From :

Wagon. A cranky contary female / an ugly female. She\'s some wagon eh?

wagon. wagon - an awful woman. than one is such a wagon!

wagon. a woman thats a bitch. dat ones a right wagon.

Wagon. A cantankerous old woman.. Yer wan's some wagon, I asked her could I feed the seagulls and she lifted me out of it!

wagon. car or other mode of transport. i'll drive my waggon.

Wanderly Wagon. A much loved Irish children's TV program which ran from 1968 to 1982

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Moving on to Morvan

Sundays are meant to be our rest day, no riding and no blogging, but we've a bit of catching up to do - there's been various things going on which we haven't included in our daily reports.
None of us had a restful night last night, with the wind howling around the chalet, rain lashing against the windows and a steady drip, drip, drip from the rain that was blowing through the door.  A foretaste of the Irish summer, perhaps?
We had been alerted to the possibility of the150km/hour winds (100mph approx), so we stabled the horses just before dark.  They had strange stable mates, as our biker co-residents also stabled their bikes!
I was a little concerned about Flurry, as he hadn't eaten all his hay, and had relatively few droppings in his stable.  He did eat some more hay while we were having breakfast, so we came to the conclusion that he had been given the last couple of flakes from a sour bale and didn't like it.  Hopefully that's all it was - he seems ok this evening anyway.
The journey to the Morvan did not go as well as it could have.  We used Googlemaps and Nigel the SatNav to find directions, and both proposed different routes.  I then complicated matters by using the road atlas and proposed a third route.  We missed a turn, looped back to the correct road, missed another turn, and then saw a bright yellow sign for Lyon, with the word Bis in front of it.  Lyon being the second major town on our route, we of course decided to follow this sign, thus throwing a fourth route into the mix.  Big mistake.  Bis routes are designed to take innocent foreigners and get them lost in the middle of France.  They are alleged to be for the holiday maker who wants to get off the beaten track, but Lyon was to the West and North of us, yet the Bis route insisted on bringing us East...and East...and East.  Just how far off the beaten track can anyone want to go?  The highlight of our diversion was this interesting display :
There was a sign wishing Christian truck drivers Bonne Route... they must be very lost truck drivers to be going through this little place, miles from any big towns!
Eventually, we decided that enough was enough, and we reverted to the road atlas again, using Nigel the SatNav to help us through the last bit and find our hotel.  We had expected the journey to take four hours, it actually took six.  The wind was still quite strong, and ever so often a gust would catch the trailer and start it swaying - a bit scary, really.  We could only stop briefly, as Gigi doesn't "do" standing still in a box, and starts pawing and kicking, and generally getting herself worked up.
Anyway, we got here in the end, we are in La Grand Verrière, a small village in the middle of green, rolling hills.  It's very different country to either the Drôme or Provence - much gentler.  It's also got different weather.  We arrived in the middle of a thunderstorm, complete with hailstones.  The forecast is for wet weather most of the week, so I guess the wet gear will have to be dusted off.
Due to the length of the journey and my slight concern about Flurry this morning, we've decided to give the horses an easy day tomorrow.  We'll set off from here in the morning and see how they feel.  If they're very tired, we'll get the LSH to pick us up early, but we're hoping to cover somewhere between 15 and 20km.
Which brings us to our "issues".  We've realised that we're unlikely to make the 500km.  There have been a number of things which have gone against us, first of all, my broken wrist meant that the horses were not as fit as we would have wanted at the start, so we've had to build in quite a few "easy" days for them.  We had originally hoped to average 25km/day, but because of the easy days, we've only averaged 20km/day so far.  We also ended up leaving Ceréste a couple of days later than planned - a couple of days seems like nothing, but it's possibly 50km if it's two good days.
Our third issue is that the LSH has to leave us next Thursday - a work crisis of some sort.  This means we have no driver to collect us or to move our gear to our next lodgings, so we won't be able to continue to ride from point to point.  We will be settling in one place from Wednesday on, and will ride circular loops from that point.  It also means there will be no-one to mind the (occasionally leaky) hyper-terriers during the day, so we will be limited to two two-hour rides per day, one in the morning and one in the evening, with a break for quality time with doggies in the middle of the day.
Finally, our fourth issue.  We're not sure yet when George Mullins will be able to transport the horses, but it could be any time from next Saturday on.  Worst case, we've only got five days of riding left.  We're hoping to break the 400km mark, but even that may not be possible.
We're both gutted at the prospect of not making our goal.  We will do the best we can this week, but the horses' welfare must come first, and they will let us know if we're asking too much of them.
Some light relief to finish (daughters, look away now, you will probably blush):
We arrived at our hotel today, and legged it up to our room to watch the second half of the Leinster/Clermont-Auvergne match (HUGE congrats to Leinster and Ulster for making it an all-Irish Heineken Cup final!).  After the match, we all chilled out - Anne went off to her room, the LSH went for a shower and I stretched out on the bed.  So after his shower, the LSH joined me on the bed for a cuddle, moved in for a kiss, I closed my eyes (as you do) and next thing I knew, I was being passionately licked all over my mouth and nose!  Cookie had intervened while our faces were inches apart, and decided to join in the fun!  I'm afraid she completely spoiled the moment, I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face, and was still quite red-eyed when we went down for dinner a few minutes later!

