Larche to Bousieyas – D27

Larche to Bousieyas, Day 27

So much for all that effort yesterday to avoid walking down a road. I even had to detour through Italy. And, guess what we did this morning? Yes, we walked the first four kilometres along a tarmac road. The lady running the auberge we’d been staying in offered to give us a lift up the road to the car park at the entrance to the valley up which we were headed to cross the inevitable col. Needless to say, we declined.

The previous night’s meal had been excellent. After the day’s exertions I could have eaten a horse. Instead we started with a couple of flagons of white wine. Before I knew it I was necking glasses of wine in one gulp – still dehydrated from the day’s exertions in Italy. The meal was superb – some sort of flan (I didn’t care what), some sort of meat in a sauce with tortellini type things, salad, cheese and a tart. Very good value.

On an adjoining table sat two Swiss ladies – grandmothers who had started in St. Gingolph a couple of days before us and were slowly making their way down south to Menton.

The interesting thing about the GR5 is that you fall in and out of synch with similarly motivated people. These two had been in and out of our orbit for the previous couple of days. Inevitably, we got chatting to them. It transpires that they were great friends and had decided to do the GR5 together, for a laugh. They weren’t your archetypal hikers, but were well prepared. No doubt we’d see them again en route. And we did. Today.

The temperature as we set off at 7.30am was decidedly chilly as we tabbed off down the road at 5.6kmh having declined the offer of a lift. The sun hadn’t risen above the mountains and my hands remained cold for the first 53 minutes until we reached the car park at the bottom of the valley we were about to walk up. The day’s walk was pretty straightforward: walk along a road, walk up a valley, cross a col, drop down, cross a valley, climb another small col and drop down into Bousieyas. See how Paddy Dillon describes it in Trekking the GR5 by Cicerone:

After yesterday’s adventures in Italy I was quite happy to just bimble along with Godfrey, Phil and Richard as we made our way up the valley towards the Pas de la Cavale. We were now well into the Mercantour national park and started seeing more wild life.

Imagine our surprise when we came face to face with a marmot no more than ten feet away. It showed no signs of wanting to run away. Perhaps these ones were more used to humans. Where there’s a car park there’s food. Anyway, there it was sitting on a rock as bold as brass eying us up.

Further up the valley, as we rounded Lac du Lauzanier we saw the two Swiss grandmothers ahead of us. They’d parked themselves on a high bluff and seemed to be enjoying themselves in the sun. It was a great reunion and they humoured us by taking some group photos. They’d take some of us as we’d tabbed up the valley (see photo below). We told them that we were passing through to the next lake, the Lac du Derrière La Croix where, we told them, we’d be indulging in the British army custom of brewing up and said that they were more than welcome to ‘pop in for a cuppa’.

So, we pushed on up the valley and found a good spot to brew up. The photo below was taken by the Swiss ladies. They were a little late for Godfrey’s tea as he’s pretty quick at brewing up. Just as the ladies showed up, Phil Neame said, ‘Oh, I was hoping we’d have moved on before they showed up so we wouldn’t have to share our tea with them.’ He’s such a tight-arse. It’s not exactly ‘our tea’. More accurately, from Phil’s perspective, it’s ‘the tea that I cadge off others who carry it.’

‘You mean old tight-arsed, bastard, Phil!’ We’d actually invited the ladies to tea. Fortunately, I’d just started mine so added some more water to the boiler to make enough for them.

Just then one of the ladies spontaneously pulled out a bar of chocolate, broke it into bits and said, ‘Who’d like some Swiss chocolate?’

‘Yes, please!’ said Phil.

‘Do not give that man a single piece of chocolate,’ I said to her, pointing at Phil. ‘He doesn’t deserve a crumb from you.’ But they were generous and shared out what they had, for which they were rewarded with a cup of my finest lemon Russian tea.

‘Shame on you, Phil!’ You didn’t want to share ‘our tea’, but had no shame in taking their chocolate.’

Godfrey’s wife, Carole, had provisioned him with homemade high calorie bonbons that she’d made herself. They were chocolate, coconut and cocoa powder and some other secret ingredients. She’d made twenty – enough for Godfrey to have one each day and for each of us to also have one. Today, I was offered half of my one to taste before Godfrey opened a competition in which we’d have to come up with a name for them by the end of the day.

Carole, they are extremely tasty, but you won’t be surprised to discover that Godfrey has won the naming competition: cocoabusters. Apparently, he’s entered you for Dragon’s Den. Good luck with that.

And then we pushed on up the col, called Le Pas de la Cavale. As we left we discovered that Phil had left behind a large plastic bag – obviously, a shabby attempt to lighten the load in his handbag still further. We spotted this and made him go back and pick it up. Who should then pass us? Desiree, of course. ‘You’re too late for tea again, Desiree.’ But she was on a mission to get to the top of the col.

We caught up with her at the top (Phil and Desiree above) where we ‘admin-ed’ ourselves for the descent and discovered that Phil’s handbag is so light it can be lifted using only your little finger!

The route south off the Pas de la Cavale was particularly precipitous initially, but the narrow path was pretty well-defined and eventually the gradient became more manageable as it lowered us into a strangely pockmarked valley. It almost looked like Allied bombers had dropped their bombs all over it, but it seems it’s some sort of natural process of erosion that has something to do with limestone and water seepage.

We indulged in a final brew-admin stop at the cabin at the base of a smaller Col des Fourches that we had to cross before dropping down as much again into the valley below and the hamlet of Bousieyas, where we’re accommodated in the charmingly rickety quasi-Buddhist auberge, Le Cafe a Marius. Very homely and wonderfully run by a mother and daughter. They’ve lit the wood burner to take the edge off evening chill. Lucky us!

By the way, Richard has been running a rolling survey for the past 27 days asking anyone who speaks English, ‘If I were to open the top of your pack, what would be the first thing I’d see?’ The results have been interesting.

Stay tuned!

Vital Statistics:

Larche to Bousieyas: