Straddling a deep gorge in the Pyrenees in the Basque region of Larrau, South West France is the Le pont suspendu d’Holzarte suspension bridge. The drive from Mauleon, in the Soule province, to the start of the hiking track takes you through magnificent rolling hills, valleys and quaint Basque villages as the road follows the Le Saison and Larrau rivers.
This is a popular walk amongst locals and tourists alike and, given it was the French school holidays, there were many families making the 45 minute ascent from the Auberge Logibar starting point. The track is adjacent to one of the many tributaries that flow into the Gave de Larrau and is quite flat initially but then commences a 25 minute uphill climb along a wet, slippery, rock strewn path. The path then levels out for a short while through a small forest before opening out onto a grassy track that provides your first glimpse of the 225 vertical metre climb you have just undertaken. The two gorges here are very narrow having been formed over thousands of years by the now barely visible streams below.
Another minute or two along the track and you finally see your destination – the suspension bridge “Le pont suspendu d’Holzarte”. My immediate first impression (as someone who isn’t keen on heights) is of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where I envisage us crossing the bridge and it giving way beneath us. Hanging on for dear life as it breaks its footings at one end and flops against the gorge wall!
I needn’t have worried – this 70 metre bridge is made of steel and concrete and has been successfully conveying people over the 150 metre drop since 1920. It does sway and bounce a bit when you’re on it as people cross over but surprisingly I felt very safe. We crossed to the other side and took some photos and then returned for a few more snaps.
Whilst we thought the walk up was a bit taxing, going down was much worse due to the steepness of some sections, the wet and slippery surfaces and the height of some of the steps. We passed many people making their way up as we descended and gave them a cheery ‘Bonjour’ knowing what they had in store.
On arrival back at the Auberge we rewarded ourselves with a crepe and beer (Glenn) and a hot chocolate (Jacqueline). My left knee had not enjoyed the walk down and Jacqueline’s shoulder was a touch sore but sitting in the sun on the terrace surrounded by beautiful scenery was just the tonic.
If you get to this part of France we thoroughly recommend this walk – it is very rewarding and takes you to a wonderful local landmark.