The Summer 1960 expedition
Midshipman A. C. Copple, R.N.


When a friend mentioned that the Pyrenees made ideal walking country, it occurred to me that to walk and climb from one end to the other would not only be very enjoyable, but also most suitable for my summer expedition. I became keen. Without worrying about details, I acquainted myself with a few relevant particulars. My walk appeared to be approximately 250 miles, direct, and so five miles a day would occupy two months.

A companion would make the trip more enjoyable, but the time factor prevented any of my friends from committing themselves for the whole journey. I eventually arrived at a compromise. A Cambridge man, John Loosley, (1st year engineering, St. John's, like me) agreed to accompany me for the first month, and my brother said he would join me for the last three weeks. John is 20, and had done some walking and climbing before; in fact, he said he could provide the tent. My brother Philip is 17, still at school, and like me, had had no experience of walking, or even camping.

At this stage, it remained solely for me to decide which way to walk. I chose from West to East.


The best maps of the area available are the French 'Michelin' road maps 85 and 86. These unfortunately have no contours, and I was not very happy about them, but I had no other choice. Their scale is: 1 cm.= 2 Km. I ordered them from the Youth Hostels Association.

To decide on a route in this mountainous country was tricky. I soon realised that my plan could at best be only a guide to my general direction, and would have to be altered in parts when I began walking. I did not know if trekking across country was feasible. However, I resolved to choose positions for each camping site, so as to simplify the task of working out how long each part of the trip would take. First, however, I chose my route on the map; a route which passed through as many places of interest as possible.

In order that this report should not become too lengthy, I have tabulated a large amount of factual information in appendices. A glance at the map attached to Appendix (C) shows that my final route was by no means straight. In fact the distance was about 750 kilometres, or 465 miles. I placed camps at intervals of 10-20 kilometres, usually on streams or rivers. I included a certain amount of cross-country walking, but we were to find this for the most part impossible. I imagined too, that we would be able to undertake a number of excursions up mountains, but this we only managed on rare occasions.

As a novice, I found it difficult to decide what to take with me on a two month's trip abroad. A friend, who had recently walked in Corsica, advised me, and we made a list of articles. Later, he was good enough to accompany me on a shopping trip to London, when I bought a large number of things. Since I began with no equipment, (except footwear - my father's old army boots) the cost finally ran to £15 - 20. This includes a rucksack, a Primus stove, and a very efficient windjammer, which, throughout the trip, kept me warm in cold weather, and cool when it was hot. A full list of articles taken appears in Appendix (B), with a guide as to their usefulness.

John's was a small ridge tent, with ample room for two. He also had an entrenching tool.

After having dealt with the obvious things, my problem boiled down to a) not knowing the availability of commodities in the Pyrenees, and b) deciding, in the case of foodstuffs, if the sizes and weights of things were compatible with the number of meals they would serve. For example, a tin of baked beans, both heavy and bulky, was an unwise purchase in England, (though unobtainable on the Continent,) since it would satisfy us for one meal only. But 'Oxo' cubes were the opposite in every respect, and thus an obvious choice. The foodstuffs that we eventually carried out from this country are also given in Appendix (B).

The Journey

The Approach

John and I passed through the customs at Calais, at 3.00 pm, on Sunday 3rd July. Our rucksacks seemed very heavy and conspicuous on our backs. Calais was enjoying a carnival, and it took us some time to get out on the main Paris road. Neither of us had ever before hitch-hiked in earnest, and thought we were prepared for the worst, but we were very disheartened that evening, when by seven o'clock we had received no lift, were very tired, and aching in several places.

But now we had another new experience; that of camping out. All went well on our first night under canvas, except that the amount of sleep we got wes negligable, but we were optimistic enough to expect it to become better as we became more used to it. The porridge we cooked before setting out the next morning was a washout.

We were elated when a nice looking sedan stopped for us about half-an-hour after we had begun hitching that morning, and after that our luck changed. (Our philosophy as regards this dubious sport of hitching also changed. We became quite used to waiting several hours, and never lost the hope that the next car might stop. We reached Paris early on Tuesday morning, in foul weather, and worked our way beneath it on the Metro as far South as possible. Then we worked our way to the Route National 10, which runs South from Paris to Bayonne, and soon were lucky enough to receive a lift from an American army Lieutenant, some 260 kilometres to Poitiers. We stayed the night in a Youth Hostel.

I had originally intended to spend all our nights in youth hostels on this first part of the trip. This had been impossible, and it had been lucky for us that I had brought some paraffin for the Primus. By now, however, our supply was dwindling, but when I asked in Poitiers for "du paraffine", I was told that it was unobtainable. This was worrying, but there was nothing we could do about it, and we decided to try again later.

