September 18, 2012

Crevasses d'Holcarté

After all yesterday's climbing, my legs seemed ready for a day off the bike, and I am in Larrau, a center of beautiful hiking routes and dramatic landscapes high in the Pyrenees, just at the foot of the mountains. From Larrau, the roads, chemins,  trails, and animal paths go up, or go down.

Downhill, the main road (steep, there were two cyclists struggling up it) leads to the Crevasses d'Holcarté. Spellings are fluid, or perhaps transient, but that is what my map says. Road signs show several variations. The landscape here is a geologic marvel. Often the bones of the mountains show right through, there are deep, steep valleys, and the hills are jumbled one upon another.

Along the way I was reminded of Steph, aka Llamalady, who writes a daily blog about her expat family's life in France. I remembered one post about something eating up her garden at night, perhaps slugs. I chimed in, with cultural, or  perhaps species innocence, that we have damaging slugs also, and catch them in beer. My American gardening friends, I present a French slug: imagine the damage slugs of this size could do! There are eight inches of slug here. Steph, my condolences!

After descending for several kilometers, I turned onto the path, or trail, to the crevasse, and quickly began ascending. This is a deep gorge, and as I made my way upriver, I was also going uphill.

Soon I arrived at the hanging bridge. It is difficult to see the bottom of the gorge from the center of the bridge, but if you peer straight down, you will find it deep below.  This is a well-known, favorite hiking spot, with other visitors, including a very nice couple from metropolitan Paris who are staying in the same hotel as me. She was on the other side of the bridge, in the photo.

I continued to the cascades, where other hikers were picnicking, complete with wine and a lovely spread, unlike my dry bread and fruit. The trees here are totally covered in moss, and oddly there is ivy growing quite totally submerged in the torrent.

After basking in the sun next to the water, I decided to follow the signs on the path back to town, instead of redescending to the main road and walking uphill.

That was the right decision. I lacked a map, so simply followed the signs that read: to Village of Larrau. They didn't mention distance. The path took me to another valley altogether, past more waterfalls and deep crevasses. One very deep crevasse separated the cows in the photo from the cliff wall behind them. The path became a chemin, then eventually turned into a small gravelled road and arrived at a fence of barbed wire across this gravel road, with a farmhouse and barn behind it. Again today, I needed to make a decision. There hadn't been a sign for Larrau for quite a few kilometers, but there hadn't been any major intersections either. There were no keep out signs, and it looked easy to duck under, so I did.


Soon there was another sign for Larrau, and within several more kilometers, the road became paved, and returned to this beautiful village. The gentleman in charge at the hotel knew exactly where I had walked, and showed me on the map. A boucle, or circle route. It made a much longer return trip. Also much more beautiful. It also made for a perfect hike on an off-bike day. It's not clear, though, that my legs consider it a rest day.


  1. Gorgeous....again. You are making it fun for your readers with all this variation. Thanks for thinking of us!

  2. Thanks Gerry! I think a group of cyclists probably need that fixer-upper yellow house for a base! Hmm, on second thought it sounds like a very lot of work. This paysage is just so very gorgeous.

  3. Fantastic scenery and nothing at all like the France I have experienced. Very interesting. Chapeau!

    1. Hi Steve,

      Good to hear from you ... it has been just a beautiful trip, and very fun, if sometimes very hard. And, also ...thanks!

  4. Fabulous photos, as ever. And thanks for the mention! Our slugs are pretty impressive, aren't they? Haven't seen that much of them this summer as it's been so hot and dry but now that the rain and mist are back, so are the limaces, worst luck. But I'm ready for them in the polytunnel - beer traps await!
    Stay safe and happy on your wonderful holiday.

    1. Thanks Steph! I am having a lot of fun with the photos. Isn't gardening something ... too hot and dry, cold and wet ..... at least if some plant is unhappy, a different one is thriving!


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