I blagged a pass out today so decided to go off and quickly reccie the a local and easy-looking VTT route, Circuit 20 on the VTT Pyrenees website. It’s short – just 10km – so never far from home and not the end of the world if it didn’t work out for any reason but I always like to reccie any family rides, then I know if there are any difficult places I should I avoid, such as fields with big scary cows in, or parts of the route that aren’t accessible with the trailer.
What’s nice is that all the routes listed on the site are also waymarked along the way. The waymarks are easy to spot and are simple but effective, showing you when to turn – or not, much like the symbols used to identify walking routes. I’ve no idea why this notation isn’t used in the UK, because it makes it so easy to follow a designated route, but it isn’t.
DB (my mountain bike) was in good shape after getting a quick burst of TLC in the morning (with help from DD) so I was able to head out with a washed, lubed, and appropriately pumped up bike (last time I went out there was almost no air in the tyres!) The plan was for James to take DS and DD to the park (DS in the sling, DD on foot) and I would meet them there. Since he had his hands full I packed some fruit and extra water and would deliver the picnic after my ride. We both set off at the same time with James turning to me and saying “don’t be too long” – great, thanks for nothing! Just sometimes I wish I’d hear “don’t rush, we’ll be fine” but he hasn’t had the two of them that many times yet (I know, DD’s one already) and I think he forgets that DS is now old enough to manage without me for more than thirty minutes! Anyway…
I set off down towards the lake, which is where the route starts and ends. First heading past the buvette towards Camp Bonnaure along the Sentier Cathare track.
Looking towards the aerodrome (left) and the mountains beyond, from the Sentier Cathare
As the track approaches the road into Camp Bonnaure it bears right, continuing along the Sentier Cathare route. A gorgeous view with the mountains beyond! I was worried that there would be too much climbing for my weak cycling legs but the track meandered along nicely, alongside a clear stream, before slowing looping back towards the road.
Continuing on the Sentier Cathare from Camp Bonnaure
By now I’d been gone about 25 minutes. My original plan had been to miss off the last part of the loops once I got to the road at roughly the midway point, but I was having such a nice time – perfect weather, a lovely route, DB in quite good shape, unlike me! – that I figured I would be okay for another 10 minutes or so, so rather than head straight back I took the next turning onto the next track. Uphill, eek!
It looks flat; it isn’t.
My poor legs haven’t really ridden up a hill in two years so while it wasn’t brutal, it wasn’t pleasant. I walked. I decided it will keep for another day. Fortunately it evened out just around the second bend and turned into a nice descent. Not technical but not totally boring either.
From there the trail swoops down to a lovely little place – maybe one of the Camps? It’s not named on the map so I can’t say for sure*. I stopped to take a picture though because the old water trough had been put to good use, decorated with flowers and with a well-populated nomadic book shelf, and was definitely worthy of a photo!
A well-cared for but unnamed village outside the main village of Puivert
Another day with more time I will stop to investigate further. But on this day I was now mindful that I’d been gone nearly 40 minutes and should probably get back. I decided to skip the last part of the route and head straight back to the lake.
When I got down there it was lovely: DD was paddling up to her knees, her leggings soaked, splashing about and having a lovely time. We were excited to see each other and she grabbed my hand to take me into the water for a paddle to (an advantage of wearing shorts!) After our little picnic it was time to walk home, up the hill.
The ride I will definitely do again – though I won’t be attempting it with the trailer any time soon as I just don’t have the legs for it. Having promised DD a ride during the holidays I may try Circuit 11, which is graded as a green route: also about 9km but keeping to the tarmaced roads linking the Camps. Next time James can bring the picnic and meet us at the lake!
*UPDATE! The mysterious camp I couldn’t name is called Camp Brion, easily identifiable on OpenStreetMap but for some reason not at all on Google .
Check out the route and download the GPS track on GPSies.