Today, our guest blogger Carina Evans shares her memories of the final day walking Le Chemin de la Liberté.
Day Four: The Final Day
On the morning of the final day, we were all looking forward to ‘summiting’ and crossing over into Spain. Someone had told me that the Spanish send their Bombero, local firemen, to welcome us!
It was in many ways a sad day – we were going to reach a point at which so many before us had made it to freedom and the mood of the whole group was contemplative.
We walked down from our overnight stop to a shadowy mountain lake, Etang Long. When we climbed up the other side we had to hang onto metal rails for about a quarter of a mile, to stop us falling off a sheer drop.
We stopped for a break next to Lac (Etang) Long, before what we knew would be our pass into Spain. The only thing between us and ‘freedom’ was the mile-long glacier Col de Clauere.
Once again, the guides provided some quite serious care, instruction and monitoring to ensure that we moved safely in each other’s footsteps from side-to-side, slowly upwards.
100 yards before the crossing the glacier ended and we were again in rocky pasture surrounded by beautiful mountain flowers.
One-by-one we lined the 3ft wide flat pass point and spent a good 20 minutes in different states of reflection.
Myself, two retired soldiers and two retired RAF servicemen laid a wreath alongside serving French Military SF Officer. All servicemen, regardless of nationality gathered round. It was a time to remember and to reflect, but also a time to celebrate and as we looked into Spain the mood lightened and we began our descent.
We followed the river Clavera downhill to the bottom of the valley. It was burning hot and all of a sudden, we were in the land of the living again. We were joined by those that had left us in Seix, who walked with us for the final half hour.
We reached the road where we were ferried to the town of Esterri d’Aneau by vehicle, but first we found time for a swim in the fast-flowing, chilly Clavera to ease the day’s aches and pains.
I was sad to have come to the end of our trip, but I can’t tell you what an enjoyable few days I spent amongst some very special people and I urge anyone to tackle the Chemin de Liberte.
The scenery was undeniably stunning and the sense of camaraderie rare. If you don’t feel up to the entire trek, you can easily do the first and last day. For me it was life-enhancing, and it certainly helped me to understand, remember and pay deep respects to all things SOE during the Second World War.
Many thanks to Carina for sharing her experience.