The American army was again most helpful, and after some distance in a khaki sedan, we had an exciting ride in an army ambulance, reaching Bordeaux Wednesday evening. It took us another day and a half to reach Bayonne, where we again tried to get paraffin - this time successfully. We discovered that the mistake was due to language, the French for paraffin being "petrole."

Bayonne is a beautiful place, but not for hitch-hikers. Near Bayonne is Biarritz, a seaside resort of the rich, and everyone was on holiday. So we decided to finish our journey by bus. First we went to Biarritz, where unfortunately the water was very rough, and not at its best. Then we took a bus to St. Jean de Luz. The third took us to Hendaye, across the frontier, and on to San Sebastian, arriving about 4.OO pm. This last part of the journey had crossed the foothills of the Pyrenees, and given us a taste of what was to come. But today was the day that we were to begin our walk, so we enquired the way, tried unsuccessfully to buy a local map of larger scale than the Michelin, and then followed the river out of San Sebastian - the river which we were to follow for the next few days.

San Sebastian. We didn't swim.

The Walk Part 1

I am not now going to relate a day to day report of our journey. That is given in the Appendix. What I propose to do is to state the several aims of the trip, and show how we were able to fullfil those aims. I shall also mention, without too many dates or names, any points of interest about the country we passed through and the people we met.

The task I had set myself was to walk from San Sebastian to Perpignan, and to live as cheaply as possible on the way. I was not over concerned with how long this would take; indeed, to follow the route that I had planned it was not even of prime importance, and, as we shall see, I was forced to alter it on many occasions. In the middle of the trip I had planned a short variation, namely a train journey from Lourdes to Gavarnie and back.

After having written my original plan, one change already had cropped up. The cause of this was my decision to meet my brother in St. Gaudens instead of Luchon. Philip had been to St. Gaudens before, and I decided that there would be less risk of missing one another if we could both make ourselves known, on arrival there, to the people with whom he had before stayed. A glance at the map in Appendix (C) shows how my revised route differs from that of my original plan.

In my original plan, I had divided the journey into six stages. In this final report, I propose to think of it as three, since that is how it seemed to me as I was walking. Firstly, my journey with John, from San Sebastian to Lourdes. Secondly, my fortnight alone, during which I made the week's journey from Lourdes to St. Gaudens, and then rested a week there. And thirdly, the trip from St.Gaudens to Perpignan, I shall attempt to contrast both the country we saw, and the people we talked to in each stage, and also to show the changes, both physical and mental, which came about in me and my companions.

The first week was a great testing period for both of us. There is a very fine road connecting San Sebastian and Pamplona, but we chose to follow a route which lead us away from the traffic, and which wound remarkably slowly through the mountains which the more modern route bypassed.

It was the very windiness of this road which was responsible for our first problems. In planning, I had reckoned that a mere 12 kilometres or so, that is 6 centimetres on the man, would prove an easy walk, and even allow for the odd afternoon's excursion up a nearby peak, once we had encamped. But with a road which was infested with hairpin bends, and seemed to go back on itself for a good proportion of the time, much of which was not shown on the map, we two inexperienced, unfit hikers found ourselves with 17 or 18 kilometees to walk each day in very hot weather, and very seldom along the level.

I well remember the third day of our walk when we stopped every half kilometre for a rest, and had to force ourselves not to give in, camp on the spot and go straight to bed. The cross country walking I envisaged during this first week was completely out of the question; the road we were following, as the map shows, was cut out of the mountainside, and to leave it was impossible. The alternative was the route I have marked, which met the main road to Pamplona at Lecumberri. But it was not all plain sailing thereafter; we began to wonder if those mountain curves hadn't each one been blessings in disguise. The kilometres seemed to pass more slowly than ever. The car horns forced one into the rubble at the side of the road, and made one lose the rhythm of walking. To pass a kilometre stone, and to be able to see the next one a kilometre ahead seemed many times worse than the feeling that it might always be around the next corner.

At night time too, we were having teething troubles. The coldness and hardness of the ground were not vanishing as we gained "experience." I wondered if it wouldn't be worth while buying a blanket in Pamplona. But before we got there, I hit on the idea which makes sleeping much more enjoyable - that of digging a slight hollow where the hip would fall, in order to allow one to sleep comfortably on one side, and not present too large an area to the cold ground. On the morning of Thursday,I4th July, after having climbed a slight hill, we saw Pamplona, 10 kilometres ahead of us: a large town, looking very inviting. We could even see the bullring. We walked the whole distance, without a rest. By lunchtime we were encamped just outside the walls of the city, and spent the afternoon mingling with the crowds, and enjoying the feeling of walking without having to get somewhere.

We missed the running of the bulls by one day ...

