Day 16: Roya to Refuge de Longon
We left Roya early to escape the hordes of flies. We were definitely fitter at this point; the 1000 m climb felt a lot shorter and easier than it did at the start. We quickly left the forest behind and climbed further up into the valley beneath some dramatic cliffs with vultures hovering overhead.
Our second patou encounter was a lot more dramatic than the first. Below the Col de Crousette was a large flock of sheep. Apparently the patous thought we were getting too close because they came up to us, growling. Did I mention these dogs have massive teeth? Now, patous will not attack without reason (or so they say) so we did our best to seem non-threatening. Back off slowly (away from any sheep), don’t make any sudden movements, talk to them in a calm voice (“Who’s a good boy? You aren’t, you’re a bloody idiot!”). Once they decided we were no threat they let us go, then half a minute later they started the growling thing again. It’s a good thing we’d hiked the bit from Auron to Roya on the previous day, because it took forever to get past the patous and their sheep.
From the Col de Crousette it is possible to see the Mediterranean on a clear day. Unfortunately it was not a clear day so we saw just haze with a hint of threatening thunderstorms. On the descent towards the Col des Moulines we encountered a second flock of sheep but their patous were a lot more chill and just watch us closely from a distance. The third flock of sheep had no patous but an actual farmer with a border collie. Border collies >> patous. This particular border collie took around 0.2 seconds to decide that we were no threat to his sheep, another 0.2 seconds to see the sheep were all over the path and in our way, and a further 0.5 seconds to clear the sheep off the path. Now that’s a good boy.
The river down in the valley is (according to our estimate) 100 km from Nice. Almost there! We hiked below some interesting rock formations then climbed up to the Longon valley. There were some cows on the other side of the valley and later also on our side of the valley. The Refuge de Longon is actually a working family farm. It’s one of the best refuges on the GR5, no question. The kids help out and seem to enjoy the life on the farm. There was even a filmmaker who was staying there for the summer to make a documentary about the kids growing up there. Apart from the filmmaker and us there was only one other guest; one of the other hikers from the Gîte de Roya. He’d been hiking the Via Alpina for around three months (jealous!)
The Refuge de Longon also had the best cheese we’ve ever had. Seriously, it’s worth doing the GR5 just for their cheese. But beware the small border collie puppy. He will try to steal your shoes.