Members arrange overseas hiking trips from time to time. Sometimes these accommodate a combination of Club members and others known to the organisers in order to achieve sufficient scale. Such trips are therefore not exclusive to the Membership.
Participation is on the understanding, that there will be no recourse to the organisers or the Club. Participants must have adequate travel insurance and be in possession of a European Health Insurance Card for trips within the European Union.
Western Pyrenees, Easter 2018 - Schedule
Leader: Michael & Josephine Cotter
Time needed for travelling in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques vicinity can be longer than one might anticipate judging solely by the length of a journey. In looking at places on maps, relative to others, A might seem quite close to B, but the maps don’t show that some of these Pyrenees have plonked themselves right between such A’s and B’s; so, particularly for places inland, where we will be right in the Pyrenees, the time taken for each distance must be seen in this local context.
We have worked out a schedule of walks for the trip, with a great emphasis on variety, and feel that the programme that we have put together reflects this diversity. While some of the walks may not sound long or very difficult, nevertheless, they will each, in their own way, be good C to C+ walks. Having walked these routes already, we have decided to lead all walks ourselves, without a local guide. There will be two overnight locations in the course of the trip.
On 30 March 2018 (Good Friday) we will travel directly from Bordeaux Mérignac Airport, to our first hotel, Alysson Hôtel in Oleron-Sainte-Marie, Béarn Département, a journey of 244 kilometres
The Aer Lingus flight (EI 506) is scheduled to leave Dublin at 13.00 and arrive in Bordeaux at 16.05. We should arrive at the hotel at around 19.00. We will remain there for 4 nights and in this time we will undertake most of the following walks:
Walk to the Passerelle d'Holzarté, Larrau,the Grand Canyon of France, the Northern side of a gorge that forms the border with Spain. This walk starts just next to a little river, but having walked for about an hour, we will be approx 500’ over the level of this same river, which we will cross by a suspension bridge. This bridge does a fetching wobble to each side as you traverse it, particularly if there are kids on the bridge who seem to relish such wobbling! On this walk we can continue upwards and do a further loop, but at this point our preference would be to return to the bus and drive to another point to do one of the next two described walks:
How many of our C walkers can claim that they have ever started a walk from 4,354 feet above sea level? This walk, which is at the very top of the Col d’Iraty, about 35 minutes drive from Passerrele d’Houlzarte, begins at such a height. The drive to the start point is amazingly beautiful, if you can overcome the fear of falling down about 4,000 feet! The walk itself is about 2 hours long, and the climb is not significant.
Should the Col d’Iraty walk route not be possible, due to fog, then we would instead do a walk in the Gorges de Kakouetta. This gorge is very near the Passerrele D’Holzarte, and it comprises a walk inside a very narrow gorge with a man-made walkway right up to a waterfall at the furthest point of the walk, and then we turn around and do the walk in reverse. This walk is not very long, approx 2 hours in all, but would fill the day of the earlier walk.
- Being in the Pyrenees, one should not miss the chance to get right into the very heart of these amazing mountains, and this walk will fit this bill. We start with a long drive to the village of Gavarnie, and then head off on a walk of the Cirque de Gavarnie, in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park which would be very difficult to match anywhere for sheer beauty! The walk involves a long, but not too difficult, climb. But the scenery all around is so breath-taking, that one can override the climb with the awesome beauty. We again are heading for a waterfall,Grande Cascade de Gavarnie but this one happens to be the highest waterfall (422 metres) in Europe (don’t know if this is post or ante Brexit!) It is fed from underground streams originating in Spain. This walk up and back to the village should take about 3 hours.
In 2016 the local Département re-opened a train line right into the exceptional natural environment of the Aspe Valley. Our plan is that on one day we would take the half-hour train ride from Oleron-Sainte-Marie to Bedous, walk to the centre of the village and complete a circular walk, encompassing part of the old pilgrim trail, which ultimately winds its way to Santiago de Compostella. However, we will not go quite that far! We will confine ourselves to a circular walk around this most spectacular valley.
- We propose doing a slice of the first stage of the Camino, starting at St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, (St John, Foot of the Pass and capital of the old Basque province of Lower Navarre in the Middle Ages) but we will not go as far as the pilgrims do on the day. We will stop at about 12 kms, and then return to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port which deserves a few hours of a visit; it is the start point of Camino Francés, the most popular option for trekking the Camino de Santiago This walk will then give each of us the licence to begin every sentence for the next number of years with “When I was on the Camino....!”.
We will also try to include a brief visit to the remnants of GURS Concentration Camp, near Oleron-Sainte-Marie where in 1939, before the war with Germany and before the occupation of France in June 1940, the French Third Republic and subsequently from 1940 the Vichy Regime interned 4,000 German Jews, classified as 'enemy aliens'.
We then relocate to St-Jean-de-Luz on the Atlantic coast, so as to be nearer Bilbao Airport, for our return flight.
Sainte-Jean-de-Luz, Basque Atlantic coast
We intend to stay for 4 nights in the Hotel Donibane, in St-Jean-de-Luz from where we plan the following walks:
We take the train (a Thomas the Tank engine jobbie!!) to the top of Le Rhune Mountain, at 905 metres, and walk down. While this sounds a dawdle, one or two people to whom we spoke, who were climbing up and taking the train down, said that they would find the climb easier than the descent! Should be amazing on a clear day. Regrettably, we had a day of fog and mist last July!
We will undertake a circular walk from the village of Ainhoa, in the traditional Basque province of Labourd and in the modern Nouvelle-Aquitane region called the Panorama walk, which should take 3.5 hours. This is a lovely pastoral walk with ascents of about 350 metres. The second half of the walk is especially beautiful. Ainhoa is an amazingly beautiful village and is regarded as“one of the most beautiful villages of France”
We also plan to walk on the seafront from Hendaye westwards and when we meet the River Bidasoa, marking the border with Spain, we take a very short boat ride across, and then visit the old town of Hondaribbia in Spain where golfer José María Olazábal was born in 1966 We will spend some time there, including lunch in the old quarter of the town before returning to France (Hendaye), where we might spend a few hours. Hendaye is the most south-westerly town in France.
On 23 October 1940, Ramón Serrano Súñer, Francisco (Spanish Foreign Minister), General Francisco Franco, Adolf Hitler and Joachim von Ribbentrop (Nazi Germany Foreign Minister) met in Hendaye Railway Station (then in German-occupied France) to discuss Spain's participation in World War II as part of the Axis Powers. Franco, uneasy about committing his nation to another conflict so soon after the Spanish Civil War (which only ended in April 1939), was not convinced. Hitler decided not to force the issue. Spain was officially neutral during the following five years of the war, though very much a pro-Axis state
We will be returning home on Saturday on Aer Lingus (EI 749) from Bilbao to Dublin, leaving Bilbao at 17.05 and arriving in Dublin at 18.10. The journey from St-Jean-de-Luz to Bilbao should take approximately 1½ hours (140 kilometres via the Autopista del Cantábrico)