Camping at the field with hot air balloons - Tour de Cerdagne Train Jaune, Bains de LLO, Centrale solaire Ello in Pyrenees, France
This was our third day of GR de Pays Tour de Cerdagne in Pyrenees-Orientales, France. We hiked 17 kms from the town Bourg-Madame, passing through villages Err, Vedrinyans, Llo and getting to Eyne.
The night was pretty warm for the start of September there was no wind so we had a good sleep. We woke up that day quite early disturbed by the weird sounds that seemed to us like a gas burning so we thought it to be the work on the railway that was passing right above our camp spot. To our surprise when we looked out of the tent we could see no signs of it but the sounds were very close to us.
Suddenly we looked up and saw the hot air balloon flying right above our heads and then we knew the source of the sound and the cause of our disturbed sleep. The air balloon was huge and was flying quite low to the ground probably searching for the place to land. It was the sight out of a dream to camp at such spot and wake up with it. We knew that on the Spanish side of Cerdanya there is a place “Camins de vent” that offers flights on hot air balloons all year round. But we couldn´t think it would be possible to see so close on the French side where we were.
So after contemplating this exciting picture for several minutes we started to roll up our stuff. The flysheet of the tent was quite wet on the inner side of it because there was a lot of humidity around. But the tent body was still dry. We hoped it to dry up on the sun while we were wrapping up. So we had our breakfast leftover from the yesterday night, did a bit of stretching and warming up and continued to wrap up everything.
That day we planned to make another 17kms following the other side of Cerdagne valley, hike through another 4 villages and get to the village Eyne. The start of the day promised to be very pleasant, warm and sunny and we enjoyed walking the shaded path between the fields breathing the fresh air and listening to the birds singing.
Soon we came out on the car road and entered the village Osseja. We weren´t going to enter it and just passed it on side coming to the railway station of the Yellow Train. It is a popular tourist attraction of the region that was built in the beginning of the 20th century. It has some preserved old original wagons including the open ones which we think is a specialty of it. And the railway passes through all the Cerdagne valley with an elevation change of 1200m-500m, crossing several major bridges and offering amazing views. And we actually were so inspired by this railway that made a separate documentary movie “Wonderful Journey on the Yellow Train”.
Then we took another shaded forest path that was marked by white and red sign of GR36 instead of yellow and red we followed before. The official mark of Tour de Cerdagne disappeared from now and we had to follow a different one. But the GR sign was quite accurate and we knew the direction where we are going so it was easy to follow.
After enjoying the peaceful idyllic forest path between the fields we came out to small Nahuja village and the dirt car road. From there we had quite a bit of uphill to conquer that was quite challenging in the hot sun. That day it felt like the hottest day out of 3 we were on this trail. This part of the trail was definitely better to do in the early morning.
From the trail we could see the panoramic views over the other side of the sunny valley. A bit lower down we saw the roof of the historical and ethnic Museum of Cerdagne where you can learn many details of the daily life of local people. It is possible to pass it taking a different route.
After having a bit of a break to have a snack in the shade, we continued following the sunny dirt road all the way to Err village. We passed by several cow pastures and entered the village. It was a relatively big one compared to the others we went through this day. It had a lot of old rocky houses and a big old 12th Century church in it.
The trail continued to go slightly uphill and then gentle downhill to the tiny settlement Vedrinyans. This is where was pasturing old good friend of ours – the Big Donkey. We have been friends with him for over a year now and spent quite a bit of time with him, feeding him with apples every now and then and just enjoying the company. We even made a hike with him a year before and it was an unforgettable experience, when he managed to escape from us. So it was epic and intense at the same time. But that is one of the reasons we love him so much because of his strong and rebel character.
So we did spent there on the field an hour or so, had our lunch there and got back on the trail again. We had another 7 kms to do that day. At one moment we noticed that the air got cooler and the strong wind started blowing driving lots of clouds on the sky. But we were glad because it meant we could do this last stretch with no direct sunlight on us.
In only 2kms or so we entered another small village Llo on our way. The first thing we saw were the Bains de LLO – hot springs sulfurous baths where the water is at 35 ° C all year round. It is one of the famous attractions of the region that has several open and closed swimming pools, saunas and spa treatments as well.
After that we walked by the old Roman church and started to climb uphill following the scenic streets of Llo village. On the top of one hill we have spotted a half ruined tower that in the old times might have been a castle. And we were on the final stretch for that day following the secondary car road all the way to Eyne. Fortunately there wasn´t much traffic. The weather was changeable and windy and we could feel several drops of rain coming down but hoped that it won´t rain and we´ll have time to get to our destination.
Somewhere in the middle way to Eyne we passed by the Llo central solaire station that is a new operational thermodynamic solar station. And as many other solar infrastructure in the area it benefits from many sun hours and dry climate of the region.
From there we had to take up the pace because saw a huge dark cloud in front of us and could hear the thunder somewhere further away. So we hiked the last several kilometers quite fast and managed to get to our camp spot just in time for the rain to start.
We haven´t entered Eyne village and stopped at the field nearby. It was the first time we got in the rain with our new tent - MSR Elixir 2 and so we had a chance to test it. We could see that the water behaves differently on the flysheet surface and it seemed thicker to us than on our previous tent.
We got to the place quite early at 5pm and still had several hours of daylight left. The trail was quite easy overall and we didn’t feel too tired. We had to wait for an hour for the pouring rain to stop before we could collect some water from the river and start cooking our dinner. We had to filter up a lot of water because of the rain river waters got dirty with lots of soil particles in it and so even for cooking we had to filter it. And that day was actually the first time when we tried out our new BRS gas stove that we bought recently to replace our old Decathlon Camping stove. It was very heavy and not very efficient and so we decided to try out this new one. Just after several uses, we were already quite happy about its performance.
So we cooked our mix of rice with spices, dehydrated mushrooms and tomatoes and had a very tasty dinner. We hoped that the rain would cease till darkness and we’d be able to go to sleep earlier and have a nice undisturbed sleep.
Have you ever flown on hot air balloon? How was it?