Border Spain/France (Puerto de Larrau) - Sainte Engrâce


11/08/2011: Puerto de Larrau (1573 m) - Crevasses de Holzarté - Camping Ibarra (Caserne) à Sainte Engrâce (440 m): 26 km

We were not the first ones to climb up to Pic Ori. It was a nice climb of 410 m with spectacular views all over the west part of the Pyrenees in Spain and France and especially on the vultures that we could see from above! We then drove to the Crevasses de Holzarté and walked up to the hanging bridge. It was a hot and strenuous walk of 9 km round trip with a climb of 225 m up to the bridge. We event went further but then turned around. We had had enough for today. All the motor caravans had left the parking lot where we had been so we headed to the next gorge and found a lovely camping site and we decided to stay there. N 43º0.935´ - W 0º51.517´

12/08/2011: Gorges de Kakouetta (440 m)

We biked the 2,5 km to the to the start of the Canyon of Kakuetta (4,5 €/per Person) and were lucky that there were not many people at that time (about 10h45). This canyon is really worthwhile visiting as it has many special features: it is very deep and narrow, has a specific rainforest micro-climate, the water comes as a cascade directly from a whole in the rock, and there is a cave at the end. It takes about 2 hours to visit and is 2 km long (one-way). After the visit we had a regional basque beer with cheese and jam at the Café des Cascades. The rest of the afternoon we spent relaxing and preparing the trip for the next days. In the evening we grilled “chistorrada” (a sausage like chorizo) with the rest of Andy and Nora’s excellent cheeses. Fortunately there was just a lady on the campground that was selling a special goat cheese so we bought some (twice, as we had already managed to eat half of the piece I had first bought in a short time. Now the weather seems to change, many clouds in the sky...  We stayed one more night at the Camping Ibarra (11,80€/night) N 43º0.935´ - W 0º51.517´.

13/08/2011: Camping Ibarra - La Verna 1575 m: 15 km

Drive to Arrakotchepia where we bought tickets to visit the Cave of La Verna Cave (8,50 € per person) for 14h30. You can either walk or take their shuttle bus (+ 6 € p.p.) but we decided to walk. It was a very interesting but strenuous walk (11 km, 450 height, 3 hours return). The cave was really very interesting, as it has a diameter of 250 m and is 190 m high. There is a 600 m tunnel that leads to this cave that is now also used for hydroelectric purposes. The temperature inside is 6ºC, but there is such a strong draft in the tunnel that it feels even colder! We went the same way back and while we were in the canyon it started to rain and thunder. It is also very humid there so we got back to our motor caravan completely soaked. And this is our luxury: we immediately took a shower and felt fresh again. We then visited the only grocery shop of the valley which is located in Caserne a few kilometers back, almost at the Ibarra Campground and bought some goodies. Overnight stay at the parking place of the Kakouetta Canyon:  (N 43º0.073’ - W 0º50.577’)

Pic d’Ori (2010 m), Puerto Larrau

Views from Oic d’Ori (2010 m), Puerto Larrau

Having breakfast along the river at the very nice Camping Ibarra at Quartier Casernes, Sainte Engrâce (F)

Amazing: this is where the water of this canyon comes from: a hole in the rock with a cave underneath so we were able to walk behind the falls.

The hike up to the Cave La Verna through the Ravine Arpidia was very adventurous and also strenuous. On our way were the old pipelines that were used to bring the compressed air from Sainte Engrâce up to dig tunnel to the cave. Because the topography was not accurate they made many mistakes and there are a few tunnels that go to nowhere.

This is the Canyon of Arpidia that we had to walk through to get to the Cave of La Verna

That is how we looked like before entering the cave. And on the right picture you can see how hard it is to close the door of the tunnel as the wind blows so strong against it. Sorry for the blurry picture, but the temperature difference of 20 ºC was too much for my camera.