There is no doubt that that first week was not an experience I should like to repeat; and yet, as I look back, and compare it with other passages of difficult country, I realise that it was not exceptionally hard. What made it seem so were our lack of fitness (especially mine), the blisters which troubled us most of the way (especially mine), and the hot sun which beat down on our heads unceasingly all day (especially mine). Also, we were mentally unaccustomed to walking for several hours at a stretch. And even when we weren't particularly tired, we were always prepared to take a rest every three hours, as we had done since the start. In the mountains we walked three kilometres in three quarters of an hour, then tested till the hour was up. The people we met during that first week were most charming. In one village, a shopkeeper who had been very generous in serving us with wine, then phoned a woman at the village, who could speak several languages, especially to talk to us. As it happened, this was a good thing for us, as neither, of us knew any Spanish, and were using the dictionary for every word we said. The village shops were able to supply us with everything we required for our cooking, which at that stage was very simple, and we soon learnt how very cheap commodities are in Spain. The next few days was a period for gaining experience, Compared with the mountain road we had already come up against, it was not very strenuous, but we still had a very hot sun in the Spanish tradition to contend with. These next few days are memorable mainly as a period during which we lived on the very minimum of food. We could get no butter or fresh milk, and were lucky even to be able to buy bread. The milk situation was surprising, since cows were abundant, but I imagine it would only have been possible to buy milk at a certain time of the morning each day.

Between Pamplona and Arneguy we crossed two main cols, or mountain passes. Crossing cols is an experience about which I still have mixed feelings. At that stage I hated both the long, steep, climb, and also the descent at the other side, which was usually equally long and steep. One very happy memory I have, is that of our camp at Burguete. After a very hot morning's walk, we found there a most delightful stream. We bathed, and washed our clothes in it (a most pleasant pastime), for hours.

Right. Burguette today. Note, all colour pictures
are recent. We had no camera on the walk.

The day after that, we walked a record distance of 21 kilometres, to Valcarlos. Conditions were favourable; a day with neither sun nor rain, and a slow descent for the last 17 kilometres. That night, we also had our first thunderstorm, The next day, Tuesday I9th , we crossed the frontier at Arneguy, and, making the obvious detour to cut out the trans-mountain walk I had planned, followed the road to St. Jean Pied-de-Port. A point of interest here: we met our first English—speaking person since the beginning of the walk, a Canadian R.C. priest, who had been teaching in Spain for some time.

After the rather remote part of Spain we had just left, it was good to get back to France, but for the next few days we were to have our severest test yet: a long trek through the mountains from Mendive to Alcay, along what is called on the map a "sentier mutelier." This path began dramatically with an extremely steep ascent for about half a kilometre. All the time, we could see the Pic de Behorleguy, 4150 ft, ahead of us, and it seemed unbelievable that we should pass as close to it as the map suggested. But this in fact was the case. It was just after the Pic, early on Thursday morning, that we lost the path, but we continued walking by compass, using any sheeps' track that was available in the direction we knew we hed to go. We walked much further than the crow would fly, and at times were worried that we might be lost. But eventually we regained the original path, and shortly afterwards, began the descent to Alcay, where we stopped for the night, footsore and weary.

Pic de Behorleguy

We now looked forward to a stretch of relatively flat country, but first I had my boots repaired by a village cobbler. The recent mountain walking had dislodged most of the hobnails, and I got him to put in some more, which he did very cheaply. On Friday 22nd July, we were the only "guests" at the Montory Youth Hostel, a delightful house, where we were able to give many of our clothes a much-needed wash in hot water. The system in hostels in that one may use as much butane as one requires; the all-in tariff of about two shillings and threepence covers the cost. We found sleeping in beds a wonderful experience, as we were still not used to the ground.

We walked on through Arette and Lurbe, and then along the 17 kilometre stretch through the Bois de Bager. Half way along this village-less road, we had our only night sleeping in a barn. Rain was coming down in sheets, and we approached a fine looking farmhouse, found it deserted, and waited till either the rain stopped, or the owner returned. When he did, he was a little put out at finding us sitting in his store-room, but his wife persuaded him to allow us to spend the night in hie barn; it proved a most clean and comfortable one.

Next day, we made a short walk to Arudy, in order that we might spend the afternoon on a hitch-hiking trip to Pau. I believe this is the largest and most modern town in the Pyrenees. Hitching each way was simple, without sacks, and the town was resplendend in the warmest sunshine we had had since leaving Spain.

We were beginning now to complete our walking quite early each day, and partly because of this, and partly due to a lingering memory of home cooking, we began to experiment with bigger and better meals. In the towns we passed through regularly now, we could buy almost all we wanted. Dishes as tasty as shepherd's pie, mushroom and ham omelet, pancakes, and macaroni pudding became regular items on our menu. I regret it was a definitely English menu at this stage. We always ate porridge, with coffee or tea, for breakfast, bread and jam with fruit at midday, and our large evening meal at six. We were invariably ravenous when the time for food was near.

