The start of the Cathar trail – et le boue

Monday 13 June

Fully refreshed from a couple of days rest, I set off on my new route but was soon fatigued by driving rain and a steep climb out of Foix. Still, the chateaux looked impressive above the busy town.

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My mood improved with the sight of some bee orchids (also known as ophrys apifera), a species I had never seen before.

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Thankfully, the weather lifted as I reached the top with some fantastic views of the valley below. I followed a long ridge walk through woods but with glimpses of the valley below.

Today I learnt a new French word from an elderly couple coming the other way -“boue”- meaning mud. Lots of it. In the woods it seriously began to hamper progress after the rain. I was slipping a lot and my boots were heavy.

My GaiaGPS map often seems overly optimistic on straight line distances but with the mud, gradient and a late start in Foix, the ETA proved wildly out. I calculated I should get to the campsite by 6pm but in the end I rolled in nearer to 10pm, questioning whether I should have camped at the impressive Chateau de Roquefixade. I decided probably not, as it certainly is not legal and the weather was worse at altitude. The chateau was perched impossibly on top of cliffs.

Sadly the gîte was closed at the base so I pushed onto the next village of Monferrier, which turned out to be a pretty place at night. A site of old iron mines, and talc mining – which it had never occurred to me might be mined. The campsite was bereft of campers and staff but was at least open.

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