On Sundays we walk, with our friends from Laroque. This time though, Malcolm and I were cramming in something else too: an afternoon birthday party right at the other end of the Ariège.
This was the plan. Walking Party A (which included me) set off at 8.00 a.m. to do a walk from Lieurac to Roquefort-les-Cascades, where we were to meet Party B (including Malcolm) for lunch. Party B consisted of the temporarily halt and lame, as well as Marcel, whose bread hadn’t finished baking by the time we left. ETA for us all, 11.30. At which point M & I would have made our excuses and left for the birthday party.
We did fine, we keenies in Walking Party A. We walked past Rapy, Ilhat, Tanière, glad of the frequently wooded and well-signposted paths, and all went well till Bac d’en Haut. There was a choice of routes which we discussed at length as we studied the map and made our choice, though we agreed it was an obvious one.
In due course it became clear that it was not obvious at all. Instead of climbing up about 250m, then descending, we went on up…. and up… and up. We’d been due to meet Party B at about 11.30, but midday came and went, 12.20, 12.30, 12.40… and then we came out of the woods to be confronted by a sight just behind us to the right. Roquefixade, a beauty spot really rather a long way from Roquefort-les Cascades. Even if you’re a crow. But if you use the paths, or even worse the roads, it’s absolute miles (19 km. actually. It involves doing the two longer sides of a triangle). We rang every member of group B who had a mobile. Nobody responded. We concluded there was ‘pas de reseau’ but wondered why at least one of them didn’t get into a reception area and ring us.
In the end, one of our group rang her husband, and he came to take some to Laroque to collect a rescue car, and others of us on to Roquefort. He didn’t drive a comfortable family saloon. Oh no. Our walking companion Corinne had that. He had the bright yellow van he uses for hunting. Behind the front seats was a compartment prickly with fresh straw where he and his fellow-hunters accommodate any wild boar they succeed in catching. I was one of the ones who … er …. drew the short straw and travelled in the wild boar compartment.
By the time we climbed aboard it was…. 1.40. By the time we reached Roquefort, it was well after 2.00. By the time the rescue car arrived with the remaining walkers, it was well after 2.30.
Meanwhile I rang our hostess and warned her we might not be able to get to the party. It didn’t take too long for ‘might not’ to become ‘can’t’. Hot, sweaty, and with no time to go home for a shower, I don’t think we’d have been entirely welcome.
So we stayed with our friends from Laroque. A picnic lunch, then home for that shower, before going round to the home of Michel and Annick, who have a pool.
A refreshing swim, an ‘auberge espagnole’ (pot luck supper) and a glass or two of wine soon helped us reframe our day of not-very-brilliant navigating skills into a yarn that will no doubt go down in the annals of the group. It was just a shame about that party.
*JRR Tolkein: ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’