Thursday, 1 September Stage 4
Gourette to Argeles Gazost
Col d’Aubisque 1709 m:
Col de Soulor
We get up early as we do every day and leave by seven. First we throw open the windows to see if the road is dry after the nights downpour. It is. We pay up and the guardian fetches our bikes from the shed where he has cleared a space amongst his debris. Do we have breakfast in Gourette before we start? I think so. The Aubisque climb is about 19 km long with lots of 9% and 10%, which feels tough mile after mile, and with the camping load on the bike.
The fact that we had to stop puts my ability to do the route into question and we think we might have to find alternatives, but today I feel confident and strong again as we cycle towards the austere lonely building we saw last night, up towards the col. here a large roomy auberge serves coffee while we wonder what the suspended polythene bags of water hanging from the ceiling are for. Mountain views are all around. As there is no food at the cafe we make a sandwich outside on the stone benches looking out to high horizons.
After this the road is high and exciting through short grassy uplands to the col. We take photos by the big bicycle sculptures at the top. It is 30 km to Argeles Gazost from here over the Col de Soulor, a factor that stopped us from continuing yesterday. But it is a delight. A section of wild heathery upland, and as it is so early we are the first on the road and see hardly anyone. I love this section. After this there is a very short two kilometre uphill ride to the Soulor, where I don’t think we stopped at all then a wonderful descent, first on smooth hairpins and the then down through villages and on straight roads to Argeles. We find the others at the Three Valleys campsite in a less than grassy pitch. But the lovely thing about the site is that there are pet rabbits of all colours running around keeping the grass short. The swimming pool is wonderful; there is a hot pool with a Jacuzzi, a swimming pool, two chutes and a current channel which is quite long. We have a great time thrashing and splashing, then a communal picnic on the table and chairs at the site. We watch the rabbits sniffing Camembert in Chris’s cycle helmet.