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Published: March 29th 2009
We met this little fellow early on
...he simply couldn't move for the cold
Today we were up at 6.00 a.m. Well, we weren’t really, the clocks changed in the small hours, so 6.00 was the new 7.00, and our bodies were complaining. (Especially Malcolm’s and mine. I’d insisted last week that the clocks had changed, and dug us up just as early then, but only so that we could spend an hour looking for a non-existent bar to while away the time before we met our fellow walkers, once we’d realised my mistake).
This time, we were heading away from the Ariège into the Aude, our neighbouring département. It can be just as varied and glorious in its scenery, but today we were driving through the almost Tuscan landscape of rolling hills, pretty hillside villages, and vineyards, vineyards everywhere. It’s gorgeous of course, but those of us accustomed to the more untamed and mountainous Ariège tend to find it a just a little bit manicured.
Past Limoux, past Couiza, past Rennes-les-Bains we drove, till finally we reached a small village, Sougraigne. It’s part of la Domaine de l’Eau Salée, which we were there to explore. The area, now firmly inland, used to be part of the seafloor, and now the many streams
Some of us scrambled down to a cave...
...and took shots of the countryside on our way back up
coursing down the hillsides pick up the salts still present in the rocks. They have the effect of turning the waters a soft salmon pink and certain times of year are saltier than others. Today was low-salt. These salts were for centuries exploited commercially, and ancient workings are dotted throughout the area.
But it wasn’t low wind. The Aude is a noted - notorious even - for its wind, and as today was pretty cold too, the effect was pretty bracing. In fact, lunchtime was downright unpleasant. We all stood round, taking what shelter we could from an ancient cabane, stolidly munching sandwiches in a way that was perhaps more typical of an English ramblers’ group in the North Yorkshire in February.
After lunch though, the sun showed its face occasionally through the gusting clouds. We had clear views of Bugarach, that imposing and challenging nearby mountain which Malcolm and I have yet to climb, and finished the day tramping down towards Sougraigne again, listening to the occasional distant bells of herds of brown and cream goats ranging freely through the forest. A good day, a fine walk, despite the unwelcome wind.
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