Well, hate is a bit a big word for what I feel when I see 4WD cars in “my” mountains, but I really do not understand the pleasure and fun one can have when sitting in a noisy, stinking metal box, destroying the soils, running over flowers and little animals, destroying the landscape. . . . . . .
I had a 4WD when I lived in Kenya, the roads were bad (Even in Nairobi, I needed that sort of car, to bring the kids to school after some rainy night), I met peasants in the Pyrénées who need that sort of car to go to take care of their herds (outside the Parc National), 4WD cars are very useful in certain areas or circumstances, there are places in the deserts, which you cannot reach without 4WD, some whole countries cannot be crossed without that sort of vehicle, but 4WD for having fun in nature!!!!! NO!!!! It is a plague in some areas of the Pyrénées too; if the 4WD owners want to play, they can play in designed areas, not in Nature! Ah! It was my “bad mood” section in this page; the pictures are from websites promoting an incredibly stupid activity! Visiting the marmots sitting in a car!!!!!
If you are a little bit masochist (just a little bit like I am), there are wonderful bike tours to make in the Pyérénées, with the climbs of world famous passes (famous because of the Tour de France!), the incredible downhill races on the “difficult” roads where you overtake the cars. . . . I wrote a page, two years ago about biking in the Pyrénées in my Laruns page where I describe a tour up to the Col d’Aubisque, and the way I like to bike: take your time! It is rather difficult to bike uphill, so it is not necessary to risk to be quickly exhausted and not see the beautiful mountain around; the important are the mountains, not just biking! There are of course many other passes to bike up, have the reward of the view over the mountains, having the feeling to deserve the view after biking, to feel a bit part of the mountain. . . . The main picture shows what you can see when you biked up the Pierre St Martin pass, looking west over Basque Land, and on picture 2is Col d’Aubisque with a view over the Val d’Azun. Many passes are “described” for the bikers, to inform them of what awaits them before they decide to bike up, like here, in Arette at the beginning of the ascent of la Pierre St Martin pass (picture 3). In some villages are posters with maps of mountain biking trails (I do not practise mountain biking in nature, it is a bit like 4 wheel driving, spoiling the nature), and they look helpful. There are roads linking the valleys, so I use them, do not off road biking, and here (picture 5), Col de Marie Blanque is a not very high pass between Aspe and Ossau valleys, but in the Tour de France bikers fear it a lot, it has ramps (on the east side) up to 13% for a few hundred meters, and I guarantee you will have a good sleep when you return home, after having climbed this pass; but I like to take my time when I bike, have numerous stops here or there, in villages or just to have a rest!
Equipment: As I own my bicycle, I do not need to rent one, and in Pau there are no official shops where you can rent a bike.
Few of the websites in my "general tips" may have some links for bike hire, or, there is:
I am not (really not!) an addict of the so-called “extreme sports”, which, I feel, are very often only “assisted sensation providing” activities, but I have to admit that when I discovered rafting I liked it; but may be it was only because I had a nice day with colleagues and friends of mine, “gliding” on the fast waters of the Gave d’Ossau. The pictures are from a day with a few friends. The Gave d’Aspe and Gave d’Ossau are known as good spots for rafting and in spring or autumn, when the waters are high, the rapids are a nice place to raft over; there are a number of people who organise rafting tours in the Aspe and Ossau Valley. Luckily, it is way outside the limits of the Pac National! My 25 km raft tour was on the Gave d’Ossau between the powerhouse of Buzy and Oloron. A scarf of mist coverd the river for long time, giving a strange “Aguirre” atmosphere (Aguirre, the movie from W. Herzog. . . ) to our trip. I learned that it is better to empty yourself before spending a few hours on the rubber boat (picture 2), but I was aware I better had a waterproof camera if I wanted to take some pics (picture 3). Some places were “interesting” to cross, like this small dam (picture 4), but the most interesting was the fun when arriving in Oloron and changing clothes and drying in the city, just in front of the court house. . . . . .(picture 5), before having a warm drink in a local café.
We had a “captain” on each rubber boat who directed the operations, and were safe with the equipment the organiser provided, and we had a picnic (with wine!) on half way; our rafting organiser was Aqua-vertige who is reliable; there are a number of other operators in the Pyrénées.: google: rafting Pyrénées and there you may find the operator for the area where you are. Prices vary from 40 to 50 Euros per person for a day tour.
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