GR means “Grande Randonnée” in French. Those paths cover about 60 000 km in France or 37 000 miles. The entire list of French GR can be found here but you can find other GR in Spain, Belgium or the Netherlands if you feel like crossing a few borders!
Famous French GR include GR65 or el Camino Francés (it goes towards Santiago), the GR20 which crosses Corsica or the GR10 which I was about to step on!
The GR10 starts in Hendaye by the Atlantic Ocean and ends in Banyuls-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean Sea and parallels the French-Spanish border and sometimes even crosses it along the Pyrenees Mountains. It takes roughly 50 days to complete it.
I wanted to give it a try and go as far as possible in 10 days. I had a vague estimate of the miles I would walk every day but was ready to follow any adventures that would cross my path.
After a very nice shower at my sister’s apartment, I took a train or rather several ones to Hendaye arriving around 6 pm. I was hoping to find the beginning of the trail which was supposed to be close to the train station and then resupply at a local supermarket. I had not anticipated two things:
- There are two train stations at Hendaye and I was in the one the furthest away from the beach where the trail starts. It took me 2 hours to find the beach as I was insistent on starting at the very beginning. I ended up finding the beach but not the starting sign.
- It was Sunday. Meaning that even in a beach town, supermarkets are bound to close early. After giving up on the trail official start, I headed towards a Carrefour City hoping to buy some food to last me a couple of days. I arrived as the curtains went down. No food for me!
I had a small bottle of water, a sandwich, a kg of pasta and two granola bars which was not too bad but I had yet to find a place to sleep and it was 8 pm. Trying my luck at a nearby hotel, I was told I had no chance to find something as everything was booked up. Perfect.
The sun was not down yet and I estimated to have an hour left before it set. I rushed out of the not so friendly Hendaye city and made my way towards the hills following the GR signs, hoping to find some grass where to pitch my tent, preferably far enough from town.
As the sky turned red, I spotted a young couple setting up camp, I had noticed them with their huge backpacks in the same train that took me to Hendaye. Starting to panicking a bit (no isolated spots and still too close to civilization), I asked them if I could pitch my tent nearby as I did not feel comfortable sleeping by myself so close to a somewhat big town. They agreed looking a bit surprised and I almost cried with happiness. It was finally time to retreat in my tent (can’t escape the mosquitoes!), I was about to fall asleep when suddenly I heard dogs approaching, barking and growling close to tent. I froze and laid still hoping they would go away and not jump on my tent or try crawling under the tarp (I do not have a free standing tent: it’s a tarp with a mosquito net underneath). They barked for a few minutes before someone called them away. Sighing with relief, I was ready to finally fall asleep when the sound of a car and bright lights REALLY close to the tent freaked me out again. Its owner kindly did not run us over (we had set up next to a dirt road) and parked a bit further up the road.
I closed my eyes (for the 3rd time) and finally drifted off to sleep.