All in the mix

That’s the first week at the barn done. We had a fun week, doing chores about the place. Nothing megga, and chopping and changing. A little weeding here, make a new base for some water butts, then a little more weeding. That sort of thing.

We knew before we went travelling that the batteries in the main barn had expired. New ones were delivered to Peter in Toulouse for us to pick up. Unfortunately one was damaged and so we are only operating with one at the moment. Another is on its way, and in the meantime we are trying not to abuse the one we have. So no pump for running water, all outdoor showers and minimise the internet and lighting. Fortunately we have a completely separate system for the Naughty Corner (the small outbuilding we first lived in) for charging bits of kit.

Also one of the water butts out the back was destroyed over the winter. We have replaced that with two connected together which will give us more capacity and secured them both to the wall so that they can’t get trashed.

Then apart from weeding and strimming, we have been planting the vegetable garden up. Made some blackcurrant jam yesterday and redcurrant jelly to come this week. Both are for the winter in the chalet in Chamonix.

We did try and go for a walk up towards Col de la Pause but got rained off by an impromptu storm within an hour of starting. Gotta get out this week for a hike and a cycle.

Shopping today – food for the next 10 days (all based on a menu plan as usual), a couple of DIY bits n bobs and some plants, mostly veg but some flowery stuff too. We always use a menu plan and there are always some new recipes on it. That way we don’t ever run out of food, we have very little waste and we get some exciting food. Also always on the search for new dishes for the chalet in the winter. The DIY stuff is for some new stairs between the terraces out the front and the plants have already been installed in the garden.

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Post COVID travels Nicaragua

After several travel plans have gone to the shape of the pear over the last couple of years we have finally got away. Destination Nicaragua.

As per normal we planned to stay in different places and explore for a few days before moving on. Grenada, on lake Nicaragua, was a great first stop and eased us into the culture. It’s small enough to walk around and is steeped in history. Next was Ometepe, a small island with a couple of volcanos on the same lake. Much more chilled, superb people and some opportunities to explore. Climbed a volcano, cycled the island, saw capuchin monkeys, a calmen, and loads of plants which we have never seen before.

The plant life and the birds became a strong theme for our explorations. Next we headed up north to the highland and stayed at Don Chico’s farm. Don Chico is 84 and has carved out trails around the Penas Blancas. He is like a small child/mountain goat and is so keen to show folk around. We had two days walking with him and learnt so much. Then, as we were waiting for our lift to the next staging post, he got out his accordian and started playing music for us.

The Somoto Canyon was brilliant. We had a private guide (just two of us booked that day) and saw nobody else while there. Stayed at a cool little farm and saw loads of wildlife.

Last stop was the Corn Islands and Orinoco on the Caribbean coast. More varied food which was great. Amazing people from different tribes and a whole different history and culture. The most memorable day was Mothers Day when all the Mothers of Orinoco played baseball.

Travelling around was all on local buses and pangas (boats) except the Corn Islands which we flew to. All pretty easy and hastle free, though it took some getting used to how it all worked.

A fabulous country with such variety of people cultures and histories.

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Pic 3 Seigneurs

Met Sheri, Michiel, Lee and Suzie at the Col to head up to the Pic des 3 seigneurs. A couple of hours to the top where we had lunch before heading down to the south on a cairn marked path which took us straight down to the lake. Some people took a dip. Nice new variation for the descent. Managed to get back to the van just in time before the rain started.

It is a great hike for a short day as only 750m of up and 9km.

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Frechendech and Tuc de Bouc

An early start to meet Lee and Suzie and share travel to Frechendech. Not too hot a day made for perfect hiking weather. We set off up the river valley, slowly ascending to the dam below the Refuge D’Araing. A quick scooby snack and a coffe at the refuge and on up to Tuc de Bouc. Great views. Frome there we dropped down to join the GR10 and descended via the Chapelle D’Isard and back to the van.

