Day thirty-five: Ornans to Pontarlier

Definitely a day of two halves. The first 20 odd km were a beautiful walk along the banks of the Loue river, as the valley evolved very quickly into a steep-sided gorge. The former railway soon gave way into actual trails, but not before it had passed through a couple of villages perched between the steep hillsides and the river. Following my host’s advice, I stopped at the second bar in the second village to get the true small town bar vibe. I was not disappointed!

The source of the Loue is a major tourist draw in this region, and the trail was well trodden, even if some of the treaders were ill-prepared and unconditioned for their exertions. It was a steep/undulating trail with many sheer drops to the river below. An amazing section of trail, considered the scenic route. I’m not 100% sure of the non-scenic route, but I’m sure Sigeric did not scramble along this goat track on his journey to and from Rome.
The actual source of the Loue is a cleft in the rock face from which the river speed forth. Picture attached!
The tourist jaunt over, the second half of the day was an arduous climb to the high plateau, then across undulating farm land to Pontarlier. After crossing over a couple of busy roads in the inevitable commercial/industrial outskirts of any major town, I flipped down under a tree to evaluate short cuts into the town centre, and realised there was a huge Decathlon store right beside me. For those not familiar with Decathlon, it is likely the world’s biggest sports store, but with few of the normal recognizable brands. There is already a store in Quebec, and when they expand in Canada they will certainly shake up the over priced, complacent MEC country club that pretends to be a co-operative. That rant aside, I left with new hiking boots (and no packaging – nothing in Decathlon has superfluous packaging) and will tag team wearing new and old for a while until my feet adapt to the new ones. My current Salomon boots, while good walking boots, are not (in my opinion) suited to backpacking on rough trails, as the soles are too soft and you can feel the stones. They are good on the roads where the surface is smooth. I had planned to wait until Italy for re-shoeing, but as Decathlons are usually in the suburbs, I figured that a Deacthlon beside the trail was worth two in an Italian suburb (or whatever the expression is!)
While my shopping spree delayed my arrival in town, it all worked out as the Youth Hostel only opened at 1730, so I was only a few minutes early.( I usually arrive at the next place early to mid-afternoon, but the combination of a long day with a shopping excursion worked in my favour for a change.
Pontarlier is nothing to get too excited about, but the old downtown core was suitably busy for a Saturday evening with all the patios packed on a sunny evening. The only thing missing was any form of Supermarket, so I had to backtrack 15 minutes to find one. Due to past experience, I wanted to make sure that I was adequately provisioned to survive a Sunday in France, and while I was there, I grabbed some food to prepare in the hostel kitchen.
The hostel was far from peaceful, with a large group of guys (a rugby team maybe) intent on partying the night away. At least I had a room to myself, but the earplugs got broken out for the second time!
Pics: scenic village on the river Loue; and the source of the Loue.
Daily kms: 37.4

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