Not that we’re complaining at all but we’ve been having a run of wonderfully sunny weather and the temperatures have been climbing. Today, senior host Marcel was talking about temperatures being forecast to hit 35°C/95°F around Fanjeaux. With a clear day in prospect over the Pyrenees and with our being only about 50kms/30mls away, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to go higher into the mountains where life would be a little cooler.
The French are great ones for water management. On the rare occasions that we get a few dry weeks in England, we soon start hearing the word drought. Not so in France, where the summers are generally hotter and longer. The French are keen on building barrages (damns) and storing plenty of water, both for irrigation and hydroelectric schemes. (About 15% of French electricity is generated by water.) Some Dutch friends had pointed us to a high reservoir, Soulcem, sitting between Pyrenean peeks reaching ~2700m/8200ft but to which there is road access. It nestles close to the borders with Spain and Andorra and, for the more adventurous walkers, offers footpaths across the borders into both countries. We set off to explore.
Driving up the valley on what is best described as a 1½ track road was fun. After a pleasant picnic lunch complete with new butterfly for the photo collection, we began driving straight towards a solid wall of rocks; the barrage. There appeared to be no way to get beyond it on the approach but the road went round a few tight hairpin bends and up a few steep climbs and suddenly we were beyond the barrage and beside the lake it created. Here there was a fence across the road but with a single-track cattle grid which was open. No sign proclaimed interdit or defense d’entrer so we continued until we came to the absolute end of the road where dozens of cars were parked. These belonged to a mixture of walkers and fisher-folk intent on plundering the mountain streams.
We were not disappointed – what scenery! With the temperature at a very pleasant 23°C/73°F we set off on one of the tracks, not as far as Spain or Andorra given that we were lugging camera kit, but in that direction. ‘T was a perfect day to be in the mountains and it was just a great place to soak up the majesty of an imposing range of mountains.
If we get another suitable day, we’ll be back.