Day Fifty Five

Pyrenees, here we come!  Despite my terror of the tiny, steep, winding (read death defying) roads, I absolutely love being in the mountains and can’t wait to be back.   The Pyrenees will be a new experience, it’s not a range we’ve visited before.

We take the opportunity to visit a fabulous Carrefour to stock up on Spanish goodies before we hit France.  It’s always a struggle of balance in Europe, loading up with treats from one country, berating yourself for having a full larder when you enter the next.  Still, the lure of Iberico jambon and queso is too strong to fight.  There’s a great saying applicable in these situations: “I can resist everything except temptation”.  Story of my life, really.

We’re soon amongst the majestic, soaring beauty of the Pyrenees.

  We climb past the spa towns, yet more stunning turquoise waters and are soon in the snow fields. 

 Much discussion ensues: we’ve only travelled in the motorhome in European summer but there is a part of me that would love to do a winter trip: Christmas markets, northern lights, snowfields, white Christmas.  It’s all very appealing, bar the potential of terrifyingly icy roads.  Still, I’m sure we will try it at least once.

Spain’s border comes early: Francia awaits.  Bonjour!  

There’s an unexpected twist to our journey though.  We leave a gorgeous summer day at ground level, but by the time we’re at snowfield level, we’re in amongst the clouds. And sheep, lots of sheep.

 It’s gorgeous, if a little nerve-wracking.  As we climb, clouds turn to mist, mist to fog, fog to terror from moi.  

By the time we reach the peak of 1709 metres, just past Eaux-Bonnes, it’s a whiteout.  We went from clouds, to fog, to clear, then back to fog And it’s freezing. At  4 pm, it’s 7 degrees and bitterly cold with the wind chill factor.  Unbelievably, there are cyclists, yes cyclists in lycra, coming both up and down the mountain.  I can’t decide if they’re incredibly foolish or have been caught horribly short with a change in the weather.

We decide to sleep on the peak – there’s no point going down in a white out, and there’s been enough driving stress for one day (not for Fearless over there, just for me, clinging on for dear life).   Beside, we can’t see a thing, and I’m determined to have some sort of view before we leave.  

Just before sunset, my luck is in, the fog lifts for a few moments revealing stunning 360 degree greenery, peaks in all directions. 

 I fly out of the car to get my shots on all sides.   It takes several layers and a coat to let me stay for a mere 5 minutes. 

Below us, hundreds of sheep, white dots from here, graze under the protection of the incredibly devoted, beautiful white Maremma dogs. They’re raised with sheep becoming one of the flock: they will protect their sheep agaist predators, with their lives if necessary. 

We’re lucky enough to see one of the dogs in action, thanks to the binoculars.   Down the winding mountain road,  sheep are attempting a  a mass crossing a from one mountain to the other. Meanwhile cars are driving up, a group of motorcycles down.  Everyone meets at the crossing: the sheep freak out, hundreds running back across the road they’ve just crossed.  A dog flies to the rescue, placing himself between the sheep and each oncoming vehicle.  It’s an extraordinary display of selfless behaviour.  Each time a vehicle appears, the performance is repeated, complete with a small chase down or up the mountain, just to make sure the danger has passed.  It’s a bit heart wrenching to watch them, providing such devoted protection under these harsh conditions when so many dogs are curled up in a warm bed with a full tummy.  We’ve a lot to learn from animals.  

By the time Chris goes to sleep, temperatures are down to 4 degrees, hours yet away from a minimum.  The motorhome is built for these conditions, we’re toasty inside, so it’s a big tick for that component of an future winter travel.  It’s by far the coldest night we’ve had to date and it’s passed with flying colours.    Might have to consider a new winter wardrobe though.  A girl’s work is never done…

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