Short leg on the quiet coast road. Mountain road with tarmac at first. Mountain paths. Very nice!
Small things sometimes take on greater significance. Often we have to get up very early in the morning but today we don't need to catch a public transport link to the start of the walk. Bliss.
We set out soon after dawn and found a better route from our village to the main coast road. Then we climbed 440 metres on mountain roads. At first there was tarmac but later the surface was nicer. We passed antennas and a look-out tower. There was an incredible number of flowers to inspect so our progress was slow. There were fine views of the mountains and coast but the weather was hazy.
Near the highest point, we joined the path used by people escaping the Nazi regime during world war two. Parts of the route were well hidden in vegetation but other stretches were exposed. It must have been dangerous. This was a fairly typical mountain path with no major obstacles. It might have been wilder 70 years ago.
We met only no one this leg of the walk. Had we done the walk the previous day, we would have met hundreds. In Portbou there was a train all painted up with the 70th aniversary of the Retirada across the Coll de Belitres back in 1939 on may 23rd. Presumably an entire train load of people had retraced this historic route. Of course we were following the route in the wrong direction.
We had a lovely lie in until 5.30 and then a leisurely breakfast before setting off at 6.50. We found a nice woo through from the backside of our flat on to a narrow path across the railway line and up to the road. This short cut saves a good 500 metres. We hope to improve on it still more as the week goes on.
Tomorrow we are walking with Jane. She said she had to go to her house near Andorra before coming to us because she needed to get her walking things. We are wondering what these are because she has just come from Mallorca and we would need the identical equipment in both Mallorca and France. She is bringing our picnic and we are wondering what it is as she seemed shocked when I said a loaf of bread and a lump of cheese would be fine. I expect there will be caviare and wine and smoked salman.
Our route to Banyuls took us across the fierce coast road and up the pummock. It was lovely all the way especially when we turned off the wide track on to billy paths. Part of the route followed that taken by Walter Benjamin when he escaped from Nazi Germany. We even side tracked a bit to follow his route towards the col. Along the way we draank from the spring where he too had taken a breather. The number of plants is extraordinary. I list those I spotted which I can remember
hypericum, yellow bunny spear, woozy? chicory, lavendar, campion, tiny white cistus, pea tree, small spiny pea, yellow daisies (small dandellion type) small delicate type, lemon yellow type large and small, sooft purple thistle short and tall, alyssum on its last legs, dark mallow, normal mallow, yellow succulent, sheeps bit, scabious, echium narrow leaf with flower and wide leaf without, allium white, tragopodon purple, orobanche recently gone over, knaautia, ladies bedstraw, pink cistus, splurge, tall delicate Canterbury bells, silene white, muscari (tassle), white, blue and yellow linene, dianthus pink, dark pink wide petal and narrow petal, ferns.
We understand it is sometimes so windy in the Pyrenees that you have to go on all fours. If this is so, we have been lucky so far and tomorrow we should complete the crossing altogether and get back into low-lying country again for a bit as we pass Perpignan airport.
Once at Banyuls I get a cheap ticket because I am over sixty. The lady kindly pretended that I was not over 60. In the end the ticket was the minimum price any way but maybe it will beOK when I get longer trips.
Up in the hills we heard hoopoes and nightingales. We saw two fierce birds, one large and one small.
We must ask Jane if she manged to photograph Dr Clot and Dr Prat, her choice of dentists in her village up the pummock.
We had three hours to wait in the station so I mended my seam on my trizers. A stitch in time saves nine as the Irishman said to the Parish Priest.
We got some bottles of chilled water from the vending machine in Banyuls and a bag of crisps (chicken and thyme) came out with them along with a bounty bar. We found a seat and had these – I got all the Bounty bar because Neil doesn't like desecrated coconut. One of the trains that came through had proper compartments but not a window that you could pass a case through or throw a body out of.
For supper we had soup and bread and cheese anad tomato and oranges. Our mounds will come off. I am sneezing tonight. I hope it is the insecticide sprayed on the vines of which there are lots. It reminds me of is it Marivaux's novels which always seem to feature vignobles. There seems to be a Grand Cru from Banyuls 18.5 % which should be worth drinking if we find the time. We haven't got any wine yet.