Now we were approaching Lourdes. We arrived about lunchtime on Thursday 28th, and here came another important change of plan. It seemed to me now that I had chosen the wrong beauty spot to visit. Everybody had recommended Cauterets as a most picturesque and delightful place; of Gavarnie we had heard little mention. Yet the latter still held some interest, so we decided to leave to chance the final choice of which we should visit, We didn't catch a train South - we thumbed a lift, and the choice was made for us when, after a short time, a car bound for Cauterets stopped. We did not regret this. It proved a fitting climax to the first stage of the


trip; John was going to have to leave me when we returned to Lourdes. The town of Cauterets is surrounded on almost every side by sheer mountains. It is a tourist centre, and yet it has not been allowed to grow, like Lourdes, into a place whose inhabitants live like parasites off the tourists. We saw it at its best, in magnificent sunshine. Cauterets is also a ski-ing resort, and I can imagine its being equally splendid when its fine mountains are beneath a blanket of snow.

The French practice of camping under canvas at night, while on a touring holiday was amply demonstrated here; there were several official camping sites. We, however, stayed the night in the extremely good youth hostel there. Our return to Lourdes was easily accomplished the next morning. We set up camp, and in the afternoon, had a look at this rather disappointing town, a mass of souvenir shops. We were unfortunately not allowed to see the famous Grotto, as our clothes were unsuitable, I have a photograph of the cathedral, which is extremely beautiful, and perhaps makes up for the commercial bent which the town has assumed.

John left to hitch to Switzerland early the next morning.

The Walk Part 2 - On my own

My greatest worry about walking alone had always been whether the load I would have to carry would be too great for comfort. I found that the weight of my rucksack was increased by about half, but though this made it extremely heavy to lift off the ground, once it was on my shoulders it did not trouble me very much,

My brother was to meet me in St. Gaudens, about a fortnight after I left Lourdes. At our previous rate of walking, I knew I could get there in a week, and I decided, to do this, rather than walk half-distance each day, as I felt that to stay in St. Gaudens for several days would be of some benefit to me, I wrote my brother, and instructed him to send a letter to the house of the family with whom he had stayed, some three years before, and enclose a letter for me, which I would pick up when I arrived. Thus he could let me know the date and time of his arrival by train in St. Gaudens, and also perhaps give me some home news.

I had expected that walking by myself would be a lonely business, and indeed, for the first day or two, I found I was talking to myself for company. When this wore off, however, I realised that to be alone had advantages. I could vary my pace to suit my mood, I could stop to remove stones from my boots without annoying a companion. The time when I did miss John was when setting up or packing up camp, and it was the reaction against this part of my routine which at this stage helped to make me gain more pleasure from the walking part.

Although I did not follow my original route from Lourdes to Bagneres, I went up into the mountains again, after Bagneres, as planned. It was from a point about half way between Bagneres and the village of Banios, that I saw what must be one of the most spectacular views of the range of the northern Pyrenees, In front of me, over almost 180 degrees was the flat plain. From east to west, the range of mountains rose out of that plain almost in a straight line. It was a view I shall remember for a long time.

By La Barthe, I had again left this northern range of the Pyrenees. I mention this again, because nowhere else was it so possible to say that we had "come out of the mountains." The division between mountain range and plain was so very well marked. The roads to St. Gaudens were now straight and flat, and I feel that it is significant that now I had begun to derive a certain amount of pleasure from walking in the more hilly country, I found them a little uninteresting. St. Gaudens itself was visible for some ten kilometres before I reached it, and when I entered it, very tired, after my longest walk alone, it seemed a more friendly town than others I had passed through. This was just a fortaste of the hospitality of Mme. Larrieu, my brother's acquaintance, who quickly made me feel very welcome, when I stumbled on her house, while making my way through the town,

She gave me my letter, which told me that Philip would arrive on the morning of Friday, August I2th. This meant that I had a week to spend in St. Gaudens, a prospect I looked forward to, since up to now, I had never camped in the same place twice. I erected the tent in a field near Mme. Larrieu's house.

The week was indeed very pleasant. Mme. Larrieu kindly invited me for several meals, I had not before tasted home French cooking — I found it delightful, and it influenced our camp cooking for the rest of the trip. The French custom of having three or four simple courses was better suited to us than our previous system, where we had tried to put as much into one course as possible. I learnt also from Mme. Larrieu that all milk in France, other than pasturised milk, should be boiled. Having before overlooked this, we had never been able to keep milk fresh overnight. It was also at this time, that I discovered that bread keeps fresh for long periods in polythene bags. From now on we were able to supplement our porridge at breakfast with bread and jam.

