Holy Hypothermia!!!! Our intention was to walk 26 kms today but then weather happened. The rain wasn't too bad when we set out, this time in our ponchos. Dayton, in his huge red poncho, looked like Tickle Me Elmo and in my green poncho I looked like the Jolly Green Giant's granny. Is there any point in me mentioning that we started out with the seriously steep uphill rocky climb de jour? I think I've established that's a given. It wasn't too insane at the start as we walked though a forest with the leaves of the still bare trees just starting to emerge in a delicate Granny Smith apple green. I was pretty toasty in my full length poncho which is lined with some warming reflective material but Dayton was seriously starting to chill from the trapped moisture under his rainwear - exertion plus perspiration = freezing cold. Two hours and almost 10 kms took us into Castanet Le-Haut and we made the turn to continue up the mountain. The drizzling rain turned to driving snow (deja vu - April 26, 2009 Orisson to Roncevalles in a blizzard) and hypothermia was beginning to be a realistic threat. Everything was wet and I considered wringing out my gloves but you can't wring out ice.
Fourteen kilometres in four hours and twelve kilometres to go - uphill, cold, wet and stupid. At Ginestet, we stopped at one this villages six houses to see if we could use the shelter of their garage while we called our gîte. That's when our luck changed. We had lucked into the most giving, welcoming, helpful families. One of the guys there pulled out his phone and called ahead to our gîte to ask if the hospitalitie could come and 'chercher' us - come and get us. Just happened that the gîte hospitalitie had just stepped in her door when our rescue call came in. We were invited to wait, leaving our dripping ponchos and backpacks in the garage, and come into the house where there was the warmth of a blazing fire and of this welcoming family. It became obvious that we were crashing their yearly family reunion. The living area was crowded with at least three generations of an extended family, some French and some Spanish. They offered us warmth, something to drink ( water, tea, beer, coke), something á manger and a confusing conversation in French, Spanish and a generous attempt at English. They were having crazy fun: costumes and wigs; fun and raucous laughter; and a video recorder capturing it all. Into this chaos came our gîte lady Isabelle to gather our gear and drive through the snowstorm to our gîte in Murat sur-Vebre. By 12:30pm, we were settled at her kitchen table hands wrapped around a hot cup of tea. Three hulking young German cyclists arrived within minutes looking for refuge. This made me feel a little less wimpy about copping out. Actually I don't think we wimped out as much as made a wide and safe decision.
The snow you see on the mountain in the distance is where we were and what we decided to avoid. This picture does not really do justice to how intense the snowstorm was.
Within this gîte, we have our own super well-equipped apartment, even a hair dryer so obviously I am happy. We have elected to take demi-pensionne so, while our hostess cooks, we can enjoy an afternoon of writing and reading and a maybe a wee glass of wine.