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Thank you

Day 15 - Parnans to Montmiral

Saturday and another easy day planned, after a 30+trek yesterday, the horses spent a good night with a mixture of hay and grass so they were well content, and ate up their brekkie as usual with great enthusiasm. We left on a track directly from the gîte and set off across beautiful meadows that haven't been weed killed to within an inch of their natural lives, I remember fields like this from my childhood in England.

There had been more tree felling here as well, but this time the path was clear.

Past this barn that looked as if it might take a tumble at any minute

And more snow capped mountains in the distance, the Vercors I think

The horses were slow to start, Gigi refusing to canter the first time she was asked, but had slightly more enthusiasm the second time. We don't canter much, partly because the terrain is rarely suitable, but also to conserve their energy. But we figure that it's good for them to do a bit, to use different muscles , and also because they like it. And they are both sensible enough to choose wether or not they do up the pace.

 We've seen plenty of signs for the first time, but this one was really amusing

We reached our destination in good time, Relais de la Forêt in Montmiral, Martine had fashioned a fly deterrent on Flurry's headpiece, and it worked really well, there are a lot of flies here. I will have to follow suit tomorrow.

It was great to be finished up early, the horses had a shower and were turned out in a grass paddock for a well earned rest, and we set off for Bourg de Péage , to look for some new hoof boots as our repairs of the previous day had not worked. We found a pair of Cavallo horse boots which look good, tomorrow will tell ! We could have spent the rest of the day in the Sellerie Baude but finances and lack of space in the car prohibited this ! The prices were reasonable, and the selection fantastic. Western 
saddles galore, ah if only...

This was the view from the gîte, it's a great place, tables on the terrace with this fabulous view. And a pool, as it was really warm George decided to take a dip, but quickly changed his mind when he felt the 
temperature of the water.

Aperitifs were taken on the terrace, a group of very sophisticated bikers had arrived, and we all partook of orange wine, walnut wine, yes this is a huge walnut growing area, and various other wines. A dinner of couscous was quickly demolished by all, and during the repast the proprietor phoned to say there was a big storm on the way, stables were quickly made up, and the horses brought in, and they had new neighbours, the motor bikes were also broght in.

And a big storm it was, the chalet we were in rattled and shook and leaked. Martine discovered the water seeping through the door, just centimetres from her laptop!  

Storm clouds gathering
Today we hit the 300km mark, that's the little loop at the end of the trail, we wanted to be sure !

We are doing Le Big Trek to raise funds for Assistance dogs for families of children with autism. If you like our blog please take the time to donate at Thank you

Day 15 parnans to montmiral at EveryTrail
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Friday, 27 April 2012

Day 14 - Barbières to Parnans

Barbières is remote.  And La Ferme le Pejoux is in back-end of nowheresville in Barbières   Hence, we had no internet, and worse still, no mobile phone coverage!  To make up for these shortcomings, the hosts, the Pierre family, are incredibly welcoming, and in fact kept us up until well after midnight, stuffing us with delicious food and pouring wine down our throats!