St. Gaudens

I kept myself fit at St. Gaudens by taking long walks through the surrounding countryside in my boots. I also attempted a hitch-hiking visit to Toulouse, but. found it so difficult to get any further than a third of the way along the Toulouse road, that I changed ray destination to St. Girons. I stayed there overnight in the very large youth hostel, and returned to St. Gaudens the next day, feeling that the excursion had been well worth while.

Philip was not on the train on Friday. Panic! A long distance phone call to England did not clarify the situation, but did confirm there had been no change in plan. For some time I was pretty worried. The only thing I could think of was to meet the train coming in the next day. Indeed, Philip arrived on Saturday. There had been a miscommunication somewhere.

The Walk Part 3 - Joined by Philip

We decided that in order to give him a rest after his long train journey, that we should begin stage 3 early the next morning. He rather worried me with the news that he had a seat booked on the Barcelona Express on September 2nd. This meant we would be rather pushed for time, and I decided that to save a few days, we should take the train from St. Gaudens to Luchon, a journey that in fact carried us no further eastwards, We were therefore not really cheating. But even with this concession, we were going to be very much pushed. The journey to Luchon took us through some extremely picturesque country. We were not able to change our money in Luchon, it being Sunday. We left the town after lunch on the road to Spain. The first ten kilometres up to the Col du Portillon were extremely steep, and finding a very fine camping site by the Col, we decided to stop the night there - Philip's first night under canvas.

Next morning, it was all downhill to Bossost. We were able to make several short cuts; the last bypassed the police post at the road junction, but as the man only seemed to be looking at passports and then waving cars on without stamping them, we did not worry. What we did not know was that he told people to go actually into town, to have their books stamped by the police there. The yellow flag on the map marks the post that we thus missed. We continued along the road. At Viella, we changed a traveller's cheque, having been able to use French money, (and speak French) up till then. Philip was entering the blister stage now. He had been walking very well — much more comfortably than I when I had begun, and though he was to suffer rather more with the various foot troubles that a walker is prone to, he did not allow this to jeopardise the successful completion of the rather longer walks we were soon to have to make. On the way to Salardu, the road was being resurfaced. The white gravel reflected the hot sun which had been with us since Bossost, and made walking, for a time, very unpleasant. We were also threatened now with being unable to obtain any paraffin until we reached Andorra. At Viella, we had been told that it was not possible to buy any in this part of Spain at the moment. I envisaged


our vain endeavouring to cook on a wood fire, a practice I had tried long ago with John, and decided not worth the trouble. In Salardu we were stopped by the police. It is common in Spain for them to ask to see foreigners' passports, but this time there seemed to be something wrong, and of course, as we soon realised, it was absence of our entry into Spain stamps, and the police made us understand, after much wrangling, that we would have to return to Bossost in order to remedy the defficiency. It was a nasty set-back, but there was nothing for it but to hitch over the road we had walked for the previous three days. However, in addition to collecting the required stamps in our passports, we were able, to our joy, to purchase two litres of paraffin in Bossost, and as a result of lucky hitch-hiking both ways, we were able to make our scheduled camp that night. We realised that in fact the police had done us a good turn; we might have reached Andorra, and to come back from there would have been most inconvenient.

Now followed a period of two days of rather more mountainous country than we had been used to. On the map, the road is shown in red and white — an unmetalled road. The high point of this portion was the Port de la Bonaigua, and from there, there was a very fine view. One of my photographs is of this Col, with in the foreground one of the lakes that are shown on the map to the South. We camped a short distance from the very well equipped 'refuge' marked on the map, where, for instance, not only was the milk we bought fresh, but especially boiled for us. Next day, we made a very long walk of 20 kilometres. What we had expected to be two days, as it were, in the wilderness, working our way through the mountains for 40 kilometres, had in fact turned out to be extremely enjoyable. Though Philip perhaps found the hillclimbing a little tiresome, I found it preferable by far to, say, the last few days' walk before St. Gaudens.

The road continued through Llavorsi, and on to Sort. Here I had again decided that we should follow the road from Sort to Seo de Urgel, (which goes off the map) rather than work our way through some very mountainous country. Since this road does leave the map, we had no indication of its length, but we afterwards decided it was about 55 kilometres. The sun shone unceasingly, but the abundance of streams caused us even to be glad of this, as we enjoyed so much taking every opportunity for bathing or just dousing our heads. The villages we passed usually had a small shop, though it was often difficult to find. From the second coll on this road, there is a marvellous view of the valley in which runs the road North to Andorra through Seo. The last day of this mountain crossing was not very pleasant, owing to the arid country and lack of any water, but the sight of the large river in the valley ahead of us spurred us on, down the long descent. We in fact reached the main road some seven kilometres south of Seo, and walked in the next day.

