Every Thursday, Anny leads us on a walk. We might go eastwards to the Aude, south towards the higher Pyrénées….or indeed travel in any direction, certain of a wonderful day’s walking.
Today we met just beyond Foix, and still in our cars, climbed…and climbed…and climbed, steadily for 9 miles. And at the highest point of the Col d’Uscla (1260 metres), we parked. Then we laced up our walking boots, slipped on our rucksacks, and climbed…and climbed…. and climbed.
It was steady rather than challenging, and several times, Malcolm and I remarked that if it were not for the Pyrénées beyond, we could have been on the North York Moors, with added altitude and sunshine. Endless expanses of bilberry plants added to the illusion. Each hill we climbed promised to be the last: but as we reached each summit, another hillside appeared in view.
Our eventual reward was at the Cap-du-Carmil, at 1617 metres, with a 360 degree panorama of the Pyrénées. It was quite, but not perfectly clear, yet we could probably see 50 miles or more in any direction. The only sounds were from the skylarks, joyfully singing way above our heads. I’ll let my pictures tell, slightly inadequately, the story.
Down through more wooded paths, there was the town of Massat below. Once the Ariège’s largest town, its isolated position and failing industrial life means it’s slightly forlorn now. But not when you’re looking down on it, several hundred feet below.
A quick sortie to the Tour Lafont. This was built in the 1830’s, at a time when 12,000 French soldiers descended on the area to fight the ‘demoiselles’, local guerrillas disguised for some reason as women, determined to maintain their rights to collect wood for fuel, rather then allow it to be taken for the industrial economy slowly emerging throughout France. Despite their superior numbers, the soldiers lost the battles, and there are only odd reminders of their presence at the time in towers such as this one.
After lunch, on through the woods, until we rejoined once more our path with its open mountain views. Horses grazed the short grasses, and seemed only mildly curious about us.
And then it was over. Boots and rucksacks off: cold juice, a moist and squidgy chocolate cake (thanks, Anny!), a final chat…. and back down that narrow uninhabited 9 mile road to civilisation , home and a cool shower.