Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Walking On Tiptoes? No, Hanging On By Fingertips

Yes, I had to use fingers during my walk this morning. It was the walk from Quillan to Puivert again (16kms). Let me explain. I live at 500 metres, on the way to Quillan the road climbs to 601 metres, then plunges down to 305 metres.

We visited Quillan market this morning, not to buy anything (just as well, because it was so wet that by the time we left, not a single stall was erected), but in order for me to walk back. The road climbs that 300 metres in just 5 kms – if you think that is not steep, try it on a bicycle sometime. Believe me, it is quite a climb, and the road twists and turns a lot on the way up. Traffic cuts the corners a lot, as is the custom in France, which forces other traffic to the very edge of the curves. The road is lined with concrete walls, which leaves nowhere for a pedestrian to go if he sees a car coming at him. It is a dangerous place to be on foot.

As dangerous as walking round a race-track. In fact it is a race-track – for one weekend a year the road is closed so that cars can race from Quillan to the Col du Portel at the top. Some cars, or rather their drivers, do the racing without waiting for the official weekend. So altogether, it is not a place I like to walk.

Fortunately, I recently found a traffic-free bypass, a walking track, part of the Grand Randonée system. I think I have mentioned before that this track climbs to over 650 metres - even higher than the road. The track is narrow and the surface for much of the way is rough, including many loose stones. It is to be walked with care. For the last couple of kms the track winds steeply through woodland.

When it is raining, the stones are slippery. Where there are no stones, the ground is greasy. Combined with steepness, this makes it difficult to keep one’s footing. Fortunately, with the track being so narrow, it is usually possible to hold on to a tree or a projecting rock. I hope this is not something I will have to do so much during VBW.

By the way, on the way down that racetrack this morning, a lovely big red deer (cerf) stag - full set of antlers - crossed the road in front of the car (not in a place with concrete walls). Stags? Aren’t they something to do with investment? Are they part of the system which got us into all this financial mess?

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