Anniversary Trekking Part 3
Finally! The last day of our anniversary trek! Only three weeks after it happened!
The third day dawned windy. Very windy. A full-on Mistral, with gusts up to 90kph expected in the afternoon. The Mistral blows from the north, so it was not only windy, it was damned cold. Coats would be required.
MC was meant to be joining us for the day, but I wondered if the wind would put her off. I phoned her a little after nine to see if she was coming. “I’m on the way!” she said.
Great! She would be with us in about an hour!
We tied the horses up and I spent some time going through Flurry’s tail while we were waiting. With a hoof-pick. As you do. Well, I didn’t have a mane comb with me. I thought it was very creative use of my hoof-pick, to be honest.
MC soon arrived. Quieto recognised his buddies straight away and was happy to see them.
We tacked up quickly and were soon ready to go. You probably can’t quite make them out in the picture above, but Flurry is wearing his trusty old Cavallo Sportboots. After he lost a Renegade boot the previous day, I had asked the BFF to drop the Cavallos up to MC so that she could bring them with her. Although Flurry wasn’t showing any signs of soreness, I wasn’t comfortable with the notion of doing another 15km without boots. This three day trip was about as much work as Flurry would normally do over the course of two weeks (or more!), so there was no way that the rate of hoof growth would be able to compensate for the amount of hoof he would be rasping off over the rough, stony trails.
The plan was to ride to the church we had attempted to visit on our first day. Our host told us where we had gone wrong last time (should have turned left instead of right at the cages full of barking dogs). He also said that the Chapelle de Notre Dame d’Ortiguières was a lovely place for a picnic and would be very sheltered from the wind. Not only that, but our route would keep us in the shelter of the woods most of them time. Seriously, the Mistral is strong. And cold. And wearing. Apparently, back in the olden days, if you committed murder when the Mistral was blowing, it was considered acceptable grounds for acquittal.
It was lovely and calm in the woods and MC was delighted with the trails.
Yes, they were stony, but the trails at home in Reillanne are far worse! Here we even had occasional grassy verges to ride on in order to get off the grotty gritty gravel.
This time, we succeeded in finding the church – hooray! And it did indeed have a very nice picnic area, complete with barbecue, kithen area and toilets. It wasn’t super-sheltered though 😦
We tied the horses onto some conveniently placed trees and they grazed while we ate. Our friend S, who lives nearby in Revest de Bion, joined us for the picnic. She has a horse at GAEC de Pimayon too, and she’ll probably join us next time we do something like this!
Flurry and Aero initially did some very sweet mutual grooming, but they then proceeded to get their ropes tangled up, so we had to separate them.
Poor Flurry ended up in a windier spot. He had better grass around him, though.
There has been a church here since the thirteenth century. It has been destroyed and rebuilt three times over the centuries (guess who went inside and read the history!).
The only part that remains of the original building is the carved stone heads which top the pillars inside.
On the right hand side of the church is a very pleasant gîte which belongs to the community at Revest de Bion. It’s rented out in the summer to tourists.
What a nice place to spend your holidays!
After an hour’s break, we mounted up again. We decided to go back to Les Bayles via a different route, which would bring us through a couple of farmyards. One of these was blocked off, so we took a longer route – no big deal.
We finished up cutting back into the woods via a disused nuclear arms site. It was really bizarre. We turned off a country road onto a wide, straight, level road. Trees and bushes are starting to encroach on the sides of the road and various weeds are trying to push through the tarmac surface. It hasn’t been used since the late 1990s, I suppose. That road runs for about a kilometre, straight up to enormous metal gates and a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. When you get to the gates, there’s a track into the woods at the side which follows the fence around the eastern edge of the site.
You can’t see much, just some low concrete buildings which probably cover the old bunkers.
At one stage, there were eighteen surface-to-surface missiles on the Plateau d’Albion. They were deactivated on September 16, 1996; it took two years and cost $77.5 million to fully dismantle the silos and the complex. (ref. nrdc.org)
It was so, so weird to find this stark reminder of war in the middle of such beauty.
We covered about 18km that day, but we finished fairly early. Flurry and Aero went into their paddock, MC and Quieto went home and the LSH and I went to Sault for a coffee and a wander around the shops.
Dinner that night was venison stew. Les Bayles is on eighty hectares of forestry, and the local hunters always give them a share of what they shoot. You can’t get more locally produced than that!
A delicious end to a great three days.
A confession – we had always intended to trek on the morning of the fourth day and go home late in the afternoon. However, day four dawned even colder and windier than day three. We stepped out of our gîte first thing in the morning, took one look at each other and said “Nah! Let’s go home early!”
Still of one mind, even after thirty years!