We knew to expect worse weather today, so waking to see the mountains shrouded in cloud was no surprise, just a different view again.
Our neighbours had also left at 6.30 that morning (we’re struggling to see 8.30am ourselves!)
There was no rain though, and at times the sun looked suspiciously as though it was trying to make an appearance. After a leisurely breakfast we set off for our chosen destination for the day – Gavarnie. We were promised an amazing spectacle of the highest waterfalls in Europe (after a 2 hour hike up the mountain – only we didn’t know it was up a mountain at that point!)
We took a different route after Pierrefitte this time towards Luz. Slightly different roads but very similar scenery – just as majestic. Calv was, as usual, in the mood for detours. The 1st was up a narrow road towards the village/hamlet of Cheze. Here there was the obligatory church, mayor’s office (every town/village/hamlet has one, however small), but also a pigeon tower! This is a first J
We followed the road back through another village and eventually re-joined our route. Until we were headed through the ski resort of Luz St Sauveurs and spotted a furnicular. Trust me, I wish we’d never seen the furnicular…. Calv decides to try to find it (it was very steep and went a long way up the hill, but could we find it?? We ended up on the road up to the mountain summit of Luz Ardiden – only we didn’t realise this straight away. Switchback after switchback after switchback – by the time we realised Calv had decided we were going all the way, as he had this idea that we would burst through the cloud into bright sunshine at the top…
You should have seen the view from the top. Yep, that’s right – completely fogbound 😦
So coming back down. Switchback after switchback after switchback…… I felt really quite sick by the time we got to the bottom. After a good hour of our lives that we’ll never get back! However, everything happens for a reason which will become apparent later on.
We finally got onto the road to Gavarnie. Overhanging rocks this time dominated the road, and eventually a few miles of the road being relaid.
Eventually we made it to Gavarnie – a small town which is the gateway to ‘The Grand Cascade’. Here there were horses and donkeys available for the trek up to the Hostel, but not as far as the Grand Cascade itself. We chose to walk. Today we were suitably attired, or so we thought. I had t-shirt, cardigan and wet top. With shorts. And no wet bottoms. Calv had a t-shirt, wet top and shorts. We were both wearing proper walking shoes/boots. And the weather was still fair so all was good…!
We set off along the path by the field full of goats and the raging river. Very quickly we started to climb, gently at first but then getting more serious. There are those who know I’m not keen on walking uphill; I’ll get there but at my own pace. At first Calv stayed with me, but kept nagging me not to stop at all. Keep going, keep going, don’t stop…. I eventually persuaded him to go ahead at his own pace whilst I kept going at mine. As it happened he made it up to the hostel in 45 minutes (the guide said it would take 1 hour 30 minutes). I actually wasn’t that far behind him (took me 55 minutes). I was a bit fed up to find out he’d been just about to carry on up to the waterfalls without me, because he wasn’t sure that I was even going to make it to the hostel! The cheek of it.
It was just as well he did wait though, as the walk up to the waterfalls was much more challenging. Narrow, slippery paths and rocks. Having gone one way which involved crossing the river without a bridge (Calv got across, I wasn’t happy) and doubling back it actually took us 25 minutes (the guide said it would take another 30 minutes from the hostel). I believe we climbed between 700/750m in total.
This was an amazing place. We were faced with a giant horseshoe with several waterfalls cascading over the top. I think the highest is 423m. Unfortunately with the low cloud we couldn’t see these in all their glory, but it was still an amazing spectacle.
Calv went on further to try to get some better pictures while I went to find a different way back to the bouncing bridge across the river. At this point it began to rain. Hail actually. It got very hard, very quickly. Luckily Calv started straight back to me, and we set off back towards the hostel.
Now, whilst it was raining/hailing extremely hard, the fog cleared over the waterfalls for just a couple of minutes and the sun shone onto the cascade, something most people didn’t get the opportunity for that day.
Instead of huddling in the shelter afforded by a canopy outside the hostel (it wasn’t open…) with everybody else we headed straight back down. I didn’t know it at the time but Calv’s £20 Fat Face wet jacket proved not to be waterproof (my £10 Trespass jacket worked perfectly) and he was already completely soaked through.
The rain didn’t let up at all on the way back down. It was funny – the goats were all standing stock still on the mountain facing the same direction (I presumed away from the rain)! It looked very amusing but this wasn’t a time to take photos unfortunately.
By the time we got back to the car we were both wet through. Our shorts looked like they’d just come out of the washing machine – before the spin cycle. My t-shirt was dry, but Calv’s was completely soaked through and we had to sit in the car with the heating on full and his t-shirt drying in front of the vent, for a full hour before we could move.
We didn’t regret going on that day. What we do know is that we want to go back one day when the sun is out because that view will be absolutely breath-taking in the sunshine.
It was burgers for tea – 2 each with cheese and onions. We’d earned it!