Friday, June 25, 2010

Botanical walk

As baldrick had work to do today I thought I’d take a safe hike up to the Barant Botanical Reserve. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages but dislike walking up vehicle tracks. As the weather was rubbish I considered it would be good training and also as yesterday I bought a pair of  North face Valence GTX XCR trail shoes, a good opportunity to break them in and see how they performed.
I went up on the scooter to the end of the tarmac at 1756m (average speed 20 kph) which was fun and then walked the nine kilometres up to the reserve at 2405m. For some reason I found it really tough going, my head was pounding and every step was like walking in porridge so it took me  two and a quarter hours to cover the 650 metres height difference rather than the one and three-quarters it should have. The road is boring as most roads are but quite a feat of military engineering as the whole 9 km is done with stone walling. To relieve the monotony I loaded Podcast Bob onto the mp3 and listened to the TGO diary.
The botanical reserve was a great disappointment. They’ve more or less taken a bit of mountain, fenced it off unnecessarily, laid a few paths and steps here and there dotted the place with boards maybe describing the flora to be seen, then let the whole thing fall into ruin. A couple of huge piles of rusting wire, the entire perimeter fence down and hut closed up like fort knox, not a plant label to be seen (the only one I found was on the step of the hut). And the crowning glory, a weather station stuck right in the middle of it. I didn’t actually see a plant either. More plants outside the area than in. Well done chaps.
Just before the protected area there is a bothy, that too shut up like a clam. Even the bogs were locked. Very useful I’m sure. I made the mistake of having lunch there and got slowly depressed. What is it with people? Why do they feel the need to fence off everything, to dump their rubbish everywhere? Even the bothy had a derelict fence in front of it, serving no purpose as far as I could see and with the ubiquitous pile of rusting metal, and a mangled satellite dish there was an unfinished look about the place which contrasted strongly with the otherwise beautiful scenery that could be spied between races of fog. The bothy opens on the 15th of June it said. Good job I didn’t need emergency shelter then, isn’t it?. Phua! People!
But as I said the area is beautiful, really rugged and harsh.
The grasslands on the way up were liberally sprinkled with gentians and violets and various unidentified yellow flowers which together with the fantastic greens of the grass, ferns and rhododendrons and the white of the snow made the environment look new and fresh and pure. As usual here I saw nobody all day.
The shoes performed wonderfully. They’re not exactly well cushioned but did the job perfectly and were supremely comfortable. In fact I still have them on now.

But the highlight of the day was without doubt  the 9 km 20 minute exhilarating freewheel down the road on the scooter. Stationary to 50kph in 6 seconds, helmet under the saddle, fog in hair, flies in mouth and nostrils.

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