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Air crash

We collected Michiel from his place in pea soup cloud and parked at Col de la Core still in the clag. Headed off on the Chemin de Libertee through the woods towards Cabane de Luzars. Once out of the woods we appeared above the surging sea of cloud. It seemed like waves crashing against the mountain and flowing over the ridges. Completely amazing and lost in photos, we could have watched it for hours.

From Cabane de Subera we headed up past the Halifax crash site and on to Col de Craberous at 2382m where we sheltered from the wind and took lunch.

We traversed the ridge to Tuc de la Messe and descended to a low Col to enter the Eychelle Valley. A dip in Etang Eychelle on the way back to Col de la Core.

A lucky call with the weather for an 18km loop above the clouds.

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First visit in a while

Laney and Hoggy are our first visitors (except for locals) since COVID. Laney has made the trip a few times in the summer but never before with her husband. After a cycle around some vinyards in the St Emilion region and a visit to St Sebastian they arrived (with wine) at the barn.

An action packed few days included a hike to Cabanne D’Aula and some horseplay, mushroom foraging and boule, Pic de Seron loop plus some playing with fire and star gazing.


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Pic de Trois Compte to Barlongere

We have been holding off from heading away for a couple of nights waiting for a weather window. One finally arrived so we licked up the rucksacs and drove to Col de Pause. The plan was to head into Spain via Port D’Aula and traverse to Etang Long near Mont Valier to camp. From there, after an early start, we could gain the frontier ridge by the Pic de Trois Compte. Nip up there. Then follow the ridge to Barlongere. Head down to Trauc de Lesc and then descend the Spanish side to stay in the refuge Montgarri.

All went smoothly on day one and we got a prime camping spot by Etang Long where the water flows out to head down to Etang Rond. We did get to see one Isard and a couple of Marmots en route. Day two went well all the way to Barlongere. We met nobody and had amazing views into France and Spain. The tricky bit came getting down to Trauc de Lesc from Barlongere. When the ridge became knife edged and I was crying for the lack of a rope and harness, we bailed onto scree covered slabs of friable rock to descend steeply onto Spain above cliff bands. On reflection this was the limit of acceptable challenge and was far removed from any comfort zone we previously enjoyed. We were rewarded by a herd of 40 Isard near th Col of Trauc de Lesc. Strangely there was no path to follow down the valley to the refuge so we just made our way down.

The refuge was seeing off the last of the lunchtime guests when we arrived. What a great place. Friendly, good food, funky rooms and a brilliant breakfast with garlic and tomatoes. We spoke to the guardian before we left who was alarmed to hear that we went down to Trauc de Lesc. He said that it was famous for the military during the Civil War shooting all the escapees who left Spain via Port D’Orla.

Day three started with a hike along the 4×4 track to Borda Pedrosa where we headed back up to Port D’Aula and down into cloud filled France. The cloud reached to within 300m of the Col and stretched as far as the eye could see. We found the van in the cloud and headed back to the barn. Job done.

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The shitter eating critter

For over ten years we have had a composting toilet at the barn. In the bathroom there is a conventional looking toilet seat. This is connected to a base unit in the room below via a flexible black rubber tube (Poo pipe). There is a chimney vent from the back of the unit with another black rubber tube connecting to a PVC vent pipe on the outside of the building. In the ten years it has been in operation we have never had a problem with animals eating the apparatus. Either we have new critters, or the old ones are super hungry and have developed a taste for black rubber tubing.

When we got back from the North everything was fine. Then overnight both the tube connecting the shitter to the base and the vent tube were eaten through. Something had been on the base unit and eaten holes in both tubes. We do have a lot of mice at the moment and these are the prime suspects. The main barn is mouse proof but the base unit is in the workshop which has more holes than Dutch cheese. Having gaffa taped up the holes I put down some poison and a humane trap baited with a speculos biscuit. Ariege mice like speculos biscuits. We have some stale ones, and they seem to work, so maybe it is just stale ones they like. In the morning the poison was gone, as was the biscuit in the trap (but no mouse), and there were more holes in both rubber tubes. So, how did the culprit get into the trap to get the biscuit, and then get out again? Houdini. Next came the glue. I made a cardboard ledge to go over the base unit and applied mouse glue. This then had bits of biscuit added. The concept is that the mouse gets stuck on the board and then can be removed from the area. Next morning, biscuit has gone, no mice on the glue and there is another hole in the rubber vent pipe. More gaffa tape.

