The long voyage

Travelling around the world from New Zealand to France again in the pursuit of our dream , I was reminded of a book my Dad gave me when I was about 11 – ‘Le Long Voyage d’une Lettre’. The book recounted the journey a single letter took to reach its destination, detailing the many and various steps and stops along the way. As we wound our way from airport to airport to train station over several days this past week, it did feel a bit like a mail run at times, and we are certainly glad to have reached our destination.

Wellington airport – the journey begins.

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The problem of making collective decisions

I see the vultures circling over Bitrague hill. Given today’s wind direction there is probably an updraft there keeping them aloft but in this hilly region, it’s certainly not the only place with a suitable updraft. There are about ten vultures. How did they collectively decide to circle over that hill and not somewhere else? I suspect they didn’t all have an equal voice in the debate. Perhaps they all follow a lead vulture. Or perhaps there’s a more complex hierarchy in which each vulture follows its immediate superior. I notice that they look content with their choice, wheeling around on the wind, each bird moving independently but staying in touch with the others. Continue reading

A hill route between Laval and Quillan

Here I describe my run-walk outing with a local companion into the spectacular hills above Laval.

Mr D, a neighbour of ours, generously offered to show me some of the harder-to-find tracks up into the hills above Laval. I had already done a fair amount of exploring myself but had not found the route I guessed would be there. I sought a track, or at least a marked route, connecting Laval with Quillan in the Pyrenees in southern France. Laval is not far from Quillan as the crow flies and my guess was that there would be in the hills an alternative to the 6 km on the flat road route. Continue reading

Hunters in the hills around Quillan

Another winter day in paradise begins. I’ll start with a morning jog – that is sure to set me up for a good day. There’s a cold wind so I’ll seek a sheltered route in the bush. I’ll explore up the track across the creek. I want to know how far up the hill it goes. The map shows the track going most of the way towards the ridge. If it continues to the ridge, or if I can bush-bash the last bit, that will be my shortest route to town. I get about 50 metres from the front door when a gunshot echoes around. Then another. I slow, then stop. It’s Wednesday: hunting day. Continue reading