Sleepless in Murderville

23rd August 2018

[Near] Vic-en-Bigorre - a commune of 5410 souls (2006) in the Hautes-Pyrénées department of south-western France.

We survived last night intact at Murdersville - according to Wikipedia, that being the name of the spooky village in the 1960s Avengers episode I was thinking of - more commonly known as Sauboires.

We parked at the side of the old church for the evening, which was very quiet and not overlooked by any other property and we had just one brief and pesky visitor at dusk. The village idiot, I'm guessing, drove in music pumping from within his old and shabby red Peugeot compact saloon. A youngish man (well, they all look young to me!) inanely grinning and leering at us, either that or had a touch of constipation, but after a several moments of my best Buster Keaton deadpan face he flounced out in a flurry of grit and dust whithermost he came.

I am slowly learning that a good response to potential ‘undesirables’ is no response at all as it completely banjaxes them - why hand the buggers the bullets to shoot you with, I say!

There was a problem with last night but it was not of human origin - it was the heat and humidity. It was like trying to sleep in a pressure cooker. Amy and I emerged from our decidedly patchy sleep this morning as limp and tired as a plate of 1970s British Rail ham sandwiches.

And just about as appealing, no doubt!

Luckily, the church had a functioning outside tap and utilising my trusty plastic bucket (top tip - never leave home without one!) I was able to give myself a reviving douche in the lukewarm water it produced! Amy wasn’t so keen on getting slooshed at from a bucket this morning so I didn’t press it.

Our walk at daybreak, by necessity, was only a bit of a saunter down the adjacent quiet country road and back so I made sure that on our subsequent inexorable road journey south I found some better places for a bit of quality Amy time.

The first was a large agricultural irrigation lake, complete with a full set of officious signs to deter the faint-hearted. Ignoring them all Amy had a wonderful time cooling off luxuriantly in the tranquil water and moving like a living serpentine through the more shallow parts near the edge, rather like an otter does along a watery ditch.

Next was a ‘randoners’ path sign which I only just spotted out of the corner of my decidedly useless only ‘good’ eye (bad days and worse days and this is a decidedly ‘worse’ day). And what an excellent little ‘find’ it was too.

It took us immediately away from the road, along the side of a small forest and up onto a wonderfully refreshing open plain with a much needed breeze blowing across it. We had a really decent walk up there and the highlight of the walk, for me, was meeting a mob of very friendly corralled horses. Amy gets a bit skittish near larger animals like horses and cattle so it was great to spend 15 minutes quietly making new friends whilst Amy calmly got to learn that these large creatures are not going to give her any grief if she doesn’t first try to aggravate them!

There was one particular gelding I would dearly like to have slipped an improvised head collar on and stealthily taken away with us. A very fine and handsome Appaloosa type and although a little bit too small for a bloke my size to ride would have made a very useful packhorse.

Dreams for the future……..

After our enjoyable equine encounter we returned to our old iron horse, that is to say the Jeep and made for Plaisance - and a very ‘plaisant’ place it was too. Today was market day with lots of wonderful fresh produce on display and I am wishing now I had made the effort to stop, park up and and parlay my Franglais with the market traders as the InterMarche we did stop at there was decidedly medicare and bloody pricey.

Next time I see a traditional market like that I am defo going to make the effort!

Out of Plaisance the landscape becomes reminiscent of the Dutch Polder - and just about as interesting. Straight roads, dead flat, deep water filled ditches on either side and a bazillion hectares of tall maize. Between the sunflower and maize cultivation in France it’s simply astonishing there is any topsoil left.

A desert in the making, no doubt about it!

Then, suddenly! - night turns into day and we are in the streets of Maubourguet and what a very beautiful town, indeed, that is. It helps greatly that it fords the very pretty Adour river and that tasteful traditional French architecture abounds but the pièce de résistance are the ancient pollarded Plane trees that form a perfect shady arbour right through the middle of the town. So many of theses traditional French pollarded trees have gone now due to the demands of heavy goods vehicles and bourgeois burghurs worried about anarchic tree roots inveigling their way into their foundations!

I had decided that, today, I would like to get somewhere in the area of Lourdes - which appears, geographically, to be a gateway, in general, to the Pyrénées mountains and the Parc National des Pyrénées, in particular. As regular readers may recall, I am somewhat sceptical about Parc Nationales in this part of the world as they so often hugely disappoint but this one is described somewhere on the interweb as France’s last true wilderness so I'd like to go and make my own mind up about that.

Beyond Maubourguet and on the way to Tarbes I decided to go west at Vic-en-Bigorre with a view to quickly resuming south and thereby bypassing the actual city of Tarbes which looks from it’s size on the map like I wouldn’t particularly enjoy driving through or round it.

Badly needing a comfort break we randomly pulled into a green lane and travelled a ways down it to pull over for a piss and a perambulation. After we had pulled up and performed both ‘p’s (geddit?!) a wave of fatigue hit me like an express train. Too many consecutive nights of poor sleep due to the heat and humidity I guess and so here we stay for today.

Although I wanted to get a bit further south today there are certainly worse places to stop at. It’s a quiet, rural and almost certainly a public right of way and we are under the cover of more pleasantly pollarded Plane trees - although the sun is much more patchy today and temps are mercifully down in the low 20s so afternoon absolute deep shade is not quite so vital today.

For interested parties and all those dedicated folk at HMRC who like to know where I am on any given day here, then, are today’s GPS coordinates:

Google Maps
Latitude : 43.39663 (43° 23′ 47.87″ N)
Longitude : 0.02321 (0° 1′ 23.55″ E)
accuracy of signal : 17 m

I see that temps are both currently and forecast for the Parc National des Pyrénées in the mid teens. I don’t seem to be getting very far finding vendangeur (grape picking) work and to be frank I’m rather put off from breaking my neck to do so by all the mandatory crazy French tax-collectors bureaucratic hoops one has jump through. A bit of useful cash in one's pocket in return for a bit of temporary honest toil is one thing but to get suckered into yet another bloody ‘system’ is quite another.

So, those lower temps in the mountains sure do look appealing right now, let’s see what tomorrow brings….

Avenging Amy

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