Even though the ground passes slowly when you are walking, it is amazing how much that ground can change in the course of a day – or from one day to the next – on the Cathar Trail in the French Pyrenees, where tiny villages are connected by quiet country roads and ancient walking tracks. We traversed smooth highways, crumbling country roads and dusty dirt tracks; we clambered over rocks and shale on the ancient mountain passes; we squelched though mud and waded through water beside creeks over-run with spring melts and rains; and we crunched through last season’s oak leaves, laying thick on the paths where they had recently fallen, pushed off their trees by the sprouting spring re-growth.
Every mile was long – but every mile was different.
On day eight of our trek through the Pyrenees, we said farewell to our marionette-making hosts in the charming town of Puivert and set off with bellies full of fresh croissants across town, around the lake and past bucolic pastures, before disappearing into the kind of dark, old-growth forest where you might meet deer, wolves, bears, or even Red-Riding-Hood.
Trip Notes: Day 8: Puivert to Belcaire
The route goes through a thick fir forest and along through the heart of the Escale and Picaussel forests and onto the vast airy plateau of Sault using ancient paths to access the high valley of Aude and the Corbieres region.
Our over-night stop in Belcaire (population of 411 in 2007) was in a hotel in the centre of town. I have vivid memories of steaming my aching limbs in the enormous claw-foot bathtub, then heading to the homey pub downstairs, where we caught up on our computer time and chatted with the “locals” from England and Wales, before a dinner culminating in cantaloup sorbet and lemon tart.
Breakfast the next morning was under the baleful eye of the resident stuffed wild boar, before we headed off again.
We notice the difference between the Pays de Sault plateau and the county of Ariege as we walk along a pathway situated between high rock mountains that slip down through the impressive Gorge of the Frau before arriving in the village of Montsegur.
We stumbled into Montségur, ready for a two night stay, and looking forward to our evening’s muscat, wine, food and conversation.
Cheers! To your health!