Paradise Lost

27th August 2018

Near Roquefort, a village (pop 679) located in the Grands Causses Regional Natural Park and famous for it’s cheese.

I woke up today with a plan, which was to drive south a couple of kms to Luz Saint Sauveur and then take a ‘D’ road going east through the mountains to Bagneres de Luchon which is right on the Spanish border.

After what was very much a saunter with Amy along the river bank due to my stiff legs from yesterday’s mountain hike we boarded the Jeep in high expectations - except, it turned out, they were the wrong expectations.

I was hoping to escape the tourist trap we were inexorably bound up in but it seems the trap extends over a very wide area. The road east, not unexpectedly, was a slow one with many switchbacks and there were, of course, the inevitable gangs of bikers and queues of traffic in their wake waiting to pass leaving the obligatory couple of metres gap between motor vehicle and bike(s) - or however big exactly the gap should be, I’m never really certain so always err well on the side of caution.

Anywho, the net result of heavy traffic at a crawl (where does it all go up there?!) and many bikes meant a journey that might be covered in a couple of hours or so was going to take a helluva lot longer than that.

I realised at that point it was highly probable the entire mountain region was going to be hectic and even without the road congestion I was getting weary of the dearth of decent spaces to stop and rest at and the many signs telling me what I couldn’t do.

So, in frustration, we did an about turn and went back Lordes where we could at least buy some affordable grub. I had a horrible feeling from the outset that I wasn’t really going to find ‘France's last wilderness’ up there but to have found instead, Surbiton in the sky, so to speak, was rather depressing.

I’ve done enough fruitless chasing about through what I thought were acclaimed ‘areas to see’ in the past to know that if the first bit you hit is rat shit the rest invariably will be too.

Back in Lourdes the temps were well into the mid 20s+ and the forecast is for the week ahead in southern France is hot and sunny so I impulsively decided that perhaps we should treat ourselves to more time on the cooler Atlantic coast after all - I’m not a huge fan of the European western Med as it’s mostly a collection of contiguous high-rise resorts full of the sort of chaps who like to sport large gold medallions round their necks and flaunt an entourage of ‘trophy’ WAGs.

I didn’t fancy another amble back through the claustrophobic corn belt either so took a main road to Pau - a vast, hard to navigate, sprawling town with a bazillion sets of traffic lights - and thence on much nicer and very quiet main roads to Aire sur l’Adour. A very lovely town where we elected to have our lunch in an utterly charming shady rest area next to the wide river in right the town centre. In fact, there were two rest areas there one on either side of the river - one was moderately busy but not horrendously so and the other, the one we chose, was deserted!

From there north, more or less to Roquefort on the extreme southeast edge of Bordeaux’s Gascogne forest region. We have taken a road for just a few km northwest out of Roquefort and taken a chance with a forest track to stop over on.

All I can say is so far so good. I think it’s a public road but I can’t be 100% sure, it’s certainly quiet and peaceful and we've got adequate shade. It’s been a long day so unless it’s actually a policeman telling me to move on I think I might not be able to speak or understand any French at all!

No bold red ‘Chasse’ signs anywhere either, which is interesting as as locale like this is usually liberally infested with the bloody things.

Public or private, here are our current GPS coordinates:

Google Maps
44.054397
-0.398955
GPS precision : 7 m
44.054397,-0.398955

I think tomorrow’s plan will be to continue on a northeast bearing into Aquitaine, widely avoiding Bordeaux and Arcachon, both of which will be horrendously busy, ultimately making for mellow Montalivet where I believe I know a couple of places we could spend some time by the ocean again - quietly tucked away in a forest and hopefully without hassle.

It’a a fair drive across country from here so it may take a couple of days, particularly as we tend to drive rather sedately - which not only means we actually get to see where we've been, it also optimises the old Jeep’s diesel consumption.

Not sure as I write, what my longer term plans are at the moment but I’m hoping some easy time by the ocean will help crystallise them.

Mountain Realisation

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