in love withwilderness areas and long-distance hiking routes, I walked 6 days on the Path of the Bonshommes in the heart of the Ariège Pyrenees ⛰️. This walking route is made for you if you like preserved spaces and the Middle Ages because it offers a very emblematic part of the Cathar history of the region.
Before going further, the GR 107, or commonly called " Path of the Bonshommes » is a cross-border long-distance hiking route.
It starts from Foix in Ariège and ends in Berga in Catalonia after 220 kilometers of walking. You can find the topo in full here. For my part, I made the portion from Foix to Mérens, that is half of the GR.
? ️ Day 1 : From Foix to Roquefixade (17,69km)
Impossible to come to Foix without even visiting its symbol?. Overlooking the entire city and reputed to be impregnable, the Foix castle allows to place historically the Ariège and the importance of the region in the beginnings, the persecution and the fall of the Cathars. Indeed, it offers keys to understanding this religious protest movement which made the Church tremble, to such an extent that two inquisitions were launched against those who were called "good men".
The flight of the Cathar partisans to Catalonia will thus be the common thread of this new adventure. My hiking boots well attached, my backpack well adjusted, I set off under a bubbling sun from Montgaillard, which officially marks the start of the GR 107. Getting started with a drop of 1028m, this first day puts me all immediately in the bath of a mountain which is not easy to discover.
The arrival at ruins of Roquefixade really plunges me into Cathar history. I already have shivers, as the sun tenderly begins to set.
?️ Day 2: From Roquefixade to Montsegur (17km)
I leave the village of Roquefixade at dawn to take advantage of the fleeting freshness and the soft lights that rock the valley. I can't wait to reach Montségur and its village, the promise of this second day of walking on the GR 107. Perched, suspended in the air, the Cathar castles are mesmerizing. They seem impregnable, thus flying over the valleys. My mind easily imagines the life of yesteryear in this region of Occitania. The hardness of the earth, of the climate too.
The castle of Montsegur is sadly famous because it is the symbol of the Cathar end. The Pope, tired of these heretics, asks for the destruction of this “castrum”. It is therefore after months of siege the royal army finally broke through the defense. More than a hundred men will be sacrificed here and the original castle will be destroyed. The survivors begin a long exile to find refuge and protection with the Catalan lords. Although dramatic, this historic halt allows us to feel this escape as closely as possible.
?️ day 3: From Montsegur to Comus (17km)
From this third day of walking I will remember above all the Frau gorges. This canyon was the most welcome cool break on this day, once again, exhausting. What joy to discover lush vegetation? in the hollow of this geological fault with impressive walls.
If luck did not smile on me that day, you should know that the gorges are an important nesting site for certain species of birds of prey. Then, in the middle of the day, I would finally reach the Aude village of Comus.
? ️ DAY 4: FROM COMUS TO THE CHIOULA REFUGE (17KM)
After briefly crossing the plateaus of the Pays de Sault, the ruins of the Cathar castle of Montaillou and the Balaguès pass, we arrive at the foot of the Ariège Pyrenees. Majestic, they are there, facing us, like the Dent d'Orlu. These mountains seem palpable to me, as for me, I am tiny in this wild setting. I attend that evening a striking moonrise as I have rarely seen. The Pyrenees are then adorned with their most beautiful cold light. Blue, purple, what a sight!
Photo – Hike to the Chioula refuge ©Hello la Roux – ADT Ariège
?️ day 5: From Chioula to Orlu (14km)
It's a smooth fifth stage that awaits me, because the objective of the day is to descend into the valley and reach Orlu. My steps will take me first to Sorgeat then to Ascou. Typical Ariège village, I take advantage of the cool shade of stone houses for lunch. Life seems sweet and calm here. It's a whole "lifestyle" to live in these intimate and preserved mountains. From the heights, I appreciate the valley of Orgeix always under a radiant weather. I finally allow myself another break on the banks of the Oriège, this small 21km watercourse that seems to make its way between these behemoths of rock.
?️ day 6: From Orlu to Mérens-les-Vals (17km)
By following some wise advice, I exceptionally turn away from the GR 107 to win a lush wood and a secret waterfall?.
This is my last big portion, the last difficulty, the route is coming to an end soon. And as if, in perfect harmony with my mood, the weather will also be capricious and gloomy. At the Col de Joux I am caught in a dense mist, the temperature contrast is striking compared to the previous days. In the distance are the valley of l'Hospitalet and the peaks of Andorra I imagine.
My adventure finally ends at the church of Mérens, a superb Romanesque masterpiece. Despite myself, I rediscover the tumult of civilization, the traffic. This timeless parenthesis allowed me to discover a face of Ariège that I did not know. Authentic, I'll be back in these discrete mountains which knew how to move me.
? Amélie's complete experience can be found on her Hellolaroux adventure blog.