Seo de Urgel is a large town, and it sported the first official camping site that I had seen in Spain, The added attraction of a swimming pool for the pleasure of its patrons was too much for us to resist, and we decided to stay a night there. The pool was small, yet delightful. Good washing facilities were also available, and next morning we were prepared to pay quite a heavy tariff. We were pleasantly surprised when we were asked for only ten pesetas each, or one shilling and threepence.

We now had to begin thinking in terms of reaching Perpignan by September 2nd. We had made no extra provision for this up to now, since the hot sun in Spain would have made the walking of longer distances rather uncomfortable. But now as we left Spain, the hot weather was to leave us, as I had anticipated. If we walked 25 kilometres per day, instead of our previous 15, we would reach Perpignan by the 2nd. However, in order to allow for emergencies, I made a small change of route at the very end, so that we would be walking along the main road and railway to Perpignan. Philip would then be able to leave me, before the end of the trip, for Perpignan, by train.

The date we left Seo was Friday 26th August. We walked our 25 kilometres to Encamp that day, passing through Andorra la Vieille, the capital of the principality. There were countless tourists, and yet we thought it a charming place. The language appeared to be a mixture of French and Spanish. One sign I saw read "Aigua (neither French nor Spanish) no (Spanish) potable (French)," meaning water unfit for drinking. Both pesetas and francs are acceptable everywhere, and French, Spanish, and Andorran stamps are in current use, though one must be careful to use the appropriate letter box. I believe cars are cheap in Andorra, which is the cause of a large amount of smuggling. There were certainly models here that we had not met in France, nor Spain, including several English makes. That night there was a display of very fine sheet lightning. There was no storm, and at first we did not recognise it as lightning. It seemed to be in several distinct colours, and brilliantly illuminated the clouds. Next day's walk was 28 kilometres, with most of it uphill, the climax being the Port d'Envalira, 7400 feet, the highest we ever went. We camped at the frontier, Pas de la Case, where we underwent another thunderstorm, this time with a large amount of rain, and very high winds.

The road from 1'Hospitalet to Ax-les-Thermes follows a long, deep valley, and coming down from higher ground the next morning, we saw it filled with cloud - a fine sight. When we descended into this cloud, we were lucky enough to meet a shepherd, who showed us a short cut to 1'Hospitalet, We walked on, and camped just past Merens. It was taking us perhaps 7 1/2 hours to do these long walks, and therefore there was little time for relaxation.

Andorra La Vieille

It was important to us psychologically to make a good early start each morning. We were getting up at six, and leaving camp by a quarter to eight, but yet we found 25 kilometres too much to keep up every day, and, on Monday, the day we passed through Ax, we only managed about 15. Monday is memorable for a wonderful swim we had in the lake at Goulours. The water was incredibly warm, although the weather had been rather coo], apart from that day. Tuesday was another 28 kilometre day. It began with a short climb in thick cloud to the Port de Pailheres, and continued with a long descent to civilisation again in the valley below. On Wednesday we managed only 16 kilometres, owing to the fact that the long climb up to the Col du Jan came in the second half of ' the walk.

If we had been able to make the Col du Jau that night, and perhaps have gone down a few kilometres the other side, we might have reached Perpignan by Friday evening. As we did not, I decided there that it would be better for Philip to take the train from Prades, which we would reach Perpignan on Friday morning. We had walked extremely well. The weather, on the whole, had been kind. And yet, just on the days when we had needed most of all cooling winds, with perhaps a spot of drizzle, the sun had come out, and made it more difficult for us. Philip had found the going more difficult than I, which was natural, when one considers how much longer I had been walking.

The march the next day, Thursday, was 31 kilometres, our record, all the way to Prades, and it was during this walk that we saw our first evidence of this being the most important fruit-growing district in France. Throughout the Pyrenees, we had been able to pick apples off roadside trees, but here, not only were the apples the nicest I have ever tasted, but also there was an abundance of peach trees; the fruit was being picked as we walked through the district . It was beautifully ripe. There were also pears and grapes, We camped on the outskirts of Prades, and amongst other things, I bought some paraffin, the two litres from Rossost having lasted us till now.

Prades is 42 kilometres from Perpignan. On Friday morning, I left Philip at the railway station, and began walking. The road was a series of long straight stretches; the sun was hot; and I amused myself singing, and eating the delicious wine grapes which grew always by the side of the road. By evening I had done 27 kilometres, and I encamped near Millas, feeling extremely tired; I slept beautifully. On Saturday morning, I developed a painful blister on my little toe, which was quite amazing, as I had had no foot trouble for weeks, I hobbled into Perpignan by lunchtime ...

