Seeing as how the last three trips to map out walks for guests at the B&B have been in fog, therefore I didn’t manage to take a single decent photo descriptive of the walk, as the weather forecast was for cloudless skies today I set off an hour before sunrise into the mountains to take them. The first hour is along a dirt track. Mostly on the level it starts off at 1,400 meters so already quite high. As I trudged along with my little wind up torch I noticed myself occasionally looking back eastwards to see if the sun was anywhere to be seen despite knowing full well it wouldn’t be. I know too that there is nothing there during the night that isn’t there during the day but sometimes, I don’t know why, I’m not that comfortable out in the dark. I never had a problem till the boar attack a couple of years ago but now there’s always this piggie thought in the back of my mind. Wimp. But I try not to think about it, or goblins. It was alright until the road went round behind a buttress and the faint lights from the village suddenly disappeared and the darkness got even darker. It’s one thing to walk from the dark to the light especially if you’re going home, but it’s a different feeling to walk from the light to the dark especially when you are walking from a populated area to a wilderness. Even a few lights are comforting but you don’t notice it until they go. It’s OK too if you are already out in the dark, like camping or something, the darkness has time to grow on you. To me it’s the leaving, leaving the warmth and comfort and above all the light of the car after a 40 minute drive up through the woods (an eerie feeling at the best of times) and plunging yourself into darkness.
It was bloody cold too with frost on the grass and clouded breath blowing back into my face.
The only sounds, and I mean really the ONLY sounds were my breathing, the crunching of my boots on the stones and the rush of falling water in the gullies. Everything else was deathly silence. When I stopped walking all that was left was the sound of the water. It’s a rare experience. Dawn is a still time. There’s a seemingly everlasting moment when the night creatures have retired for the day and the day creatures have not yet stirred. No insects, no birds, no animals. It certainly puts you in your place. A whole still empty world, and you. (and the dog of course). Something that prehistoric man probably never even though of. To him it was normal I imagine, to us no longer. It’s a unique and stunning moment and takes all of a quarter of a second to get used to the idea. A land without people. Aaah!
But without consciously noticing the start of the waking, you gradually become aware that there is noise. The twittering of the small birds, a grasshopper maybe, a rock dislodged as it thaws out or bumped over the edge by some unseen creature above you . And slowly, even before the sun rises, the world takes on a more familiar feel.
Every now and again the track crossed a gully and suddenly the already cold air got a whole lot colder, the icy wind rushing down to the valley below. Gradually, well before the sun, the mist began to rise. To be honest I wasn’t too happy about that. It meant that if I reached the end of the road, the start of the path, before light I’d have to wait until I could see something before carrying on. The worst conditions imo are fog at night, especially here, a place which is renowned for thick fog. You can call it mist as much as you like, but at night it’s fog. Definitely fog.
But after only a quarter of an hour of tricky plodding with visibility down to four for five feet The fog began thin out and turn a beautiful evolving, mutating orange and as the sun rose behind me the mist settled down in the valley below shimmering as it reflected the sunglow. Breathtaking. Slowly the sky became deep blue and the mist (real mist this time) entrenched itself in the hollows so that every gully and ridge was picked out like a graduated scale enabling you to see just how far you had come. I was quite surprised at the distance. You don’t often get to look back and see two hours worth of ridge walking stretched out before you.
I was also amazed at the improvement in my stamina. What I did last time in four an a half hours I did this time in three and a half. It might be just that last time I did it in company and spent the entire trip chatting. This time I just tucked by chin in and went for it.
Walking below a cliff just before the summit the dog suddenly shied away and bolted down hill as fast as it could terrified out of its wits. It had me a bit nervous too but judging by the noise from above was probably just a chamois. I fact I’d seen one a few minutes before; I’d thought it was someone calling me ‘pst! pst, hey, pst, pst hey’. It sounded really human.
I hate to think what the dog will do if it ever meets a lion. She wont be defending her food dispenser that’s for sure. Good job I have a big stick.
The view from the summit was amazing. Hazy to the south and east, perfectly clear to the north and west with some spectacular colours. Autumn is obviously almost here. The occasional tree tinged with bright yellow, the heather a
nd blueberry bushes and rhododendrons all various shades of red, from pink to Bordeaux with yellow grasses and green grasses and brown grasses all mixing in
together. I sometimes wish I could paint as it would have been a good subject.
As I sat dressed in every item of clothing I had against the freezing wind and munching on lunch at 10 am I got treated to an amazing avian display right at nose level; two ravens riding the thermals, some
buzzards, two kestrels, a sparrowhawk and something else that wasn’t either of these. A bit larger than the sparrowhawk almost white and very, very fast. I would say peregr…. but won’t.
There was a kestrel too an hour before just after I arrived. It raced in from nowhere did a fantastic reversed parabola,
eye level hovered for almost a full minute and then zoomed off again.
After a quick self portrait at the top I did a bit of meditational activity, I mean, where better that here, and did absolutely nothing. This is becoming a habit.
Unfortunately over the other side of the mountain there was a huge herd of sheep guarded by two enormous snow white mountain dogs.
They were already barking at me half a mile away but the herd kept coming up and the dogs got bigger and looked even more ferocious. When they were almost close enough to see their teeth and after I had explained about big sticks and sharp pointy sheath knives and they
had explained to me about combined frontal-rear attack and slavering crud covered pointy teeth I
decided the wisest option was to
leave rather quickly. My dog was of course not following me. I was following IT, or
at least the slipstream it left behind. So I went down to look at the saddle on the ridge where the menhirs are and
try to figure something else out about them. I keep meaning to blog the place but never seem to get round to it. maybe soon.