Pujada 2018

As if we hadn’t done enough walking, we teamed up with Lee & Susie to head up to the Port de Salau for the Pujada with a picnic. Great catch up time and very entertaining people watching at the col.

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Espana with a tent

Weather has continued to be gorgeous so Breezy had been perusing the maps as usual and enticing Al away for a few days with the tent. Always nice to walk out straight from the barn for the off! Our new Osprey packs which we got for Madagascar are great and perfect size for a few nights away with tent, stove and fodder.

Always a bit of a shocker heading off with a heavier pack but the beautiful camp spots made up for it. After lunch we did a couple of hours slog up the steep terrain opposite towards the Mont Rouch refuge. It is steep the whole way and not much let up, the path was in a shocking condition to say the least and neither of us were looking forward to the descent and had already hatched another plan for the descent! Great view of the barn though from an aerial point of view. Got to the refuge and there was just a French couple there, and we pitched our tent in a lovely spot with fab views, no wind and peaceful as. Cards, cups of tea and then the last of the Westler Ration packs, slightly out of date but fine except the brownies which we threw to the birds!!!

Al had his new thermarest from the Ski Cham Gang lot, which is VERY comfy so he tells me!!! A fab pressie.

A leisurely start with brekky and packing up the tent but off up the hill just as the sun hit us towards Mont Rouch and then a wee scramble across to the Spanish Mont Rouch. Just 2 lovely Spaniards with us briefly on the summit with a much better map than ours for the Spanish side so we grabbed that for some extra info re the descent. Stunning views all around and no clouds about at all, perfecto! Plan was to descend down to Spain and the Mt Rouch refuge by the lakes. This area is stunning with 4 or 5 lakes. Took in a couple of peaks before descending to the 2nd lake where I had a swim bracing but lovely! and then we had a late lunch. It was not a well marked path but we scrambled and picked our way down with no problems. Strolled on to the 1st lake to find a camp spot next to the lake, nobody about at all idyllic.

Another nice evening with cards, cryptic crosswords, more rat packs, dodgy cups of tea and an early night. A fab day out.

Last day so early start in the hope of doing the ridge to Cap Rhuos, sun was coming up as we set off at 7am an d up to the border for 8am, after picking our way up from cairn to cairn. At the ridge, clouds were a swirling big time, no vis and moisture in the air… to do the ridge we needed good vis for sure and we were not sure which way the wind and weather was going to blow! so we decided to play it safe and return via a new lake above the refuge and down the dodgy path which was even worse on the descent! Anyhow, it made the day a little shorter and gave us time to pop down to the auberge with a bottle of bubbles for Rene’s birthday and to have a catch up with Anouk and Rene. He seemed to like our homemade golf coat hooks made from some of Dad’s old clubs.

It was baking hot again so we had marinated chicken and a good salad with loads of goodies from the garden before crashing pleasantly tired. Fun few days and really nice tobe exploring with a tent again and as always lovely to get into Spain.

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Gorgeous Gemmilies Girlie Galivanting

So we might have had a few sherberts before agreeing to having 2 of my nieces in their teens to come and stay for a few days but we were looking forward to spending some time with them both.

It was an early start for all of us as Gemma had been staying with a girl friend 2 hours out of Toulouse, Emily had a night in Manchester with Charlie before 7am flight and we had a 2 hour drive to pick them both up. All went smoothly and off back to the barn. We stopped at a lovely swimming hole on the way to break up the journey with picnic and a very chilly dip in the river but as it was scorchio it was refreshing! Then on to boules in Seix before heading back to the barn. Glorious sunshine all day which is always nice to arrive to.

Qwirkle before dinner which is always fun.

Roast chicken and salads on the agenda for dinner and a choccy mousse for pud, all seemed to go down well. Plans discussed for next few days and luckily the weather gods were with us for most of their stay.

