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
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
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
This 11 km route is on sealed and unsealed roads. There is a gentle climb up to St Julia-de-Bec and down the other side, but nothing too strenuous. It’s open country and the views are great. I used my new bluetooth beanie to listen to some podcasts of David Deutsch being interviewed about his book The Beginning of Inifinity from a few years ago – I’m reading that at present – but you could probably listen to anything or nothing on this route. Continue reading
A long-planned weekend in Andorra with my three boys. In January? Expect snow.
I’m posting this report reluctantly because it reveals my dubious decision-making. On reflection, I perhaps should have called off the trip at the start, given the weather. But with a no-refund hotel booking and boys who would have been bitterly disappointed if unable to go, my judgment was biased towards proceeding. Continue reading
Today I join the local walking group on their walk up to L’Arche Perdue, the hole in the rock above Maury. Last month I wrote about that remarkable rock formation and my hope to visit it. This is the walk that was scheduled for last month but cancelled due to high winds. Today is also windy but we do it anyway. I drive to the meeting point at Maury, half-way between Quillan and the Mediterranean coast. We have friends at Maury, very close to the meeting point, so going there brings back happy memories of pit stops and a summer evening barbecue three years ago. Continue reading
At Quillan three years ago I explored many of the tracks in the hills surrounding the town. On my very first foray into a forested mountain area I felt a little on edge, not knowing for sure what dangers I might encounter. Hans Christian Anderson tales had taught me from a young age that Europe’s forests were to be feared. Should I watch out for snakes? What were the chances of encountering a wolf? And what of the people in these remote hills? As time went on, and reassured by a little internet research, I became more confident and saw that the only risks were familiar ones: getting lost or breaking an ankle. On this current visit, the winter weather adds the risk of hypothermia. Continue reading
This afternoon Tom and I go exploring up the hill above Quillan’s old castle. Despite the sunshine, I wear many layers of clothing. You can’t be too careful at this time of year. Tom is more lightly dressed. More sensibly dressed, as it turns out.
We start by going up Rampe du Chateau. This leads us onto Rue de Bitrague. Now we go offroad.