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Day 3. Ventosa

It is Friday 13th today. Luckily we are not superstitious 🙂 Still at the end of the day 3 knees were scratched and there were two cases of stumbling (with no serious consequences).

We follow the track of foxes (Carros de Foc) back to the Restanca. Carros de Foc is a network of the mountain paths connecting nine mountain refuges(this includes Restanca, Ventosa and Colomers). The track from Ventosa to Restanca turns out to be tougher as expected. Some ups and downs while we were at a mountain pass. It is not easy to find a pass – we walk to several gaps on the mountain ridge before to find it. Only a chaos of rocks and stones on the other side. At last we notice two rocks baring the track signs.. The path here is extremely steep but we descend with caution encouraged by the signs.

The descend is followed by the walk through the rocky slope and then by some kind of a rocky path. This takes us to refuge Restanca.

Before the refuge we turn aside to take a look at lake Estanh de Mar and have a lunch.

Then comes the very long descend to Arties.

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Day 2. Montardo summit

The breakfast is tasty and nutritious as the dinner was. Nobody lingers at the table – packs rucksacks and off they are. We are aiming the Montardo summit today. 

The summit is not far from the Restanca refuge. Nor one has to climb high – we are there in a couple of hours (advantage of the mountain refuges – to be close to the summits 🙂 ). The weather is still lovely and so are the views.

Further on from the Montardo we take a path by several lakes to the Ventosa refuge. We run on our dinner comerade from Toulouse who has no map with him. He has almost reached Ventosa but then turned back (no map to consult).

We arrive at refuge Ventosa around 3p.m. – still four hours to wait for the dinner. The refuge has one 66 bed apartment – we book there 4 beds. Th hostess suggests the itinerary for us – a couple of hours walk around three lakes – beautiful, she says. We leave rucksacks in the refuge and walk on to explore the lakes. The hostess was right.

The dinner is served in large dishes. The huge bowl of soup comes first. It has a local specialty – a soup with bread and garlick. When soup (instantly) disappears we return the bowl and get the next plate. Soon we are done with the dinner (a pitcher of red wine inclusive).

Some planning for tomorrow and we are off to have some sleep. Luckily we have not many room mates (twenty or so) therefore the night music is at bearable levels. A couple of and m apspriežam rītdienas gājienu un tad ejam uz savām guļvietām. Par laimi cilvēku ir samērā maz (kādi 20 varbūt), tāpēc nakts mūzika ir paciešamos apmēros. Some performers outstand however 🙂

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Day 1. Restanca

We have planned a route for several days. The plan is to walk to the refuge Ventosa, here stay overnight and then ascend to the Montardo summit.

The reality makes the changes to our plan already at the very start. We cannot drive to the point where the track starts as river has swept away parts of the road. So we start to walk from the town of Arties, means another couple of km to walk. We follow the road ant then path to refuge Restanca. I decide on favor of the wrong  path here. After several hours walk we are near lake Estanh de Rius and find out we are far away from the place we intended to be. We have no time to reach Ventosa today so we turn back and return to Restanca. We arrive there at 6pm.

I book four beds in a 14 bed room and ask the hosts to call Ventosa and inform them not to wait us. Restanca is located at the shore of the lake. The view from the bedroom window is like one on the postcards. Lake and a waterfall right on the opposite side of the lake. Rucksacks, hiking poles and boots must be leaved in the entrance hall. Plastic slippers replace the boots and the basket can be used to take inside some of your belongings. 

The dinner is nourishing and tasty – a traditional Spanish soup with bread and garlick, a salad, a meat with mushrooms and a yogurt. Our table mates are a French man from Toulouse and a Canadian lawyer from London (one that is near Toronto 🙂 ). The Canadian has traversed half the Pyrenees (starting from Atlantic ocean) and will finish his tour tomorrow in Salardou. The rest he plans for the next year.

We manage to convince Benita and Imants to expand two days tour to three days. Ventosa is the destination for tomorrow.

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Saint Bertrand de Cominges

They forecast a rain. We decide to go to France again – to explore Gargas caves near Saint Bertrand de Cominges. There should be some cave art from the Late Stone Age (some 22-29 thousand or so years ago). The paintings are in black, white, red and yellow. They are painted by putting a hand on a wall and blowing a dye on it. They made it another way as well – painting around the hand with something like brush.

One can enter the caves only when accompanied by a gid – not more than 25 people at a time, 10 groups per day and 50 minutes per group. The restrictions are there to protect the paintings. We have a group of seven.

The tour starts from the upper cave. Next by the tunnel dug recently we descend to the lower and older cave. It is a horizontal gap in rocks – one has to bend over when walking here and the gap gets narrower at sides. The art works are mostly in places where one has to crawl.

There is a museum next to the caves. One can try to identify on  touch screen the mammoths and other animals painted by the stone age people. We leave for the museum database the contours of our hands. One has only to put the hand on the screen and push a button. The art work appears on the screen in no time.

We stroll around in Saint Bertrand de Cominges as well. The town is on the route of pilgrimage to Saint Jacques de Compostela. The town is originated by Romans in year 72B.C. The cathedral on a hill top and the town around it. Old stone houses, narrow nd steep streets, stone walls and graveyards.

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Pic de Sauvegarde

The first sunny day during this Pyrenees trip! The track starts near the mountain refuge Hospice de France close to the French/Spanish border at the French side some 40km drive from Vielha.