Have you been to see the Leonardo di Caprio film The Revenant yet? The long journey, the slow and painful steps through the snow, the step ascents causing the muscles to contract in pain, pushing the human body to its’ limit. Apart from the scene with the bear, this pretty much sums up my experience on Saturday afternoon...
This first picture is a view of the Pic de Neolous – the highest point of the Albères mountains. It was taken in my garden on Saturday, in 16 degrees of sunshine, so it was intriguing to see the snow. We decided that would be a good place to go for a walk.
To get there we took the ‘old’ road towards Spain (as opposed to the A9 motorway) and just as you get to Le Perthus, take the road on the left (D71). This twists and turns and climbs for about 15 minutes and we began to see signs of snow in the verges. We parked quite near the top where is actually a café/restaurant, which I think is called Le Chalet de l’Albère. (But I wasn’t allowed to go in as we had brought a picnic…)
The walk started off quite gently (although I wasn’t the one carrying the picnic!) but it was bitterly cold as we strolled up the tarmac road through the forest. The dog seemed less surprised than I was to see cows wandering about – but as long as she has a stick in her mouth, nothing bothers her. As we left the trees and started up the exposed hillside the views were amazing. There was a fallen fence of barbed wire, indicating the border, so having enjoyed the experience of having a foot in each country, we then walked up the Spanish side, from where you could see the sunlit sand of the beaches of the Costa Brava – Rosas, Empuria Brava, and Cadaques.
The snow was deep in places so it was pretty tough climbing but after several pauses we arrived at the top. There is a huge satellite mast and what looks like a James Bond style nuclear power station there, but the main feature for ‘walkers’ is an obelisk surrounded by large stones (one of which marks the 1257metre summit). It was the perfect spot to set out our picnic (which, for the curious among you, consisted of a bottle of champagne, a sandwich, crisps, chocolate and an apple – my idea of a balanced diet)! It was pointed out to me that there was perhaps no need to have packed two (heavy) plastic ice packs to keep the bottle chilled – but I wasn’t taking any chances - who wants to drink warm champagne at the top of a mountain! It was just as the first drink was poured that my partner realized that he had mislaid his jacket. This was apparently my fault for not noticing earlier that it was no longer tied around his waist (I think it’s a French thing…) So he set off down the mountain to track it down while I stayed to guard the picnic, the dog, and to enjoy the wonderful views – Spain behind me and France and the Roussillon plain in front of me.
By the time he returned (successfully thank goodness as the car keys were in his jacket pocket), it was getting a bit chilly and clouds were appearing (Neolous is the Catalan word for Nebulous) so we quickly finished the picnic and decided to head back down. I have to say that getting down was considerably easier than the climb up, mainly because it involved a ranger’s truck as the dog had injured her foot and couldn’t walk. Thank you Loulou!!!