Unfortunately, the LSH had a phonecall scheduled for 10am, which meant we had to haul ourselves out of bed at the usual 8am - no chance of a lie-in!  We managed to hit the road a little before ten and rode down the long slope into the village of Barbières.  It's surrounded on all sides by crags and tors - it reminded me of some of the scenery in Lord of the Rings.  All it needs is a giant statue carved in it...
The streets of the town were deserted, there were occasional cars and vans passing, and one little old lady walking down the street - plus two Irish horses and their riders!
We passed the church, and there in the car-park was the LSH, on his phone-call - he gave us a cheery wave as we passed.
Thirty seconds after passing him, a mass of cyclists whizzed past us on the narrow street, complete with motor bike and minibus escorts - I don't know if it was a race or what!  Neither horses batted an eyelid - they really are bomb-proof at this stage!
After leaving the village, we followed the directions sketched on the map by Mme Pierre. Unfortunately, she only sketched the first part, and I was left to my own devices for the rest of it, so before we set off, I had worked out a route which would get us across the plains as far as the Isère river.
At first we rode along footpaths and through fields, but we ended up having to cover a lot of the distance on the roads.
This was quite a pleasant little track
There were the usual pretty little country churches
and I loved this field of rape (canola)
For the first time, we were plagued by flies.  I need to add tassels to Flurry's fly bonnet!
We had used fly spray on both horses before setting off, but it wears off quickly, especially when they sweat up.
Eventually we were riding on the plains.  It was flat.  It was very fertile - every inch of ground is either cultivated or is used to raise chickens.  There were lots of fruit and nut trees - here Anne and Gigi are passing through a plantation of walnut trees.
But for the most part, it was just plain boring, and tedious, hot, sweaty, work to ride through.
Then the Peleton came whizzing by again and brightened our day briefly - they all recognised us, a few of the cyclists waved, and we got big cheery waves from the support crew in the minibus.
There is a bridge near where I live which crosses the main road from Cork to Bandon.  I've ridden Flurry over it twice - he was just a bit tense the first time, but had a complete meltdown the second time at the sight of trucks and cars disappearing under his feet.  He has crossed many bridges at this stage, but none which went over a road - until today, that is, when we crossed over a busy dual carriageway, cars and trucks speeding by underneath our feet, both horses plodding steadily on, as if crossing a motorway was something they did every day of their lives.
Finally we reached the Isère river, and had to cross it on this suspension bridge.  There were lots of cars on it when we were crossing it - in fact we caused a bit of a traffic jam!
On the other side of the Isère, we rejoined the TRADAC trail and were directed up this pretty cobbled street.  Apparently it was a medieval road, and the cobbles continued for quite a distance into the woods behind the village.
We were back in more interesting ground now, we could look down and see the bridge where we had crossed the river,
We started off in the jagged bit of mountains to the left of the bridge

 and we were winding out way through the woods when we came upon this sight.
There had been a lot of trees felled, and they were strewn everywhere - right over the trail.  There was no way we could get through or around, so we backtracked and took a guess at which trail might lead us in the right direction.  A few minutes along this trail, there was a piercing shriek from Anne (she was leading) and she quickly turned Gigi and said "SNAKE!!! - He was BIG!  And he was coming straight at me and hissing!!"  We both retreated a bit, then of course I said I'd get a photo of him (yeah, mad, I know) so I left Anne holding the horses and went back up the trail.  At this stage the snake was heading off into the undergrowth, but he hissed at me too, for good measure!  I managed to take a photo, which was good enough to identify him (Western Whip Snake, non-venomous) but not good enough to post here, I'm afraid!
We rejoined the proper trail (lucky guess) but were quite surprised to find it partially blocked again, this time with fallen branches.  This one was absolutely the lowest we can go under - Anne had to remove Gigi's saddle to enable her to pass underneath.