Perpignan - destination! I did it!

The Return

I began trying to hitch out of Perpignan the next morning. Since I was alone, I was expecting to have an easier journey than the outward one, but here again it seemed to take a long time to get started. I was struck by the way a large number of very likely looking cars ignored one, and then someone, who one would never expect to stop, really goes out of his way to help, In this case a woman came running back from a garage some distance up the road, where her car, with the rest of her family inside, had stopped for petrol. They took me to Narbonne. After two more lifts that day, I reached Nimes, where I camped for the night. Next morning I had a short lift, early, into Resmoulins, and then, just as I had given up hope, after having waited for about four hours, and was walking back into town to find out about buses to Avignon, a young Frenchman stopped for me, and delighted me with the news that he could take me right up to Paris, stopping a night on the way.

The journey was great fun. He was an extremely nice man, and was most concerned for my comfort when we stopped for the night at Le Puy, after an exhilarating trip through the mountains from Valence. Le Puy is famous for its statue of the Virgin, high up above the town, on one of the incredible rocks, of which there are several examples in that part of the country. There is also, perched on a similar rock, a chapel, and at night, the two, floodlit, with the full moon between them, was an awe-inspiring sight. I spent the night encamped in an official camping site, while my benefactor went to a hotel. Next day we sped up to Paris, arriving at about nine o'clock along the new 'autoroute,' which we joined just North of Fontainbleau. It was pouring with rain, and travelling on this first rate highway, with its illuminated signs, was very exciting. We parted at one of the metro stations, and I went North to Port de la Chapelle, to spend the night at the Youth Hostel there.

In three short lifts early the next morning, I got 50 kilometres outside Paris, and then an amazing coincidence occurred, A car stopped for me, driven by a Canadian, about 22 years old, who, to my delight, was in a great hurry to reach Calais for the one o'clock boat train. His voice seemed vaguely familiar, but I put this down to his being Canadian: John and I had met a party of three Canadians at the Cauterets Youth Hostel. Imagine my surprise, when it came out in conversation half-an-hour later, that he was actually one of them. I then remembered the car, which they had had with them. The other two had left him in Spain,

It was a near thing, catching that boat train. We arrived some ten minutes before it left, and were greeted by some angry officials. But the passage was booked, and they found room for us. This however meant that we were first off the boat and through the customs at Dover. Getting used to left-hand traffic was easier than we had expected, and we were in London by six.

Date      Distance walked (Km)      Position of Camp 

8 July           6		   1 Km. before Astigarraga. *
9		17		   2 Kms. after turning to Arano, by an unmarked small village.
10		11		   2 Kms. after Goizueta.
11		15		   At Leiza.  Scrambled to the 'peak' of a nearby hill.
12  		18	           At Urriza. 
13 	 	16		   I Km. after turning to Ar-^sa,  Pamplona was visible
				      from a highspot 1/2 Km. after this camp.
14		10		   Just outside the walls, to the North of Pamplona. 
15		14		   I Km. before Larrasoana, in an orchard.	
16		15		   Erro. Washed our clothes in the village wash-house. 
17		14	           I Km. before Burguete.
18		21		   At Valcarlos.  Our first thunderstorm. *
19		12		   I Km. East of St. Jean Pied de Port. *
20		17		   Near the Pic de Behorleguy.
21		18		   At Alcay.
22		10		   Montory Youth Hostel; had it to ourselves. Made elderberry jam.
23		17		   At Issor.  Procured a biscuit tin. for baking. No lid.
24		17		   A barn, half way between Lurbe and Arudy.
25		10		   I Km. after Arudy.  Hitched to Pau and back.
26		16		   Bruges. searched hard, found cobbler, who mended my boots (100fr)
27		17		   St. Pe Youth Hostel.  
28		10		   Walked to Lourdes; hitched to Cauterets; Youth Host. Met Canadians.
29		 -		   'Official' camping site, Lourdes. *
30		 7		   2 Km. before Loucrup. Hitched to Lourdes for provisions.
31		11		   'Official' camping site at Pouzac. Second thunderstorm.
1 August	12		   At Banios.
2		13		   Laborde.  At long last got a lid for my biscuit tin oven. 
3		11		   La Barthe. *
4		 8		   St. Laurent Youth Hostel.
5		14		   St. Gaudens. * 
6 - 13		 -		   St. Gaudens. Visited St. Girons; stayed in youth hostel.  
14		10		   Train to Luchon; walked to Col du Portillon. 
15		14		   By turning to Las Bordas.
16		13 		   At Gares.  Had a good swim in the Garona.
17		 9		   4 Kms. past Salardu.  Passport trouble.
18		16		   3 Kms. below the 'Refuge'.  Made some fudge.
19		20 	 	   La Guinguela, Lost, and found, my watch.
20		14		   Llavorsi. Baked shortbread. Bought a watermelon.	
21		13		   I Km. before Sort.
22		14		   Hard, hot, climbing to just past les Llagunes.
23		16		   Crossed 2 cols.  Camped near unknown village.
24		17		   Uncomfortable walk to village 8 Kms. south of Seo.	 
25		 8		   'Official' camping site, with swimming pool, Seo. 
26		25		   I Km. before Encamp.  Passed through Andorra la Viel	
27		28		   Pas de la Case. Found wild raspberries; made jam *
28		24 		   2 Kms. past Merens.
29		15		   By where Le Pere is marked; we found no sign of it.
30		28		   By the turning to Escouloubre.
31		16		   6 Kms. before col de Jau.  Made a fire (!) 
1 September	31		   Prades.  Record walk, and free fruit. *
2		27		   Just passed Millas. A very hot day.
3 		16		   Perpignan. Mission accomplished. 
        TOTAL: 751 Km.
(*) Camping site NOT on a stream or river. This meant we had to be careful with the drinking water I collected each day from a reputable source, but it was no real inconvenience.

