Sunday, 15 March 2009

How many years in a zilion?

Sun shining, washing out on the line, I spent the morning weeding, then planting my 50 gladioli and 50 freesia bulbs.
Lunch over, we set off in the car to go to the garden centre to buy some more plants. However I decided first to go and visit Mas D’Azil, so it we were once again off on the road to St Girons.
Once off the main road, it was the twisty turning roads so beloved of French cyclists and of French motor vehicle drivers. The latter being lovers of the “let’s see how much of the car we can get onto the other side of the road when we corner at speed because we own the road and nothing will be coming towards us” school of driving.
It was the first day of the trout fishing season, so there were a number of cars parked on grass verges beside the rivers. I expect the hunting season is over or something, so the birds and deer can relax and it is the time for fish stocks to be decimated.
We were meandering along when I spotted this ghostly scene to my left.

The church is the Eglise de Reynaude, and there must be a little road winding up the hill linking all the shrines, being the road of the Cross, or chemin de Croix in French. I have not been able to find out much about it, but one website in French

It gives a little snippet or two. It may well have been on the pilgrim route to that Compostella place. The most recent church ran out of money when it being built, and the story goes that Rockefeller who happened to be in the vicinity, gave the curate who was having it built, sufficient money to finish it. (Note to any Rockefellers who may be passing my house, just put the cash in my post box, no need to knock).
I will have to return to this unexpected find to explore it another day.
Back into the car and onwards to the Grotte of Mas d’Azil.

Basically the emerald green river flows through the mountain. The river Arize used to be ten times its current volume. It is a world famous prehistoric landmark in the scientific world as it is here that the Azilian culture was studied and defined. In 1887, excavations discovered a new layer of evidence of human habitation dating from between the end of the Magdalenian (30,000BC) and the beginning of the Neolithic. This was the Azilian period 9,500BC
The cave hollowed out under the Plantaurael Mountain range is 420 meters long with an average width of 50 meters. The entrance forms a magnificent arch 65 meters high. Looking up at the ceiling where small black birds were diving and wheeling. There are some pretty big cracks, so I wonder how much longer it will last. There is a windy road which tunnels through the mountain to the right of the vast entrance. The entrance to the caves where they live are round the bend, across the road and to the right.

Just imagine yourself in 9000 BC looking out from the cave at a raging torrent coming towards you. Probably a bit like sitting in the rinse cycle of the washing machine.

Cars can now travel through the mountain and on into the medieval village of Mas D’Azil itself. The road is a relatively new "improvement", replacing a foot traffic tunnel, which was Itself a modern inovation.
Inside the entrance to the main cavern, you can walk alongside the road, cross the road (bloody dangerous if you ask me)l, still it takes the mind off how that much unsupported stone can possibly stay above your head without crashing down. I am sure that the road traffic cannot be doing it any good.
When the caves are open, you can pay to go one one of the trips round the caverns lived in by the Azilians and numerous persecuted people thereafter.Another thing to add to my to-do-list then.
I will give you all a rest now and post the Village of Mas d'Azil visit tomorrow.

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