Finally, eight hours after leaving Barbières, we arrived at the Gite Equestre in Parnans.  Tired, thirsty, hot and sweaty - both us and the horses!  We set to work watering, untacking and washing them down which they really appreciated.
While removing the Renegade boots, we discovered another problem - Flurry has worn a hole in the toe of one of his hind boots.  We now have two holed boots, both of which we have repaired with epoxy resin.  We will try out the repairs tomorrow and see how successful they are - if the resin doesn't adhere to the boots, we will have to come up with a new strategy.
We have one spare boot here and another spare in the US which will take at least two days to get to us.  The company who make the boots have a one week delay on all orders, so there's no point in doing that - our new boots would arrive here just after we finish Le Big Trek.  We could buy a different make of boot here, or we could revert to metal shoes, but neither of us have any confidence in the performance of metal shoes on the sort of rocky terrain we have been covering.
It's a bit problem, and as yet, we have no idea what the solution will be.
Á demain!

Everytrail map.
My iPhone died shortly before we finished, but we were recording on Anne's phone as well.  For the moment, we are guesstimating a total of 33km today, but we'll amend it tomorrow.
Day 14 barbieres to parnans at EveryTrail

The final section:
Parnans at EveryTrail

The Thirteenth Day

Day13 was to be an easy day after our 35Km yesterday. We planned on doing 15 km from a drop off point  to Vaunaveys la Rochette. Our kind host, Bernard had traced out our route for us on our map, what could go wrong?

We spent the morning catching up on things, first of all we had discovered a hole in Gigi's boot which was getting worse, so we decided to try fixing it with epoxy resin, she would wear Flurry's boot that George had repaired the day before, and Flurry would continue to wear the spare boot we had.  I needed to book some accommodation for next week, when we will be moving to the Morvan. There were emails to be caught up on, so we had a fairly relaxed morning doing all this and no one seemed to be rushed. Then we realised that George thought we were riding out from the gite, while we had planned boxing part of the way and then riding to our destination, so suddenly it was panic stations.  We hadn't ordered a picnic, George hadn't reorganised the horse box as he thought we wouldn't be using it, so we were a bit later leaving the gite than we had planned, but it was only a short hack, right ?

So we were dropped off the other side of Crest at Aouste sur Sye really close to the horse trail, Martine started Everyrtrail and off we went. The terrain here was easier as we were away from the big mountains.

More ochre cliffs in the distance

But in the distance we could see there was fresh snow on the mountains.

The trail was quite narrow in places and steep and stony, but there were plenty of markers or "ballisage"  along the way.

Finally we came out onto the road again, and were just approaching a small village, when one of Flurry's boots came off for no apparent reason. Off we hopped, and did the adjustment. Then George phoned, he had arrived the gite but they had no reservation for us. The night before alarm bells had gone off in the back of my head when Vaunevays was mentioned but I was too tired to process them. But now I remembered, Vaunevays had been fully booked so I had picked somewhere much further away as the only viable option! So after quick consultations with George to arrange a pickup and a phone call to the gite to say we would be late, we started walking back to Crest along the road, until we found this welcome sight !

The next gite was a good bit outside Barbières called La Ferme du Pejoux. It was very isolated, but we were offered the usual warm welcome, and our host and hostess shared our celebratory bottle of Champagne. Despite all the errors of the day, we had reached the halfway mark, 250 kilometres! 

There is no Everytrail map for today , as for some reason it didn't work properly, another gremlin on Day13 of our trip, but we think it was 11km - Martine checked Everytrail before it choked and it was at 10km before we walked about 1km on the road!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Day 12 - Poêt Laval - Saou

