This morning I went up part of the Sentier Cathare (the Cathar Way) above Ginoles village. Ginoles is only a few km from Quillan but I drove that part to save time. Gorgeous summer morning: already quite hot in the sun when I was out between 9am and 10.30am. The Quillan area has many beautiful features but, for me, the cliffs above Ginoles are the most beautiful of them all. I would never get tired of that view.
The path from Ginoles was dry and dusty. It is mostly a track through forest, climbing towards the cliffs. All the way I could see the local griffon vultures wheeling gracefully above the cliffs. One glided down and must have landed in the forest approximately in the direction I was heading. What had it found?
I generally like birds but I am not really an enthusiast. So I surprise myself by wanting to get as close as safely possible to these big vultures. I would love to see one close up. With that in mind, I wondered if I could entice them to come nearer to me by pretending to be injured or dead. I lay down on my back in a clearing and gazed up at them. It was hot in the mid-morning sun. Were they watching me? Were they interested? Nine of them continued to circle above their nests, not far off but not directly over me either. Then three left the circling pattern and headed roughly in my direction. My heart quickened. I watched them move directly over me then lost them as they moved into the sun. Yikes! These are smart animals. What if they intend to have a go at me and are planning to arrive suddenly out of my sun blind spot? They would start by taking out my eyes before I could respond and then they’d have me! I thought of the incident of the hiker who fell off a cliff and was devoured by creatures like these within 45 minutes. I sat up and grabbed a nearby stick to defend myself. The three vultures were gone. They must have continued flying west towards Nebias. Others were still above the cliffs. I kept my stick handy from then on, just in case. After five or 10 minutes they showed no sign of interest in me. Or perhaps, with their exquisite eyesight, they had seen my new sideburns and been scared off. More of them headed west. I trotted back down the hill and returned to Quillan.
The views are magnificent from up there. I could hear the tolling of the Ginoles church bell, and could gaze at the mountains north of Quillan, disappearing into the hazy distance. Some of the hikers who stop for refreshments in Quillan’s main square are walking the Sentier Cathare. I envy those people – it must be magnificent walking those routes.