GR10: to 3 Fontaines Pass

My tent is all wet when I wake up and my towel is not enough to remove all the condensation drops before I need to pack up and get going. I have a sad breakfast (one granola bar) but I know I will go through a village soon as well as the Ventas – small stores on the other side of the border. I also really need to find water as I have survived on a tiny water bottle since yesterday. I keep repeating to myself “The Trail Provides”, a mantra that will prove useful to keep my cool in trying times, as my friend Al likes to say “Everything will work itself out!”.

It’s the start of a new school day for the children of Biriatou and I feel a bit out of place cruising through the village looking for the red and white blazes with my big backpack. Kids and parents alike look at me as if I was an alien. I find a fancy hotel and ask for old plastic bottles I could fill but they end up selling me two small bottles.

I finally leave Hendaye surburban area and head out for the hills with a huge ugly telephone tower in the middle. I pass several day hikers – most of them in their late 60s (it’s Monday morning after all). As a lone female hiker, the below happened several times during my trip:

“Are you not scared of hiking alone as a girl?”

To which I would usually reply:

“What would I be scared of? Sheep? Hungry marmots?

– Well you should watch out for that bull near the border, someone got killed a few weeks ago. You know what you are supposed to do if you see a bull? Run uphill or downhill, it should help! Ooops, sorry! I didn’t want to scare you! Good luck!”

Well if I was not scared before, I was scared now and I kept looking around me to see if I would see a giant bull running towards me with flames coming out of his nostrils. But no bull. Turns out, my enemies during this trip would be mostly sheep dogs also known as Patous.

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I hope this is not the first mountain I have to climb!
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Las ventas de Ibardin

I finally arrived at Ibardin Pass where you can find many ventas on the other side of the French-Spanish border. They are (supposedly) small shops selling all kind of things but mostly alcohol and cigarettes. Because we are in Spain, it is quite cheap and lots of people stop by when crossing the border. Even I started the GR10 the evening before, it’s quite shocking to arrive in such a circus. With my backpack, I definitely do not look like I am here to go shopping and I find shelter in the first venta I see to finally get my first resupply and my first Monaco (beer, grenadine and Sprite) of the trip. I finally leave the venta and run into the same couple that I stayed with last night. They look winded and quite excited to get a beer. I will keep running into them throughout the day.

I gratefully leave this crazy border and start my climb up the hill. The sun is out in full force and I am happy when I finally reach a forest with large trees. Sadly, this beautiful trail is also littered with toilet paper as soon as you get somewhat close to the road.

I am supposed to find a border stone before I reach Olhette but I arrive there without seeing anything. I guess I zoned out… or freaked out by the cow fœtus I found on the trail.

The trail does not go through the small town of Olhette but crosses a small stream in which my poor feet finally get a well deserved bath. After while, the young couple arrives, followed by an older gentleman that will be later known as “Robert”. He tries to convince them to stay at the B&B nearby but they decide to keep on going. I leave them behind and start my way up to le col des Trois Fontaines (Three Fountains Pass). I cameled on water as everyone is telling me everything is dry up there although I am suspicious with a name like that (three Fountains!). It is so hot at 4 in the afternoon that I stop at every shade I see including large rocks and tiny trees. I talk to a couple while trying to crawl under a rock to get some shade (not successfully). They tell me they find it hard to chat with hikers nowadays, that people are not very friendly here even though they have been vacationing in the Basque Country for more than ten years. I hope this will not be the case for the rest of my trip!

The top of the pass looks very green and I keep hearing what I think is a small stream even though the couple tells me they saw  no water at up there. I finally reach the pass – on my left, a small dirty path towards a small stone shelter, right in front, the GR going down to Sare and on my right, the path towards Larrun Mountain. I follow my intuition and goes towards the horses and the trees. Sure enough, I hear and soon see water! It’s not a roaring river but it is enough to clean myself up, get some water for dinner and drink to my heart’s content. On my way back to my tent, I see the young couple (I just cannot remember their names…) and tell them the good news. They look very happy and rush to clean themselves up. It’s so hot and dry that we are all covered with brown dust while hiking.

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Home Sweet Home

They set up their tent on their way to the shelter and join me for dinner later. They are both soon-to-be scientists and the lady is specialized in Madagascar lemurs. I am disappointed to learn that they do not dance to “I like to move it, move it” song. As we finish up dinner, we see another couple hiking up the hill towards the stone shelter. As the sun sets, we hear a very strange sound: an accordion! Surprised that someone was crazy enough to carry so much weight halfway up Larrun Mountain, we enjoy nevertheless the beautiful music as the sun totally disappears behind the horizon.

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Try to beat that view, I dare you!

No crazy dogs tonight! Only a few horses and flying bats… I drift peacefully to sleep, happy with my first full day on the GR10.

Summary:

Start:  right before Biriatou.

End: 3 Fountains Pass

Km: 17

Notable events:  found a stream even though everyone told me I would not – heard accordion at the top of the mountain

day-2

The entire mileage and elevation profile for this section can be found here.

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