All members of the team, equine and human, really relaxed at Le Gué.  There's a lovely atmosphere there - it is run as a farm, they grow all their own vegetables and have chickens, geese and sheep.  There was a very friendly ram, confined to a stable.  His duties are complete for the year, so he will be kept away from the herd from now on.  There were also a couple of ewes and lambs in pens - I have never seen such friendly sheep before, they were all happy to come over for a head scratch!
Facilities for the humans were a little basic.  Our rooms were in the attic of a building that used to be used as an orphanage, it dates from the 18th century and has the feel of an old building, a little cold and musty.  Nonetheless, we were comfortable and well fed - home made pate and paella for dinner, and in the morning, we were brought down to the main dining hall for breakfast.  Breakfast consisted mostly of bread, as did our packed lunch - doorstep-sized slices of bread, with a thin layer of jambon!  Unfortunately, neither Anne nor I can eat a lot of bread without facing fairly dire consequences later in the day, so most of the bread was fed to the birds.
We left Le Gué, promising to return - at €95 for the night for the whole team, it's by far the cheapest place we've found, and we were all made feel very welcome.
Our very first emergency happened about 2km down the road.  Flurry is thriving on the work, he is getting quite fit now and he was feeling good in himself as we rode down the road towards the woods that would bring us to Dieulefit.  When a car passed behind us, he thought it was a great reason to get excited and galloped off for a couple of strides, with Gigi following behind wondering what the fuss was about.  Anne saw something fly through the air and thought Flurry had lost a boot, then she looked and saw he still had four boots on, and realised that he'd broken a boot completely - the heel captivator was gone, but the boot was still on his hoof.  On inspection, we saw that he had pulled the cable out, and of course our spare boot was in Anne's rucksack in the jeep.  One quick phonecall later, the LSH was on his way!  We put the spare boot on, and although it's a bit big it stayed on for the day.  
The map we are currently using doesn't have the horse-trails marked, so we were following a walking trail, which brought us right into the middle of Dieulefit and straight up a very fancy pedestrian shopping street.  I'm sure we weren't meant to be there, but hey, that's the way the map brought us! We got many curious glances, and some grumbling from an old man, particularly when Gigi lifted her tail and disgraced us on the lovely ornate cobblestones.  Anne quickly got to work with the rubber gloves and a plastic bag, and tidied up the mess, remarking that it puts puppy poop into perspective!
We left the town behind us and started climbing into the hills.  We never got a view which overlooked Dieulefit, but this is looking towards the ochre cliffs we passed the previous day.

We wound our way along a steep hillside, following a narrow path, which had a steep drop to the right.  There was mostly scree on the hillside, with a lot of scrubby growth as well.  We had to dismount to open a gate, and the path was too narrow to remount, so we walked for a good distance.  I was quite enjoying it, and didn't realise that Anne was not - she still hasn't recovered from the fright of Gigi nearly falling down the hillside two days ago.  So when we stopped for lunch, we had a quick confab and changed our route plan for the day, to try to avoid any other really steep paths.  This meant that we were following a road for quite a bit - the boring but safe option, so long as Flurry didn't object to any more cars!
The forecast had been for a dry but windy day, so we had both opted not to bring coats.  At this stage we were regretting this decision - the wind was very strong at times, and yes, that's snow on the distant hills!
We had a flock of savage horse-eating sheep to contend with near this chapel, as well as the very strong winds, so we danced and jogged along the hill-top for while, until we started to descend once again and got into more sheltered ground.
We rode through lovely birch woods and had a major spook incident with both horses, caused by two shetland ponies who looked very cute to me and Anne but must have looked absolutely ferocious to Flurry and Gigi, given their over-reaction.
We came across this very elaborate tree-house, which reminded me of Myst and reminded Anne of the tree-house in Hook... this is just one end of it, there were three sections in all, including a lookout post.
We were once again following horse balisage at this stage - the blue and orange signs which mark the TRADAC route, TRAvers du Drome A Cheval.  The route took us past this chateau and down a long hill, into the garden of a house and then the balisage disappeared completely!  
Luckily, a pickup truck followed us into the garden, and we asked the driver if the route continued.  He said yes, but it was very steep and narrow, and in his opinion, not suitable for horses.  So we made our weary way back up the long hill, and followed the road which took us towards Le Poet Celard.
From there, we had a view South towards Teysierres, where we were two days ago.
The snow-capped mountain is the one we rode along two days ago, where Gigi had her slip.  We have been very lucky with the weather, there have been two occasions where snow fell the day after we were in an area, and although it has rained a few times, we haven't had a really miserable soaking yet - fingers crossed. 
After Le Poet Celard, we started to descend into the valley of the Roubion river.  We briefly picked up another horse trail, which went through some fields - a nice change from the usual stony trails.  Then we were back on the road again, heading towards Saou, and although we managed to get off the road briefly, we were stuck with roadwork for about 4km.  We had been travelling for close on eight hours at this stage, and were really feeling it, despite having walked several times to give our legs and the horses' backs a break.  We weren't so exhausted that we didn't enjoy the scenery, though, Saou is set in a landscape that looks like it came from the Grand Canyon.

