It’s smack on 500mls/800kms to Jalón from Fanjeaux. About 480mls/770kms of that would be on autoroutes/autopistas so we reckoned it would be about an 8-hour drive. Francine set her alarm for 6:30 AM so we could be on the road at least by 8:00 AM. That should give us an arrival time of about 4:00 PM leaving time to shop for our evening meal.
You know what it’s often like with an alarm set. Come 4:00 AM we were both awake, waiting for the alarm and thinking we wouldn’t get back to sleep again. The night was over. “We could always just get up and hit the road”, I risked suggesting. Francine seemed up for it. Packing up Guillaume and securing him for 2-week stay tout seul is inevitably a somewhat noisy business – stowing the water container, disconnecting the electricity, etc. – but we had no neighbours to disturb; the only other unit on site last night was on the far side of the campsite out of earshot, unless we got really noisy. So, decision made, we carefully packed up and drove gently out of the campsite at about 6:50 AM.
Jocund day, as Shakespeare would have had it, was breaking directly in front of us as we headed east on the French autoroute towards the dawn and the Mediterranean coast of France, before turning right and south towards Spain and its autopista. [Note to self: I really must look up jocund one day to find out just what a jocund day is.] Cruise control set to 75mph/120kph (good for both French and Spanish limits), pausing only at the occasional toll booth, service areas for an occasional pee break and a single fuel stop, the 500mls passed as we guessed in 8 hours. Pulling out to pass the odd small cluster of trucks with their cruise controls set to 56mph/90kph was about as difficult as it got. What a delight driving on these roads is, even if you do have to pay the tolls. A similar length journey in the UK would give one pause. We parked in Jalon for lunch at 2:00 PM before announcing our unscheduled arrival to our friends, who welcomed us warmly.
The heat was about to increase. Although the skies has done their frequent clearing trick as we crossed the Pyrenees, just south of Barcelona we ran into heavy black skies. torrential downpours followed swiftly. There were occasional breaks of lighter grey but essentially the weather was dreadful all the way down to about 30mls/50kms above Jalón. The stormy skies were moving south towards us. As we were remembering how to drive our Spanish house and preparing for a reunion meal with our friends in the evening lightening flashed and rumbles of thunder began. Then we noticed flames and plumes of smoke rising from the hillside across the valley from us, directly behind our friends’ house. A lightening strike must’ve set the scrub aflame on the hillside.
We called our friends who in turn tried calling the authorities but contact had already been made. Shortly, a couple of fire trucks headed along the valley to the blaze, not that trucks would be able to do much near the top of a mountain. Maybe this was a precautionary move in case the fire crawled down the hillside to habitation? Then a helicopter flew by and appeared to investigate the situation from above. It settled briefly, we think to drop off some fire fighters on the ground, took off again, now with a bucket slung beneath it, flew back up the valley and shortly returned with a load of water which it dumped on a chosen part of the fire.
As I was thinking that this looked like being a long job, one ‘copter bucket at a time, two yellow fixed wing aircraft appeared on the scene and joined in the fight. They appeared to be able to carry a heavier water load. Water bombing continued for a while after I could see no more flames glowing. What they didn’t want was a re-ignition. I know this type of flying is very hazardous and watching the professionalism was fascinating and educational.
Whilst a warm welcome was good to receive, I thought setting fire to the hillside was going a bit far, though. 🙂