How to entice 2 young girls to walk 12km and 700m vertical….”fancy lunch in Spain? and a swim on the way back?” It worked…..early start butties made and off we headed up towards Port D’Aula on the border. The first 40 mins is steep and a fair bit of “how much further” being muttered but after that it is easier going and both girls made it up to the col where we had lunch and saw the thunder clouds building big time on the Spanish side.
A quick yomp down with a few drops of rain but girls and I were keen for a swim in the first lake so we decided to see if we could all swim across it. Emily looked slightly like she was about to drown! but made it with a smile and both of them managed to talk the whole time so it cant have been that hard! We then got caught 10 mins from Billy in a massive downpour so we were all suitably soaked to the skin. Back to the barn which was in sunshine and hot choccys on the helipad whilst the girls warmed up. Sun stayed and the rain vanished so we could have out BBQ outside with girls making all of the salads and Emily made a choccy mars bar cake for pudding/snacks for rest of the stay.

Another baking day and today was mainly a barn day with trips to the river to cool down. Morning was dinner prep, making homemade pasta for spaghetti bolognaise and a joint team effort making the bolognaise. They make a great spag bog that was for sure. One of the jobs needed doing was edging the flower bed with slates. So the girls set to with sorting the flower bed whilst Al and I moved a load of logs from the coppicing area to the log pile. Once done, girls were off to the river before lunch on the terrace. Clive and Mateus turned up on their bikes for a catch up, nice to see them again. Girls and I headed off to the first waterfall for a swim and the girls then worked their way down stream scrambling back to the barn. Quick turn around and the ladies trundled down to the Auberge on foot and Al brought the van for a ride back up the hill. Treated to cold drinks at the Auberge for a game of boules, definitely not their strengths thrashed they were 11-1!!!! Back up the hill, girls made a quick salad and it was then spag bog inside after a game of rummikub in front of the fire.

Last day and I think the girls were looking forward to creature comforts again!!! Namely a dishwasher and a flushing toilet!!! We started with some DIY re varnishing the helipad till we ran out of varnish. Girls into the river again before we headed up to Cirque D’Anglade for a hike and picnic lunch. Again steep start but serious speedy yomping by the youngsters up to the meadow and lunch at the picnic rock. Al and I trundled on up to the snow which was pretty impressive, doubt it will all disappear before winter kicks in again.
We did a quick 30 mins varnish underneath the helipad, good job done we all seemed to be wearing quite a lot of varnish by the end of it. Then some climbing, Al got the wire ladder out and the challenge was for both girls to climb it up to the treehouse platform. It aint no easy job as it is so wobbly but both got up and abseiled down with relative ease. River to cool down.

Girls packed and then we had chicken fajitas and salad outside before the final session of rummikub. Early nights all around as 6am start tomorrow to get the girls back to Toulouse for their flight.

An action packed few days which I hope they have enjoyed, we have loved having them to stay and getting to know them both a little more.
Highlights I think will be getting to Spain, swimming across the lake, river trips, climbing the wire ladder.

More challenging times….no flushing toilet, no dishwasher and no wifi!!!!
Thanks Emily and Gemma for coming and staying we are missing the constant chit chat!!!!

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Orri and Icebergs

An orri is an ancient shelter built for shepherds from dry stones with a rock roof, then covered in vegetation. An iceberg is not.

Booked in to the Refuge Fourcat for two nights we walked in past the dams from the French side. The 1300m ascent took us past a number of orri in various states of disrepair. We did find one with a foam matress inside but generally the shepherds have opted for more comfortable accommodation these days and so maintaining previous versions is a low priority. The refuge is in a magnificent corrie on the Andorra / France border. As all the other hikers were in for a single night we wre deemed worthy of a private room, brilliant.

With some advice from the gaurdian we set a plan to scramble the ridge of the corrie taking in the peaks and some of the fromtier the next day. Some of the scrambling was just on the limit of comfort without a rope but then we did opt for adventure over easier ground. The flora was beautiful with saxifrage, sedums and gentiene all in flower. Our route took in Pic de Malcaras, Pid de L’Etamg Fourcat and Pic de Tristagne and then descending back the the refuge via Port de L’Albeille.

For the get out back to the van we opted to take in Pic de L,Aspre via the ridge from Etangs de Petsiguer, again on the limit of comfort without a rope. We did opt for the route down via the path and even that was not an “easy option”. The GR10 and its variants meant that we did not retrace our steps from the ascent.

A great 3 days away on a refuge with a beautiful setting and a charming gaurdian.

