Travelled : 103 miles
Visited : Valley d’Ossau, Le Petit Train Artouste
Stay : Col d’Aubisque, car park, no services, N 42.972.02 W 000.32.469
Expenses : 29 Days @ €76 per day
This morning we did actually get up early, do the house keeping and hit the road. Oloron-Ste-Marie is at the edge of the Valley d’Aspe a favoured passageway into Spain from central France as there is a tunnel through a section of the Pyrenees saving a lot of driving time. Anyway that’s according to our Belgium neighbour last night.
We need to cross into the next valley to the east, Valley d’Ossau for our next adventure. So it’s another mountain climb for the Hymer. The road across is the D918, its narrow, steep and never straight for more than 150 metres as we drive along it. It also passes through wonderful forests sections and we see little isolated farm cottages as we wind our way along. We also see several peloton of cyclists which give both them and us a scar more than once.
Once into the Valley d’Ossau we head south high into the valley until we arrive at Fabrages. It a small modern ski resort sitting on the edge of a dam used as part of the hydro electric system. We buy tickets for the Petit Train which include the initial trip up the mountain by gondola from 1200 to 2000 metres Whilst everything in the resort level is very modern including the gondola. The Petit Train is the 1920 version. The line was built as part of the engineering works to construct the upper dam, now called Lake d’Artouste which sits at 1969 metres. The train doesn’t particularly climb or descent much during the 50 minute journey but meanders along the mountain sides hanging an somehow. The drop off the line into the valley below is breathtaking.
Once there we walk up to the lake and wander about taking photos and having lunch until the next train departs for the gondola. The lake’s waters are used as part of the hydro electric system. I don’t remember ever seeing water as crystal clear. On our way back the trains driver slows several times as we passed what the brochure called Le vautour fauve but looked more like a buzzard to us and marmots which they obviously prey upon.
Back in our camper car we decide to keep moving and find somewhere to stay the night. Our batteries are fully charged and water tank full, so we hope to free camp. We drive north back to Larens onto the D918 which crosses over to the next valley east the Arrens. The road is narrow, winding and very steep in parts. It’s getting late as we arrive in Gourette a large ski village. There is a free Aire and we drive in thinking this will do. Within a few minutes a farmer starts herding his cattle into a holding pen at the end of the yard. The cattle aren’t happy, they all have bell around there necks. We decide to keep moving.
Five kilometres up the road we turn the crest of the range at Col d’Aubisque, they is a small car park on top of the mountain. Col d’Aubisque is a regular staging point for the tour and we can see why. Hopefully the pictures show you the view better than I can describe. We sit in our camper car, enjoying leftover pasta, beer and rose. Through our windows the scenery changes every few minutes as the fading sun changes the colour of the Pyrenees. The occasional cloud runs up the valley covers us then clears just as quickly. This could be our evening to remember.