Day 1, Friday 11/8: early rise in Amsterdam, we take the Easyjet flight at 7:20 to Toulouse. Gate M lounge area looks like a chicken farm but at least the tickets were cheap. Upon arrival in Toulouse we have a Blablacar to Lourdes, from which two bus rides finally bring us to Gavarnie. After buying a map we’re ready to hit the trail around 14:30.
Quickly the superb Cirque opens up in front of us, and we see hundreds of tourists taking the road towards the waterfall. We take a higher route with few people and marvellous sights. After steady climbing for about three hours, passing the cabane des Soldates, we arrive at the port de Boucharou. We see cattle and marmots along the way and many beautiful flowers.
On the pass it’s windy and we quickly start our descend – we try to get to Bujaruelo in time for dinner so we speed up a bit. Hunger is kicking in, wine gums are swallowed like water. Fortunately Bujaruelo is in the civilized world and there is a restaurant where we can eat a la carte (!). A well-deserved hot shower concludes the day.
Day 2, Saturday: slow start, recovering from yesterday’s headache. Plan is to do the Ordesa canyon and continue to Goriz. An ambitious plan as we later see.
First part of the hike is easy, through forest along the river side, before arriving at the junction to Torla and the start of the Ordesa canyon. Here the touring cars pass by to bring tourists to the canyon. We dip in the ice cold river and enjoy the lamb chops that were leftovers from yesterday’s dinner. Then we take the high route towards an incredible viewpoint, Mirador de Calcilarruego.
After the mirador the route has stunning, continuous views on the other side of the canyon. Slow descent to end of canyon and a final climb to Refugio Goriz at 2195 m, where we arrive late (8pm) but in time for the last dinner shift at 10. Tired but satisfied with more than 25 km hiking and over 1000 elevation meters. Camping is free here but quite crowded and noisy; many Spanish are going to Goriz as a weekend trip. Nice dinner with a Spanish couple from the Pyrenees and an older experienced Frenchman. Sausages are saved and kept for tomorrow’s lunch.
Day 3, Sunday: we take a ‘relax’ day: leave luggage at Goriz and ascend to Mt Perdido (3350m), third highest peak of the Pyrenees.
The weather is perfect, and no need to leave early. We leave around 9, and a beautiful ascent follows, over a rocky boulder field to the (not frozen) Lago Helado and then steeply the final stretch to the summit. Two steps forward, one step backward. The view from the summit is a stunning 360 degrees. Some clouds are setting in but there is time for lunch: sausages left over from last night’s dinner. We descend the same way back but much faster by sliding down a snowy slope. In Goriz the bathroom facilities are basically non existent, but the food is decent, and the view on the canyon is superb. We have early dinner at 7 with friendly Spanish couple from San Sebastián.
Day 4: After quite a good night of sleep we are ready early for the final stage back to Gavarnie via Breche de Roland.
The weather is again great and quickly we take off the jackets. We reach a beautiful meadow where some people have been wild camping. We meet with Isabelle and Christophe, who accompany us on the path to Breche de Roland. We take the lower approach and later see in the distance the high route which follows a breathtaking cliff guided with ropes.
The Breche is crowded with people, many take the route from Col des Tentes (car park) to Boucharou and then up. We traverse the Breche and after lunch descend via the refuge (closed for construction works) and then an alternative and long way down along cascades to Gavarnie.
In Gavarnie we find a nice camping spot at the bergerie, with views on the Cirque and the cascade. Well deserved beers after 4 days hiking, 60 km, and several 1000s of elevation meters!! In the evening the tourist flood in Gavarnie disappears and we have a very nice and calm dinner at restaurant les Cascades with good wine from the region, finishing with cheese.
Day 5: Gavarnie – Toulouse
On our last full day we travel back to Toulouse. The bus from Gavarnie doesn’t go, it is a public holiday (Assumption of Mary). We take a taxi to Luz St. Saveur with two friendly Indians, then switch to the bus to Lourdes, where we have booked a Blablacar to Toulouse. Lots of fun in the Blablacar with an Ethiopian couple, who show us proper Ethiopian music. In return we offer Dutch music (Guus Meeuwis) and Ontbijtkoekreep, which are almost mistaken for space cake.
In Toulouse we visit the famous Basilique Saint-Sernin, and at the moment we enter an organ concert starts, the dramatic Toccata & Fugue from Bach filling the entire church. After a visit to the Capitole and a stroll through the city and the river banks, we settle for great dinner at La Braisière. An excellent conclusion to an excellent holiday!