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Vultures Next Meal

There seemed to be a lot of vulture activity around the Port de Salau the other day. Then we realised there were a crowd (I don’t know the collective noun for vultures – chorus maybe) of them on the grass and others just kept joining them.  All of a sudden they all took to the air, then one by one landed in exactly the same spot.  On closer inspection, with binoculars, there seemed to be a solitary sheep very near by.  Later back at the barn we had a look at the pictures from the day and realised that with the sheep was a tiny lamb.

Dr Anne was staying for a few days and was with us that day at Port de Salau. The next day we ventured further afiled to the Pic des Trois Seigneur. A fabulous loop with a wild swimming option and amazing orchids on the way back down.

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Moj Clare and Vic

We had a delightful couple of nights and a wonderful walk with Clare Vic and their dog Moj. Breezy was at Uni with Clare and the 3 of them decided to pay us a visit.

On our full day we trundled up to Port d’Aula for a gander at Spain and a swim on the way down. Beautiful day out on the hill with a little rain on the last bit to the van. A drink at the Auberge in the village and a game of boule to finish off.

Lovely to see them.

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Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam

The last time we made gooseberry jam it came out more like some industrial adhesive suitable for use underwater for repairing oil rigs. Though there may have been a market for it we had insufficient sully to meet the probable demand.

This time we think we have a winner (on the edible front without removing teeth).

Gooseberries generally are high in pectin and come in two basic types. One is green and hard and generally stays that way and the other ripens later to a purple colour and sweetens and is great for tarts and fruit salads. For jam use the former and pick at the same time as the elderflowers are out.

  • 1.35kg gooseberries
  • 1.35kg sugar
  • 500ml water
  • 6-8 heads of elderflowers

Clean, top and tail the gooseberries and put in a jam pan with the water. Bring to the boil and stir occasionally for about 20-30 minutes until softened. Meanwhile cut the stems off the flowers and place in a muslin bag. Once soft add the sugar and the muslin bag, boil the mix while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil hard until setting point is reached at 104 – 105 degrees. It may have a tendency to burn as the fruit settles out so stir occasionally. Once ready pour into warmed jars and seal for storage.

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Cascade d’Ars

Yesterday was another scorcher and although the garden is getting more frazzled each day, it is perfect walking and exploring weather.

We set off from Alus les Bains and took the GR10 for the first time to get to Cascade d’Ars. Considering the lack of rain it was a torrent due to the snow melt up high in the Pyrenees.  Very few other folk about and a beautiful loop round to Etang Guzet where Breezy took a swim before heading back to the car and to pick up Billy from the garage after a ten day rest and rebuild.

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Pic Montgarie from Col de la Core

It was a scorching hot day and Lee and Suze picked us up from the bridge in Seix and took us up to Col de le Core. The initial plan was a walk and catchup with a dip in a lake. The GR10 took us up to Etang d’Ayes which is a great swimming spot in a beautiful lake, but we continued up towards Pic Montgarie via Etang Bellonguere (a somewhat muddy pond full of tadpoles). Snow still lingered in sheltered spots on the route up before the scramble to the top which gave magnificent views of Valier. We were fortunate enough to get some close up views of a bearded vulture soaring above and below us.

The descent took us over Col de Roc Plat and down to Cabane d’Eychelle and a refreshing dip in the Etang below and a hot descent back to the car.

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Strimtastic

So we are back at the barn after an amazing trip to Madagascar. There has been rain here virtually non stop since we left. I think the courgette and cucumber plants drowned and the grass around the buildings is knee high. We are now in possession of two petrol strimmers (courtesy of Iain and thanks to Charlie for arranging delivery) and it has taken both of us strimming for over an hour each morning for a week to get the place under control. Fortunately we have been lucky with the weather as it has not yet rained since our return.

There is still plenty of snow in the mountains and the waterfalls are fierce; across the valley the snow from winter avalanches is still several metres deep.

The garden is otherwise healthy and it looks like we shall have loads of fruit for jam making. We have roses and lupins in flower and phlox and day lillies not far behind. Plus we have a couple of great tits nesting in a bird box at the gable end.

It has been nice mixing up chores with bits of painting furniture, gardening and some creative work too.

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