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 Walk Across Europe

2009-05-26 - Trip 16 - Leg 127

France, Languedoc Roussillon_Pyrennees Orientales

Port Vendres to Elne

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19.9 km today.
2.4 km/h average today.
8 hours 10 mins walking time.
52.8 km this trip.
2510.3 km from start.
0 metres minimum height.
189 metres maximum height.
336 metres ascent.
381 metres descent.
 Track Log: Logged.
 Travel: SNCF strike. Replacement bus.

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Very nice quiet road and path between Port Vendres and Argeles. Busier roads afterwards.

SNCF, the French railways were on strike and there were no trains. There was one replacement bus at 05:40. We had a 60 minute walk to the bus stop in the pitch dark so we set the alarm for 03:40. Oddly this is not all that tiring because we just go to bed earlier assuming our transport home works as planned. Today we waited for a normal bus but this must have been on strike too. That would have got us home in time for eight hours sleep. We had to catch a later bus also run by SNCF. We still got home shortly after 19:00 leaving 40 minutes to get to bed four our eight hours.

The first half of the walk was very nice. We were on a deserted mountain road, without traffic and sometimes without tarmac. This ran parallel with the main road but far enough away not to be troubled by noise. The road went through a tunnel. We crossed the col. After a steep drop on a fairly obvious path, we joined another narrow lane with little traffic. At the end of this we found edible wild cherries. They were ripe and there were more than we could eat. Delicious.

We walked between Argeles sur Mer and Argelès Plage. This stretch had more traffic. Outside town there were quite a lot of horses, similar to the Camargue breed. This road eventually merged with the increasingly busy coast road but now there was a Chemin Rural. This narrow agricultural access road was almost empty so the walking was nice apart from the parallel traffic noise.

We had to cross the river Tech. We were not sure of the French rules regarding walking on main roads but there was no alternative so over we went. Straight after the bridge we were able to escape onto another Chemin Rural. As we approached Elne, most of the traffic bypassed the town and our route was bearable. In the town we found a historic walled centre. This had been well maintained and was attractive.

We stocked up on food after giving up on the bus. This was a good decision because we got home after the Village des Aloes shop shut. Back at Elne station we had a sandwich and waited. A fierce Mistral was blowing and as we lay back relaxing we were gradually being buried under new green leaves torn off the surrounding trees. Fortunately it was not cold.

The SNCF replacement bus was late and we were in a bit of a panic because we were the only people waiting. We were not sure if the bus would stay on the town centre road or go to the station. On our outward bus ride, both scenarios occurred. Luckily we guessed right and caught the bus. The A4 sheet detailing the replacement bus service lacked these essential details.

The strike, poor maintenance of the ticket machines and lack of staff resulted in us traveling without tickets although we made every effort to be legal. That was one unintended bonus.

Back at base, we had trouble keeping out footing because of the wind. Neil got blown onto the railway bridge parapet railings. Had this been a cliff walk he would have been no more!

Today there was a railway strike and it turned out later a bus strike as well. The French are very good at coordinating that kind of thing. The only early means of getting to Port Vendres was the 5.40 bus from Cérbère. This meant getting up at 3.40 and leaving the flat aat 4.40. As I had hardly slept, this was no hardship. I have got my seventh cold of the winter. I hope this is now the last.

We walked along the main road to Cérbère as it was pitch dark. Luckily we found someone who unlocked the doors of the station building and we asked him if the replacement bus went from the station forecourt or from down below. It was going from down below. There were already two other people waiting who told us they were waiting for the bus. A neon sign told us the temperature was 19º and it was still dark. The bus came and there was no charge which was nice. It took nealry an hour to get to Port Vendres but it was still well before 7am. We moved forward in the bus to let the driver know we wanted to get off and he said I shouldn't sit on the steps so I retreated. He also said he would stop only at the station and I said that was fine.

When we got to the station, he stopped the bus and then asked if we wouldn't rather get out somewhere else. I am remembering more and more French traits as our stay progresses. Many people who initially may sound totally jobsworth will actually do anything for you when it comes to it. As our yesterday walk ended at the station, nothing could be have been better than to start from there today. The first part of the walk was lovely – through little valleys over small hills. I saw a sweet william dianthus and Neil found a double pink rose and a lovely white single rose. We also spotted an amazing white bulb probably a lily that we have never seen before. There are wild cherry trees by the roadside and we have some but daren't overdo it. We wish now that we'd had a few more. Scrumping cherries reminded me of Miss Abbotts a combined geography and games teacher at Queen's School who sang the song at a school concert. It was ghastly and, for children, a laugh a minute. She had a very broad vibrato or should I say wobble and high notes came out much louder than the lower ones. Still I shouldn't be too hard on her because I listned to Acis and Galatea the night before coming here and the lead soprano did exactly the same thing.

Our aim today is to get to Elne in time to get the 15.20 bus back to Cap Peyrefite so we are in time to collect our baguettes.

The second half of the walk is along a pecuaria parallel with the fierce but still nice. We pass a cactus nursery and a butterfly place. We arrive in Elne in time to locate suitable bus stops and to go on to the station so we can join the walk on properly tomorrow. A man is also waiting but the bus fails to arrive. After 20 minutes he goes home. We hang on a little longer and then go round the town to get some supplies as we may now be too late for the local shop. Neil wants proper food and I want a snack. We seem to have different idea about what might be nice. In the end Neil chooses what he wants because I don't really fancy anything much. The wind is getting up. Soon we shall be on all fours. The Golf de Lleon is fort marejada.

Having topped up our suplies we go back to the station to wait for the 17.59 bus replacement service which is assured. The sign on the platform says there will be a train at 17.45. We think it will probably be a bus. We decide to have Neil standing on the platform and me standing on the forecourt so we can make a suitable gesture if a train or buss approaches. It is now 6pm. I decide to risk the wrath of the station staff and go through an illegitimate portal too check that the bus does go from the station and not in the town as seemed to be the case in Banyuls this morning. I am reassured and by the time we have finished chatting the bus has drawn in. It is heaving but luckily a few people got off so we could get on. A number of people had been arriving at the station while we had been waiting and had usually gone off home again. Even if they succeeded in getting to their destination they are unlikely to have been able to get home. We had been looking at the station and deciding where to bivvy if we were stuck there all night.

I was sitting next to an Asian boy who kept asking me if this was Cérbère. I said I would tell him when we got there. he then got out a map of France with a few place names on it and showed me Port Bou as his final destination. How he would get there today I couldn't imagine. Then I heard people speaking Spanish ahead of me in the bus. A quick foray forward established that two of their parety were going on to Spain and I asked if my neighbour could go with them. They said they would show hime. I said thank you and said that was nice because it was a bity complicado. Not complicado at all said the Spanish lady, wink wink. She waved at my neighbour and said he should follow her, so he was OK. Meanwhile two ladies in front of me wanted Collioure. I said I would tell them where it was. We feel quite native. In Argeles, our driver leaned out of his windop and shouted scab at the driver of the little tourist tractor-train. This made both of them laugh any way. Once we got to Banyuls, I slunk forward because we did want to be dropped off at the Village of the Aloes not right in Cérbère. He driver checked we had no luggage and said of course he would drop us there. We hoped we could still pick up our bread we had ordered. We were too late. We must go in tomorrow and apologise and pay for it. We can blame the strike. Tomorrow there may still be some disruption so we are going a bit later to give the trains a a chance to get to their correct positions.

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