What an interesting post and photos – they are incredible. I showed this post to my wife and she said that could not pass everywhere You went! Thank You presenting this unforgettable experience.

    BTW, on Friday after Christmas I start my series “North of the Arctic Circle”. There are some of our hikes, but they are not as spectacular as You presented here.

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    • Thanks Matti, that walk was a little hair raising at times but a real thrill with spectacular scenery. Looking forward to your posts, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. It’s one of the great things about finding other blogs, reading of experiences and adventures in places you don’t normally see 🙂

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