ARTICLES TAKEN                       REMARKS 

Rucksacks 			John's and mine large - Philips a small one.
Tent				Let through a very fine spray when it was raining hard.
Entrenching tool		Essential.
Ground sheet 			Served us extremely well.
Primus stove		        Caused trouble only once, when a nut on the plunger  
					came loose, luckily in St. Gaudens.
Methylated spirit		Facilitates lighting the Primus, but not essential
Paraffin			We took a small quantity to start us off.
Sleeping bags			My waterproof one had a distinct advantage over
					John's ordinary type
Billies:  One round billie with frying pan lid    - Worth their weight in gold
          Two army surplus mess tins
Water carrier, (polythene) 	Perhaps our most useful single item; used every day.
Tin and bottle opener 		 
Polythene water flask 		We used it for milk.
Tea cloth 			Unconventional camping equipment, but often useful.
Polythene bags 			101 uses, including that of keeping bread fresh.
Sheath knife			A phoney as far as we were concerned. We used it only 
				    	for sharpening tent pegs, and it blunted soon.
Maps				We some times found details wrong; annoying.
Diary				A page every night ...
Writing paper & envelopes	All my envelopes stuck themselves up.
Ball-point  pen
'Housewife'			My supply of needles & thread was handy for both 
					blisters and darning
Sellotape			Invaluable, from preventing condensed milk issuing from   
				half-empty tins, to emergency elastoplast.  
Sunglasses			I sat on them during the first week. No real loss.
String				For clotheslines, and tying up Polythene bags.
Knife, fork & spoon set
One flat plate
Polythene mug
Small serrated knife 		For cutting bread, bought in Lourdes
Pot  scourer			Also bought in Lourdes
First aid set			Included lint, elastoplast, burn dressing, Dysentry tablets, 
					and Acriflex, an antiseptic. Much used.  
Sun-tan cream 			Efficient; we did not suffer from sunburn. 
Toilet paper 			Ran out just before the end!
Khaki shorts
Long khaki trousers
Bathing  trunks
Two shirts
Toilet articles
Household soap			Washing clothes in streams was not difficult as  
					the water was usually soft
Two pairs of socks		Protection from Blisters (to a certain extent).
Six packet soups		Good value.
Jar of Bovril.			 
Oxo cubes			We only had stew a few times, but it was good.
Sugar				Just to start us off.
Sweetened condensed milk	Had some with us throughout.
Instant coffee
Cooking fat			After one packet we used olice oil, much more convenient
Dextrosol tablets (glucose)	Psychological succour with energy
Liver salts 

The actual maps were submitted with the report,
but these notes still hold some interest.
1. Hitch-hiking map.
The 'Shell' map of France shows the hitch-hiking route.
	a)  A change in colour  (green - blue)  denotes a different lift.
	b)  Where the route is in pencil, we used public transport.
	c)  Symbol 1 shows where we camped.
            Symbol 2 shows where we stayed in a Youth Hostel.

2.  Walking maps.
The 'Michelin' maps 85 and 86 show the walking routes.
	a)  The route as I originally planned it is denoted by a black line.  
		Camps are shown by black flags.
	b)  The actual route we took is given by a blue line, with camp flags in blue.
	c)  The number, by a camp, gives the number of nights since leaving San Sebastian.
	d)  Nights stayed in Youth Hostels are denoted by symbol 2
	e)  Hitch- hiking routes are shown in green.

The original typescript was scanned and uploaded on 10 March 2013. Only 53 years late.
My sincere acknowledgements to John (Loosley) who unearthed the postcards sent to his parents, and permitted me to include the backs as well as the fronts.

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