Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 50-57 Pla Guilhem to Banyuls

France

Day 50. Pla Guilhem hut at sunrise.
Day 50. Pla Guilhem hut at sunrise.

Normally, climbing Canigou (2784m) is an essential part of the HRP but I have climbed it many times from all sides and know the Mariailles and Cortalets hostels well. But I hadn’t stayed in the new Saint Guilhem hostel, nor at Batère with its hot tub!

Day 51. The Batère hostel used to provide accommodation for miners.
Day 51. The Batère hostel used to provide accommodation for miners.

Amélie-les-Bains is the only significant town on the HRP.

Day 52. Amélie-les-Bains, a spa town.
Day 52. Amélie-les-Bains, a spa town.

Hot day, no rush, cool swim.

Day 53. An isolated pool just for me, near Montalbà.
Day 53. An isolated pool just for me, near Montalbà.

After Amélie I stayed at the Moulin de la Palete which is also a stage on the Pyrenean Way. After it, both the Pyrenean Way and the HRP go to Las Illas but the shortest route crosses into Spain and only the HRP follows it.

Spain

Day 54. Mas Coll de Lli.
Day 54. Mas Coll de Lli.

The Mas Coll de LLi was the last staging post before the border and escape from the approaching fascist armies at the end of the Spanish civil war in 1939.

France

Day 55. Fire salamander on the track above Las Illas.
Day 55. Fire salamander on the track above Las Illas.

The HRP follows the Pyrenean Way from Las Illas to the sea but I wanted to try some new paths and also see the trees planted by Manel.

Day 55. Sequoia planted by the shepherd Manel in the mid-19th century.
Day 55. Sequoia planted by the shepherd Manel in the mid-19th century.

Spain

Requesens is essentially a farm. But the family runs a restaurant (open at mid-day only) and a secret hostel. I discovered the restaurant when I walked the Senda two years ago. But that night I slept in the Forn de Calç hut. There are no signs, absolutely nothing to indicate a hostel, but if you ask nicely you will be admitted into another world, dated c 1960, with one or two anachronisms: a microwave and a posh gas stove. Luxury.

Day 55. Requesens castle from the hamlet.
Day 55. Requesens castle from the hamlet.

France

I had always promised myself I would spend my last night on the HRP at the Refuge Tomy although I could have easily reached Banyuls. The shelter is tucked under the Pic de Sallfort (960m). The overhanging rocks make standing up impossible and it can accommodate a maximum of three people. But every aspect of the construction has been carefully thought. There is a gas stove (please make a contribution to the costs) and water. And a view over Banyuls and the Mediterranean to take your breath away. When the sun emerges, gasping, from the Mediterranean, you know you have arrived.

Day 56. Refuge Tomy on the Pic de Sailfort, within sight of Banyuls.
Day 56. Refuge Tomy on the Pic de Sailfort, within sight of Banyuls.

The sunrise was disappointing but on the way down I had the luck to meet a Pyrenean legend. Maurice Parxes, easily recognisable from his red and black bonnet . Maurice not only created and maintains the Refuge Tomy, bringing fresh water from the spring 130m below every week in summer, but had also competed in the Championnat du Canigou for the last 34 years. He is now 74. This year the race – 34 km, 2180m ascent – took him 5h47. He was first in his category, V4. 250 younger competitors took longer.

Day 57. Banyuls, 10 September. Drinking a Triple Sec on the rocks to celebrate my third crossing of the Pyrenees, GR10, GR11, and HRP.
Day 57. Banyuls, 10 September. Drinking a Triple Sec on the rocks to celebrate my third crossing of the Pyrenees, GR10, GR11, and HRP.

I crossed international borders 23 times without ever being asked for my papers.

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