Monday, September 14, 2009

The valley of the Marvels

You don’t expect hail at the beginning of september but that is what we got. We went to visit Mount Bego in the vallee des merveilles in France a couple of hours away from here to see the rock carvings. It’s well worth the trip…once… without at guide.

Unfortunately you need a guide. Not because we are incompetent and can’t see a rock carving when one is staring us in the face but because all the good areas are

‘accès interdit’ except with a guide which was a little disappointing and not a little naughty of them because it was a good three hour walk up to the refuge, another 45 minutes after that to get to the start of the valley and minimum of an hour’s walk to see anything interesting. The hail didn’t help.

The walk up to the refuge is nice through larch woods. Many of the larches were bowed with the weight of the snow and many were snapped off by avalanches and the panorama was quite weird in places.

As we got closer to the refuge so the weather worsened until we had persistent hail. Of course all the available shelter at the refuge was taken by other walkers so we had lunch standing up on a bench at the end of the refuge under the narrow eaves watching the hail.

So with every item of clothing we had on we set off for the valley of the marvels. The landscape is amazing, really wild, stony and desolate, marred of course by the number of walkers who were not us, but definitely worth seeing. Must remember a good knobkerry next time as one would have quickly cleared the view. The carvings are interesting and there are a lot of them but after almost 5 hours walking on rough ground (the park authorities have never it seems heard of the word gravel) we didn’t feel like doing another couple to get to the end of the valley where the best carvings are. I was quite amazed though to see ‘older’ folk up there as if they were on a picnic jaunt. I was dragging myself bodily over the rocks pleading for mercy (with no rising intonation on the ‘y’ thus avoiding confusing the natives). Then we found out that they had come up with a guide, in a 4x4 thus avoiding the long slog up. So next visit will be with guide. On the way down we were discussing how much we would have been prepared to pay to avoid the 4 hour hobble down again and the 65 euros per person they charge would have been worth it. My feet were killing me. Overall we walked 9 hours solid over rough terrain and boy did it feel like it. It was a nice day out but to be honest I prefer our carvings. They may not be as high up (though some are) or depict recognizable things but they are a lot more mysterious imo. I’m happy to live where I do.

We stayed with friends nearby in a little medieval fortified hill village underneath the castle walls so the next day we were able to drive back up to village of Tenda and go to the museum which was well worth it; really well laid out and free. Actually the reproductions of the carvings were so good it was almost not worth the hassle of going up the mountains to see them. Even the howler seemed to enjoy the museum. The day before the wives and howler were at the beach so they ably avoided blistering their feet in the name of research.

I’ d been wondering about the feet of one of our rock carvings (as you do); a human figure with feet turned in. A couple of the Bego carvings have their feet turned in too and the explanation given was that this signified a divinity which makes sense. It’s worth visiting other sites I think because they shed light onto our own carvings.

The trip home was a Sunday evening and so full of bleeding racing motorcyclists on the mountain roads overtaking by the dozen in bends. I’d kill the lot of them (fortunately some of them kill themselves) and of course never a traffic cop when you want one. They’re all too busy fining pensioners on deserted roads. I’ve now definitively determined that cursing doesn’t work as not one of them fell off. Aaargh! Better think of something nice.

French paté is very good as is the bread.

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