Breezy read that mice do not like spicy oil. As it happens we put about 50 cayenne peppers into some olive oil about 4 years ago. It is potent. So spicy oil slavered over the rubber pipes and another stale speculos biscuit in the trap. Next morning no culprit to be found and the vent pipe now has more holes in it than tube, and more gaffa than rubber. Maybe this critter is not a mouse? This critter could be a loir (door mouse). We have had loir before, though not the rubber eating variety. Last time Breezy found one in the drawer containing rawl plugs and it got tipped out onto the grass (along with the rawl plugs). I then took it for a long walk to a neighbour’s barn.

The rubber vent pipe has now been replaced with zinc down pipe and the main shitter pipe has an external plastic shield around the base. Let’s see if that gets around the critter eating the shitter. Now we just need to catch and relocate the critter.

Next day, no more holes and no critter in the trap. Either the critter has left (permanently, I hope), or the new adaptions have succeeded.

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Chamonix Visit

We had appointments to attend at the Prefecture in Annecy. They wouldn’t do us both on the same day so we had 4 nights in Chamonix between appointments. As getting there provided an opportunity to see different parts of the country we had 3 nights in Buis les Baronnies on the way and 2 nights in the Tarn on the way back.

Buis has always been a favourite of mine as I used to climb there every Easter about 35 years ago. Breezy had never been but was keen. It is still beautiful even though it has been developed massively. As well as building, the climbing has been developed as well as walking trails, via feratta and VVT (Mountain Biking). We camped, climbed, biked and explored the restaurants in town.

Chamonix was staying with friends, Sauze and Patrick. Walking over the Derechoire on the Fiz and climbing at La Joux. Also managed to catch up with other great friends while we were there as well.

The Tarn was new to us both and we decided to drive through the gorge du Tarn, stopping to explore a couple of the towns with a view to returning out of “tourist season”. The whole area is beautiful with loads of scope for climbing and biking. We will be back.

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Spanish Jaunt

With only three days before we had to leave to travel North we had a weather window. That is, we had a “good” weather window, and in the spirit of adventure we packed rucksacks and headed to Spain. From the door we went over Port de Salau and down to the Fornet Refuge for the first night. From there we trundled down the track to Alos D’Isil before heading up towards Refuge D’Airoto to camp. Then a 12 hour day to get back to the barn via: Col D’Airoto,Tuc de Bonabe, Oic de Moredo, down the valley Cireves and back over the Port de Salau.

We currently have a problem with our camera. It will take snap shots without the zoom, and it will take macro shots. Touch the zoom and take a shot and it comes out white. Hence all photos are broad scenes of mountains or close up shots of flowers. As we were walking in mountains and there were loads of flowers this was not too much of an issue. We have been on the internet and ordered another camera of the same make and model. There is something to be said (something good) about having a gadget you are familiar with and that you like; besides, we have spare batteries for it and a case which fits.

Refuge Fornet is super nice. From Port de Salau it is less than an hour and a half descent and the food is great. Staff are friendly and they have showers. Refuge D’Airoto is a shelter with basic equipment and no showers, let alone a toilet. It would be fine if you had it to yourselves but as it is on a first come first served basis there is no guarantee there will be nobody there or indeed space to sleep. On this occasion we took a tent which was fortunate as the refuge was full of people on the HRP and a group of Spanish who just wanted a party. Our camp spot was idyllic between the two lakes. Food, courtesy of Vesty, was good and we slept very well.

The last day, was a little over ambitious. It was not the distance of the height gain/loss that was the main issue but rather the terrain and disappearing footpaths. Our 1:50,000 map had paths marked on and our 1:25,000 had the detail. Following cairns across rough scree slopes and then 2 km of boulder fields did slow us down. There were however plenty of mountains and flowers, and we got back to the barn an hour before an almighty electrical storm.

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