For those who struggle to decide the cruel dilemma between a short hike in the French Pyrenees and a stroll on its Spanish slopes, there is a magnificent possibility to spare the goat and the cabbage. And if we’re talking about cabbage, it’s precisely because it’s called “col” in the language of Cervantes, and our route for the day passes through the Bessata and Somport passes, for a balancing act on along the Franco-Spanish border.
A veritable oasis meshed with silence, greenery and majestic peaks, nestled at the southern end of the Aspe valley which leads to Spain, this area perched at an altitude of some 1600 meters has seen many curious visitors pass through over the centuries. All more valiant than the other, moreover, from the pilgrims wearing down their soles on this route following one of the routes to Compostela, to the cyclists of the Tour de France, without forgetting, once the snow has come, the fond of cross-country skiers. of this welcoming little tray.
It is precisely at the foot of the ski resort of Somport that the winter paths have been transformed into hiking trails, providing very practical beacons for orientation. You thus advance along routes lined with pines, oaks and birches, which are followed by open spaces dotted with grass so appetizingly green that it is easy to understand why the local flocks of sheep make a treat of it.
These green areas are also home to one of the treasures of the Pyrenees, an abundant and colorful flora – seasoned adventurers will no doubt crush a small tear of nostalgia as they brush past the brilliant rhododendrons, Nepal’s national flower, which has found elsewhere than in the Himalayan mountain at its foot.
The trails are wide, easy, flat or gently sloping: perfect for taking your gaze away from your hiking boots to gaze into the distance, at the lovely panoramas that loom in the background. And ideal for my parents, who dabble in their seventies, but still in great shape, frolicking like goats on the run.
And yet, a few tens of meters further, checking with difficulty and misery our position by GPS (the connection bars experiencing a sway in these remote areas), it turns out that our left feet are walking in France, while than “nuestros pies derechos caminan en España”.
Question: If you came across a tall rock where a huge arrow painted white points to the left, what would you do? Follow it and you’ll complete the walk in a good two hours, as originally planned. Play it smart by trusting the intuition that “it seems to be more to the right”, and you will extend the program by at least an hour, if not two, by adding crossings of wild grasses and grueling climbs punctuated of “sea**, but where is the path?” », with the complicity of a GPS now completely disconnected and even more lost than you.
In short, after a few unforeseen detours and a return to the marked trail, we climb the Col de Bessata, to reach the peak, at more than 1700 meters above sea level – the difference in altitude thus remains rather docile, but a short break at the shade from one of the stone bollards that punctuate the border remains welcome. What’s more, they also provide excellent wind shelter, as the wind picks up in this exposed mountain corridor.
The hour of the descent finally rings, and it is again through bushes and forests that the path winds, until reaching our starting point, passing in front of a last curiosity, namely a white oval-shaped chapel. , surmounted by a red cross. Quebec is certainly full of denominational buildings of all kinds, but we must admit that the location of this one gives it a somewhat… Greco-Martian aspect.
We will have understood that this is indeed the ideal place to knit between borders, or even erase them with your shoes. Because when you wander in these high perched places, it is not a visa for France or for Spain, but a passport for the country of the Pyrenees.
Departure and arrival point: Nordic ski resort of Somport, via the N134 road (1.5 hour journey from the city of Pau). There are parking lots nearby.
Duration: A good two hours… if we trust the white arrow.
Elevation: 140 meters, easy trails
Season: May to October