Impressive, eh?
Finally we arrived, looked after the horses, and found that this gite has a BATH!!!  Best gite ever!  A glass of wine and a hot bath later, we were both feeling human again.
Best news of all, we had managed to cover 35km, by far the longest day we've had so far.  Tomorrow we're planning on an easy day, the horses deserve it, so we will box the horses part of the way and ride the rest.
The Everytrail map is for Day 11 and Day 12 combined.  I wasn't able to upload Day 11, so I ended up combining the two.
Days 11 & 12 Teysierres - Poet Laval - Saou at EveryTrail

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Day 11 - Teyssieres - Le Poët-Laval

Anne: The evening of day 10 we got in just before the rain started but decided to put the horses out in the paddock anyway, so they could relax, roll, and do the things horses love to do. Also the stables weren't the best, dark and damp. But as we were waiting for dinner the weather got worse, and we both looked out and said we should bring the horses in, but we were tired and decided to wait. Dinner was delicious, a huge mixed salad to start with followed by a local speciality of ravioles , no not ravioli, but similar, tiny pastas stuffed with cheese, served up in a white sauce with grated courgette, after having been in the oven to go all lovely and crispy around the edges. A big bottle of the local red, and apple tart to finish. Ah delicious, but oops the horses, it was still pouring down so George and I said off to catch them and bring them in, no easy task in the dark, in a steeply sloping field, on a very gloopy clay soil. We were slipping and sliding all over the place, I don't know how I kept my feet under me, especially as Gigi was being a bit difficult. But we caught them and headed off to the stables, gave them hay and water, put sweat rugs on them and left the two slightly unsettled horses to dry off.

It rained all night, drumming on the roof of my bedroom, so I was happy enough to get up at 7:30 and feed them, it's always easier when they're in a stable as Flurry can't eat Gigi's food.  Looking around I could see that the rain had fallen as snow on the mountains, thank goodness we weren't up there in the rain. Off I went to the yard with 2 buckets of feed, round the corner to the stables to be confronted by 2 open stable doors. Maybe the owner, Frank, put them back in the paddock was my first thought, but no the paddock was empty, panic started to set in and I ran down to the house to see if Frank had moved them somewhere else, but no. Back up to the gite to wake George and Martine, they would set off in the jeep, I would go back along the track we had ridden in on, and Frank went looking for horse tracks. Frank found them first while a few minutes later G&M saw them from the road, happily grazing in a field of lucerne. All's well that ends well, but we were all thoroughly shaken up by the episode, I couldn't face breakfast, and G&M were very quiet.

 After all the excitement we set off not too late as we had decided to give ourselves a really easy day today, keep out of the mountains and ride on roads if we had to, as a quick look around showed low cloud on all the hills. We were already tired after day 10, and the start of day 11 had sapped us both of our usual enthusiasm.

 The views, even from the road were good, with the inevitable lavender and craggy mountains in the distance.

At last we both felt secure enough to get off the road and onto the tracks again, hoping to skirt Dieulefit, but while this added to our daily kilometers, it did not keep us out of the centre of town.

But it did bring us past yet another great ochre display. We dismounted to walk through the town centre.

And we were very amused by this sign telling you your speed, and although you can't see it on the picture, as Gigi and I walked through it registered 11kph with a lovely smiley face to tell us we were within the speed limit.

