Waking in Saillgouse, close to the Spanish border with France, we felt doubtful whether it was sensible to even try getting our hiking boots on at all? With the steady tapping of rain on the roof it was tempting to head straight to the Spanish border at Bourg Madame and begin the journey south there and then in search of sunshine. However, the weather reports we had seen indicated that there were still some rain free days in the week ahead with relatively mild temperatures, and studying our hiking map we found a few possible hikes in the mountains between this western edge of the Pyrenees Orientales (those closest to the sea) and the Mediterranean coast. Having already resolved to stay in the Pyrenees for as long as the weather allowed we decided that instead of dashing to Spain we would instead drive through the mountains towards the sea near Perpignan and see if we might squeeze in some more hikes.
Setting off eastwards we initially climbed along the road to reach a very special place for us at the Col de la Perche at 1579m, the exact point wherewe had stepped off the bus from Perpignan in September 2013 to beginour first experience of hiking along the Pyrenenan Way. So, rather than driving straight through we nostalgically decided to stop for a few more pictures, reflecting on how we had walked all the way from here to the coast over 100 miles away in the week that followed. From the Col de la Perche we then turned southwards towards the village of Eyne where we had planned a hike into the Reserve Naturelle d'Eyne, however, upon arriving it was soon clear that the low cloud had picked out this valley for some especially heavy drizzle forcing us to rethink our plans.
Passing back through the Col de la Perche we decided to give the northern side of this region, the Cerdagne, a try. The Cerdgane is a surprising flat but elevated plateau that gently rises from around 1000m to 1500m from west to east. Having tried the southern edge which is hemmed in by the Pyrenees that run along the Spanish border, we could see the weather looked a little better on the northern edge where the mountains are a little lower. Arriving in the ski resort of Superbolquere at 1800m we parked outside the tourist office to find the place alarmingly quiet. Normally at this time of year the early season ski tourists might already be enjoying the pistes, however, the unseasonably warm autumn had left the surrounding slopes almost completely free of snow.
With a few patches of blue sky above us we consulted our map and optimistically planned a route that would gently climb to the Coll de Pam at 2002m and onwards to the Roc de la Calma at 2204m before descending northwards to the lake at La Bollosa on the lower slopes of the impressive Puig Carlit massif with a plan to return along the GR10 back to Bolquere. Walking along the deserted ski slopes was a strange but peaceful experience. With no ski tourists around but being too late in the season to attract other hikers it was like we had the place to ourselves. Looking out over the low clouds blowing through nearby valleys and across distant peaks further emphasised the inter-season solitude we were enjoying. It was just us and the mountains – a wonderful feeling.
Sadly our optimism with the weather had been a little misplaced and after just an hour or so when we were about to reach Roc de la Calma the low clouds blew in our direction bringing with it a persistent heavy rain that had us pulling on our waterproofs for the first time in weeks. Although the close white clouds that surrounded us increased that pleasant feeling of separation from the hustle and bustle (especially after visitingAndorra the previous day), it didn't seem sensible to hike on further and so we made our way back to the motorhome to dry off but having very much enjoyed our short walk and some fresh air above Bolquere.