Distance: 13km, Ascent: 500m, Descent: 100m
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Day 1 began with a 5am alarm call in Glasgow, followed by a quick taxi ride to Glasgow for a 6:30am Easyjet flight to Stansted, then a Ryanair flight to Perpignan which arrived sufficiently early to make me think it might be possible to catch the earlier train into the Pyrenees, if they were swift with unloading the baggage.
Whilst waiting for the bags to appear, I scoped out the line to the taxi rank so that I could leg it as soon as I grabbed my bag. The taxi driver was up for the challenge of making the earlier train, which would save me 2 hours at Perpignan and get me to Bolquere-Eyne almost 4 hours earlier. I jumped out of the taxi in the road by the station and made the train to Villefranche with about 5 minutes to spare. The fare was an incredible 1 Euro for a journey that lasted the best part of an hour.
Once at Villefranche I needed to switch to the famous Petit Train Jaune which worryingly looked mobbed with Japanese and other tourists, and even more worryingly had a sign up saying it was full. I had the usual scenario at the ticket booth with some guy in front making the most protracted and complicated transaction you could imagine, whilst the minutes were ticking away, and the Little Yellow Train was about to depart at any minute. I just made it onto the train, with no minutes to spare in a tiny packed carriage with no functioning toilets and incredibly slow but scenic journey up into the wild Pyrenean landscape.
Only 3 of us disembarked at Eyne-Bolquere, like something out of a spaghetti western. Deserted, and in the middle of nowhere. The other 2 were hiking southwards on the GR10 towards Eyne, so we soon parted company as I headed north through Bolquere where the shop was not not surprisingly closed, making me glad I'd brought a few provisions to last the first couple of days.
It felt good to enter the calm forest trails after all the frantic travelling, and to be several hours ahead of where I expected to be given the early flight arrival and luck with taxi and trains.
I had originally planned to camp on the first evening, either just before or after the dam at Bouillouses, however given that I had hardly any food, and had missed having any lunch, and was also getting quite chilled with a cold wind blowing off the lake, there wasn't much of a decision to make once I reached the Refuge des Bouillouses.
I was given a very quiet little room on my own, and had to put on every item of clothing I'd brought to try to warm up. The evening meal was spent chatting with a group of Germans who seemed extremely nervous about attempting Pic Carlit the following day without axe and crampons.