Le Barrage de Soulcem

Our Saturday newspaper, Aujourd’hui, predicted une canicule [scorching heat] of a weekend. The little weather maps on the back page showed Bordeaux suffering the full ferocity of our nearby celestial nuclear fusion reactor with temperatures peaking at 39°C/102°F – not bad for Europe. When la chaleur grimpe [the heat climbs], so do Franco and Francine, into the Pyrenees, where an increase in altitude produces an accompanying reduction in temperature.

IMG_1281_SoulcemSo far our favourite destination is a high valley containing le barrage de Soulcem, one of almost countless dams in France managing their water supply. Above/behind the dam is a high alpine pasture with a heard of cattle with their bells a-jangling – very atmospheric. For the enthusiastic walker, there are also several challenging walking routes including a GR (Grande Randonnée) route to Andorra. Andorra lies up behind the ridge in this picture. The shot also graphically demonstrates the lack of winter snow that fell in the Pyrenees last winter; the “bowl” in the centre of the shot was full of snow this time last year.

IMG_1248_SoulcemWhen any snows that do fall melt, this is where the water flows to. Also this time last year, we seem to remember that the barrage was pretty darn full of water. This year there is a significant chunk of the dam wall showing above the water line together with a wide “bath tub ring” around the lake with no vegetation. Clearly the lack of winter snow is not helping the effect of of an unusually dry spring. It’s going to take a while to make up the shortfall, methinks.

IMG_1285_SoulcemThe farmers and water managers may not enjoy the weather but the tourists certainly do. Naturally, being a Sunday, the place was crawling. Here’s a large group of walkers on part of the GR heading towards Andorra. That may not have been their destination, though, since several other routes branch off beyond this point.

IMG_1288_SoulcemThe area is also a good hunting ground for for those interested in plants and critters. On this occasion, however, for some reason the critters were being most uncooperative and either refused to settle or zoomed off as Franco approached. There are times when I’m envious of the flower fans since their quarry tends not to run or fly away. It can flap about irritatingly in the wind, though.

I returned empty-handed (or should that be empty-compact-flash-carded?).

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