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Lescun to Etsaut – oops!
Posted by pdittman on September 29th, 2018 in '18 - Pyrenees-GR10, Hiking/Trekking

We’d planned to be on the trail on the day after arriving in France. Always a bit risky in the event our backpacks got lost in transit – but we arrived in Paris as did our backpacks, and transferred to our Paris-Pau flight without incident. Arriving in Pau, we were easily able to get on the P20 bus to take us into downtown Pau – location of Hotel D’Adour, the hotel we were using to bookend our hiking.

Only a few days before we departed Boston, we discovered a gap in our itinerary.  We’d intended to do the first GR10 section from Lescun to Etsaut, planning to catch a train from Pau to Bedous and bus from there to Lescun.  BUT, we discovered (thank you Google!) that the “Pont de Lescun” bus stop is NOT the same as a bus stop in the village of Lescun – it’s a BRIDGE to Lescun.  And no, it sure didn’t look like there’d be anything like a taxi anywhere near the Pont de Lescun bus stop.

Pont de Lescun bus stop
Pont de Lescun bus stop

Adjusting our plans a bit, we decided to abandon the full Lescun to Etsaut section and head directly to Etsaut, find our way to our planned evening accommodations and do a warm up hike – instead heading eastward from the B&B toward the nearby Col de Barrancq (1575m).  This turned out to be a more relaxed (sane?) approach – allowing us to catch a later train from Pau, and enjoy a bit of the French Petit dejeuner.

Pau is a beautiful city, population near 100,000, with a very ‘classic’ french feel to it – cafe’s on the sidewalks, some streets closed to auto traffic, and the very french custom of closing between noon and 2pm, but staying open until 7 in the evening.   Pau is also home to a funicular – covering a short stretch from the promenade to the train station.

Pau promenade - with the funicular in the distance
Pau promenade – with the funicular in the distance

After our petit dejeuner at the hotel, we made our way to the train station, via the funicular.    Buying our tickets, we had a bit of time before the 9am train, so grabbed a quick espresso in the station cafe, where we met a solo hiker from Denmark – Joanne – who was also headed to Etsaut to continue her version of GR10 section hiking.

The train was wonderfully on-time, sleak and modern, quickly putting Pau behind us and bringing us deeper into the Vallee D’Aspe  toward Spain.   Dropping us at Bedous, we transferred to the bus and finished the hour and a half trip to Etsaut.

Saying our goodbyes to Joanne, we got ourselves oriented and headed toward L’Espiatet – a wonderful little chambres d’hotes (guest rooms) on the western slope of the valley shared by Borce and Etsaut.   Walking into the main room, no-one was around, but looking into the kitchen, we saw, and could smell a wonderful vegetable medley simmering on the stove – someone had to be around!   About 20 minutes later, our gracious host Celine, returned from Bedous in her car, with supplies.  Trusting soul, but then, we were in the French country-side.

Settled and unpacked, we geared up with our day packs and headed for the GR10 trail – connecting nearby.    It’d been just over a mile of mostly uphill just to reach L’Espiatet, situated at 2780 ft, nearly 700 ft above the valley floor.

Col de Barrancq, Borce, France
L’Espiatet to Col de Barrancq, headed east on the GR10. See here for alltrails.com trax.

As we headed toward the Col, we continued to gain significant elevation, meandering through the woods, gradually and steadily ascending as it wound around the contours of the slope side, giving us some good exposure and practice for the GR10 trail markings.

GR10 trail markings
GR10 trail markings

Breaking out of the woods, we came into a pastureland. section.    In the distance, we could see some sort of hut and (likely) the shepherd, but the path took us in the opposite direction, entertaining us with a bit of admonishment about the sheep dogs. The sign (loosely) reads:

I am a dog of the “mountain of the Pyrenees” called “Patou”. My role is to watch for the safety of the animals that I protect. To avoid the disturbance of the herd, thank you to work around it and keep your dog on a leash.

Sign warning about the dog
Sign warning about the dog

After being in the woods for a bit, it was surprising to see a sign that seemed almost out of place, or more appropriate for a heavily used path. But, okay, we took it in, and kept on our way, staying along the edge of the open fields and continuing to ascend towards the col.

In and out of the trees, we opened into another pastured area, this time we saw ‘the herd’ and we also saw and HEARD the dogs. Maybe there was more to that sign than we thought!  Indeed, as we got closer to the herd, the dogs became more vocal in their message, and as we realized the herd was on our path to the Col, and with the dogs as insistent as they were, we decided to turn around and return, having gone about as far as the dogs would allow.

Sheepdogs guarding the herd
Sheepdogs guarding the herd

Once back at L’Espiatet, we relaxed for a bit, readied our gear for our first real GR10 section the next day, and looked forward to evening dinner.    As it happens, there were two other couples staying at the inn, both likely retirees on some journey of their own.  Dinner was for the 7 of us – the three couples and joined by Celine.   An amazing “5 course” affair, including a melon-prosciutto salad, a wonderful breast of duck with vegetables (remember the simmering vegetables when we arrived?), and a chocolate mousse for dessert.     We stumbled through dinner conversation, aided by our bit of french and spanish, and soon, said our “bonne nuits” and retired for the evening.

A few more photos.

View of the D'Aspe valley from L'Espiatet
View of the D’Aspe valley from L’Espiatet
L'Espiatet looking "up-slope"
L’Espiatet looking “up-slope”

Read more: GR10 Etsaut to Refuge D’Ayous

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