George had phoned us during the day to say he had arrived at the gite, which wasn't a gite at all but an old nunnery that had once been an orphanage, it is now used as a recovery centre for people suffering from substance abuse, I remembered when I had booked the place they asked me if I knew what they did there, but I didn't understand the explanation at the time. The accommodation for the horses was excellent, really secure, a blessing after last night, but what would you expect from an ex nunnery ! Somehow, on what we had declared an easy day, we covered 22kms bringing us up over 200kms , a reason to celebrate and lift our spirits, Sláinte

Monday, 23 April 2012

Day 10 - Venterol to Teysierres

or "And we thought the Monts de Vaucluse was Tough"

Our stay in Camp-Anes near Venterol was damn near idyllic.  We had booked a paddock for the horses, but unfortunately there was a sanglier incident the night before we arrived, all of their horses took fright, broke the electric fencing and escaped.  Not wishing to risk any damage to visiting horses, Jean-Yves and Anne-Marie gave us two stables instead.  This is the view the horses had :
Apologies for the colour being a bit "off", Flurry was in fidget mode on Saturday and I accidentally set my camera into some weird mode which affected the white balance.  It's all fixed now (thanks, LSH!)
Camp-Anes' main business is hiring donkeys to walkers - they have a total of fourteen donkeys which are used by groups of walkers (mostly families) as pack animals on hiking holidays.  Jean-Yves is a mine of information on the local routes, as he is constantly sending tourists off in all directions with one of his beloved donkeys, so when he offered to advise us on routes we jumped at the chance - you can't beat local knowledge!  He marked out what seemed to be the best choice on a special map - it's called an "a la carte carte", made specially for walkers in this region - you can't buy it in the shops!
We're going demi-pension in all of the gites at the moment, which means we get breakfast and dinner, and a packed lunch if we pay extra.  We'd had three days of eating out in Beaumes de Venise and we all needed some good home cooking, which we certainly got!  Magret de canard, risotto made with spelt, goats cheese salad and apple crumble, complete with Côtes de Rhone rosé and red wines on the table.  Anne-Marie is passionate about serving locally sourced food, and it was all delicious.  Her enthusiasm is infectious, and we spent ages talking about the problems faced by the local food producers and how best to use truffles - Anne is updating the recipe section accordingly.
Our best find in Camp-Anes was this - a Wanderly Wagon!
Godmother and Judge are at the window... that must be Rory and Foxy at the back steps!
All of us were rejuvenated after our rest day, and we headed off eagerly on Monday morning.  We thought the donkey balisage was quite charming :
 and the first half of the day went very well.  We negotiated a tunnel
 and this fancy bridge
 and then followed an old railway line through yet more vines.
the stream which followed the road
Our seasoned trekking horses took everything in their stride.  We followed a country road alongside this little stream for ages.
Flurry and Gigi are now accustomed to drinking regularly while we're out, so we stopped a couple of times and let them fill up.
To be honest, it was verging on boring, but there was no traffic and the scenery was very pretty, so we were happy enough.
Pretty valley along the country road
Just as I was starting to get worried about having missed a turn, we found what was unquestionably the correct road, which led off to the right, and up the mountain via a series of hairpin bends.  While going around one of the bends, I noticed a scrap of fur to my left.... and then realised there was an open eye as well!  "Is that dead or alive," I called back to Anne.  After an initial "What? Where?" she spotted the fur and replied "Alive - it's a leveret (a baby hare)."  So I quickly circled back and snapped a photo, but didn't hang around in case I scared the little guy!  He was incredibly well camouflaged, can you see him?
Leverets stay where their mother leaves them, flattening themselves into the ground, just like this guy.  It seems to be a fairly good survival mechanism!
We continued to climb, with Mont Ventoux looming over the hills in the distance.  It's funny to think that on Saturday, we were up there, having a picnic, looking over in this direction.
Mont Ventoux
We knew that we were in the environs of a goat farm, so it seemed inevitable that we'd meet them.  Sure enough, we heard a faint "Clong! Clong!" in the distance, and after a few minutes, spotted the herd of goats scrambling up the hillside to the left of the road, complete with goat-herder and dogs.
With goats (possibly of the horse-eating variety) to the left of us and a sheer drop to the right of us, we decided that the smart thing to do would be to dismount and lead the horses past.  Much to our relief, they were fine, Gigi was very tense, but Flurry was quite happy.  Shortly after we stopped for lunch at this corner of the trail :
It was very distinctive, and I knew for sure that we were at the point where Jean-Yves said we should leave the trail and follow a path.  He had advised us to dismount and lead the horses down the first sections, he described it as being quite overgrown, difficult to see the ground, and with a lot of steps down for about 50 metres, but quite passable, so long as the horses would not rush, which we were quite sure they wouldn't (we were right!).
We could see that the path dropped very steeply, so I checked it out on foot.  Sure enough, it was a very steep descent with lots of big rocky steps down, but after some distance (I would have said 70M, not 50) it seemed to get a little easier and started switchbacking down the hill.
I went back to Anne, and we had a quick discussion.  We'd been caught out on Friday and Saturday with following footpaths, which turned out to be unsuitable for horses, so we were reluctant to leave the trail we'd been advised to follow.  We were in the middle of nowhere, so really, we felt our only option was to trust the advise we'd been given and follow the path down.  So we descended somewhere along this crag :
East end of crag
West end of crag

