Posted by: Richard | July 19, 2009

Day 24: To Refuge de Longon

July 9: We were up early today as we had a killer long day, I think it might have been one of the longest of the trip.  We hoped to leave by 6am, but I don’t think we left the hotel until 6.30 am.  Thankfully, we had stocked up with breakfast the night before, so we didn’t have to rely on the French breakfast of stale bread and sugary jam to power us through.

Leaving Auron, we got lost going up through the ski runs and driving range. I used some common sense and just before I gave up on my common sense, we found the path at about 1,800m.  We headed over a col and down the other side to a little village of Roya, which we reached after 2 hours.  There was a  very nice gite (hostel) there, and Lynn and i had a 45 min break where i had two double espressos and Lynn had one and a delicious frozen cola flavoured treat.

We kept on going after Roya, over our final ‘big’ col.  I think it was 1,000m and we felt like the only ones on the path.  we crossed a couple long snow stretches and finally reached the col.  We thought that was it, but we had another 150m to rise up over the shoulder of the mountain.

Coming down the other side, we were greeted by a fright, a lone Pastous.  We backed up (thankfully on a giant flank of the mountain where we weren’t tied to one path) but the pastous kept following us.  Eventually the Pastous came up to us and gave us a wag of his tail and a sniff and kept on.  This was unique.  We saw another person at this point, and I assumed he was a shepherd.  I called out and found out that he was another GR5 walker, going from Nice to Lake Geneva and this Pastous had followed him for 2+hours.  We asked about other Pastous and were told that the only other sheep population was another valley over.

At this point, we thought we were close to being done. Just a down hill bit and then a slight rise and we were there.  We were wrong.  Somehow, even sick today was a good day for me and Lynn was really strong.   We dropped down past the col into the valley and felt great, though tired.  We started to rise past incredible limestone rock formations and caves and eventually came into a very high ‘hanging’ valley (I think they call all high valleys hanging, but am not sure why).  We were tuckered and worried about the sheep and potential Pastous we’d been warned about.  We walked cautiously and were excited that we were almost done.

Walking across the high valley, we passed a shepherd, who told us the refuge was 5 minutes away and that the Pastous were very friendly.  We were happy as we came up to the refuge, a huge old stone ‘vacherie’ or summer cattle barn.  A couple of very friendly Pastous came out to say hello, and we came into a great old building and took an upper level of foam mattresses to ourselves.

This place reminded me of the farm, and it was great to see all the animals and to have fresh milk and cheese.  For dinner, the others had some bits from a recently slaughtered cow and Lynn and I had a great meal of local food (cheese, pasta, omelet, wine, etc).  We watched the shepherds bring the flocks in and giggled at the antics of the crazy friendly animals.

We climbed up onto the makeshift level we were sleeping on, zipped our sleeping bags together and listened to some iPod.  It was a long day, I think 11 or 12 hours, but we went well and it was great to be out in nature.

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