Sunday, 12 July 2009

Setting the pace

It continues to be the season of working longish hours to get work in and around the house completed.
However two weeks ago I took a Sunday off to go on a trip with my adopted French family.
At the end of my road there is a sign which indicates that there is a viewpoint called La tour Laffonte (I may have the spelling wrong). Of course there is no indication of how far away this is located.
We set off in the car, past my house and on up into them thar hills. Of course the road is twisty and turning. No white lines in the middle of the road of course, and just to up the degree of danger the road has been resurfaced by spraying it with tar and then dumping loads of white chippings on top, and presumably rolling them into the tar (but I doubt it). The result is a treacherous road surface covered in loose chippings, but ideal for people seeking the adventure of skidding vehicles or a broken windscreen thanks to the chippings.
We drive slowly and eventually reach our destination 20 minutes later.
What we have is some kind of stone shelter shaped a bit like a small church divided into 2 small rooms. This is a road which is closed to traffic for 4 or 5 months a year due to snowfall. The col de Peguere is at an altitude of 1375 metres.
Round the bend is a semicircular stone table with a ceramic top. This shows / names the outlines of the various Pyrenees Mountains and the locations of the villages.
There are already people clustered within the table’s circumference (I knew those hours of geometry would come in useful one day). They have no intention of moving anytime soon to let others benefit from the information. We will return later.
Our mission today is to climb to a higher location where there are 360 degree views.
We double back and start up a path through trees. Unfortunately the tree cover does not last long and we are soon out in the open at the hottest time of the day. And it is hot!
We set off at a cracking pace, and it is maintained. Surely the high bit in front is where we are headed for. Of course not. And there are many such wished for moments.
I am bathed in sweat by the time we reach our destination 45 minutes later. Cap du Carmil at 1617 metres. All that sweat to gain less than 300 metres in altitude.
On the way up we pass a farmer who is repairing his rickety electrified fence. Usually the hills have cattle and sheep on them. Once the fence is repaired the sheep will return to one side of the hill and the cattle to the other.
We flop down on the grass and take on more water and some food. When I take my little rucksack off, my shirt has turned into a gooey consistency turning the newly found cool breeze into a very uncomfortable icy experience.
On the journey I had been trying to find out if the children played games like
Eye-spy, but they don’t know it. On the hill though, a game which is obviously a family favourite is unveiled. The object is for one person to go behind group and change something about what they are wearing or how they look.
Bearing in mind that we are wearing trousers or shorts, shoes, socks, a top and a hat, with perhaps the odd shoulder bag. The first person to guess what the change is “wins” and it is their turn to be the changee. You might think that this could not last long. Wrong. It continues for a good half an hour, with a wrinkle in a sock here, a strand of hair moved there etc.
In front of us are the Pyrenees with some snow patches still glistening in the sunshine, behind us somewhere is our town. It is rather hazy, but we think that we can make out the castle’s three turrets.
The journey back down to the car takes half the time, and we arrive with no injuries back at the stone map.
After a spell there trying to work out what is where, we cross the road and start up another path towards the tower. Within 5 minutes we arrive at a short stubby tower, a bit like a broch, but without the level of fortification. There is no roof and some of the stonework looks rather precariously balanced.
Just below the tower, hidden in the trees, someone is asleep in a hammock strung between 2 trees. Of course we wake them up with our noise and chatter and then we move on.
When we reach home again, my legs have not lost their jelly-like consistency. I am not as fit as I thought I was, but in my defence I do have a cough that I cannot shake off.
I returned back to my flat and went straight for a recuperative siesta.

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