Sunday, September 4; Stage 7
St. Beat to Seix
Col De Mente 1349m
Col de Portet d’Aspet 1069m
Col de la Core 1395m
We get up even earlier than usual (about 5 am) as the forecast was for rain in the afternoon, but it is already raining. In the dark, we run to the toilet block, capes flapping, and Jim brings the entire tent with him to pack in the porch of the sanitaires. We are rolling by 7 a.m; head torches lighting up the rain, towards the small hamlet of Lez, past the empty summer piscine and to the very steep start of the Col de Mente, which is steep, dark and wet. The rain soon eases as it comes light and we are surrounded by a shroud of fog that stays with us all day. On the road we find a large salamander right in the centre, which we rescue with difficulty as it will not budge. When it finally responds it moves rapidly with a quirky leg motion. There are also many large toads were on the road but sadly they are dead
We had chosen these small cols – which are a harder alternative route- for the quietness and views but we didn’t see any view all day. These roads are very quiet though; it is almost lonely on Col de Mente and quite eerie when we stop on the summit at a wooden auberge which to our surprise is open and full of jolly people breakfasting and celebrating a birthday up in the fog.
As we leave the cafe Jane and Richard come up and we continue on to the second col – the Porte de Aspet. This hill is also very steep again. Unusually, I feel strong for a while to the top of this. An old cafe with eccentric ramshackle owner grudgingly serving coffee provides respite from the cold fog while we speak to an Australian couple. We all ride together and lunch by a fountain while the sun briefly shines. Another dog entertains us here.
Soon after this we pass the end of a festival rivalling Todstock or Glastonbury for muddy crustiness. Cars escaping the mud and mushroom wagons floating past. On the way up the Col de la Core I get very tired and left behind and it rains again very hard and it is very dispiriting, freezing and foggy. At the top there is nothing there and nothing to see. We put all our layers on to descend as it starts raining again to make us cold through and through. We find the campsite at Seix, which unsurprisingly is wet, puddled and muddy and use a caravan’s wooden porch to hang all our wet things up. We eat in a hotel while John and Chris are in a bus shelter with Leffe and pizza having a ball. The walk there and back is via quiet streets parallel to the main road on the other side of the river.