|HRP - Day 5|
Today started with a 5 minute descent to reach the Port de Larrau road crossing, followed by a long sweeping ridge running eastwards along the French/Spanish border. I saw nobody for the first few hours until I was above the Cabane d'Ardanne when I whole bunch of French people suddenly appeared.
I intercepted a group of 4 Frenchmen at the Col Uthu and stopped for a chat. One of the guys suddenly declared "écossais" to me, which left me a bit confused. But I was even more surprised when they said "you are the Scottish man doing the HRP in 23 days"! The mystery was solved when they explained they had met Claude (the 18-day HRP Frenchman) at Chalet Pedro the day before, and he'd told them to watch out for me.
Anyhow, after a bit of chat I thought I'd better press on, but seeing as my feet were blummin agony at every footstep, it was hard to generate much pace. Hence every time I stopped for a moment the 4 Frenchmen would catch me up again. This continued all the way to the Refuge de Belagua which turned out to be massively disappointing, and potentially quite serious, since there was no clean water source and the next section enters dry karst country. Luckily I'd grabbed some water from a good stream just before Belagua, but it was nowhere near enough water for my lunchstop and the 6-hour afternoon stage.
I couldn't be bothered to hike up above the road to look for a clean source, and was sure something would turn up, although the massive flocks of vultures I passed to enter the karst landscape felt slightly ominous.
As things turned out, there was not a drop of water to be found, and the dehydration was really getting to me. A couple of times I needed to stop and lie down, right on the verge of falling asleep, before galvanising myself to keep going. The landscape got wilder and wilder, and reminded me of the Californian Sierra Nevada. Eventually I reached the Col d'Anaye and the ordeal was almost over. I just needed to stagger down a steep rocky descent to reach the Source de Marmitou, and within moments of taking a good drink I felt fine again.
There were still a couple of hours daylight left, but the location for wild camping was absolutely stunning, so there seemed little point in continuing. And funnily enough, within half an hour, the 4 Frenchman from earlier in the day also arrived, so it was nice to see them again and to compare notes about the trek through the karst wilderness.
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