Indeed, the first 70M or so were the worst.  So bad, that there are no photos.  The horses, once again, rose to the occasion, and obediently followed - down a step, pause, get the back legs down, pause, turn a bit, let the human go down another step, and repeat.  Here's a photo from the next section - the easier bit!
It remained rocky for ages, then we were descending along loose scree.  We stopped for a couple of rests along the way, for the horses, ostensibly, but in reality it was to give our shaking legs a chance to recover.  We were both worried about the possibility of Anne having another "funny turn" like she had on the ascent of the Monts de Vaucluse, but fortunately she was fine all the way.  I was worst off, my knees were really suffering with the constant steep descent.  I was just concentrating on keeping going and checking the map to make sure we were still going the right way; Anne was bargaining with God - "Just let us get down, and we'll never ask for anything again!"
 This photo is from a rest stop, about halfway down:
Yes, we were headed for that valley floor, far, far below.
Finally, we emerged into a field of lavender, and heaved sighs of relief.  After a group hug (the horses didn't get involved, they were too busy scoffing grass) we both agreed that if we'd known what lay ahead, we wouldn't have done it.  We also agreed that riding on French horse trails is confusing - you end up with vast stretches of boredom, interspersed with moments of sheer terror.
We followed a tractor trail out of the lavender field and found these little beauties!

Their owner kindly produced a bucket of water for Flurry and Gigi.  They were less thirsty than we expected - in fact, they were less stressed by the whole descent than we were!
At this, stage we could see rain moving in from the South, so we continued on our way, hoping to get to Teysierres before it got too bad.  
Jean-Yves had said that we would be on a horse trail at this point, and sure enough, we soon found proper horse balisage once again, and followed the trail as it wound back uphill again.  It was nice to feel secure in the knowledge that the trail was horse-friendly... until we met this!
It's really hard to make it out in the photo, but there's a cliff to the left of the trail and a steep drop to the right of the trail.  It's been water damaged at this point and quite a bit of the trail has been washed away down the hill.  I took one look and said "We need to dismount here!"  So we both jumped off, and I led Flurry over it carefully, trying to encourage him to keep left as much as possible.  We crossed it safely, and as Anne followed with Gigi, I heard a bit of scuffling.  "Are you ok," I asked. I can't remember what she actually replied, but "Just about" would have been right.  It seemed that as Flurry crossed over, there was a bit of subsidence, then as Gigi followed, the ground gave away completely and her hind legs went from under her.  With a bit of a scramble, she got all four feet on terra firma - huge sighs of relief all round.  So much for being on a safe, horse-friendly trail!

We had no more incidents after that.  The scenery had become incredibly rugged, and it was raining steadily at this stage.  We wound around another mountain, and finally saw the welcome sight of Teysierres at the far end of the next valley.
Much to our relief, La Mielandre, where we are staying, was just at the end of the horse trail.  We checked over the horses - no cuts or bumps, thank goodness.  Then we washed the Renegade boots - to find that Gigi has worn a hole at the front of her right hind boot!  We will try one the size 2 boots, it might fit, otherwise we will have to order another size 2W and have it sent over from the US.
Gigi and Flurry were turned out in a paddock, to have a nice bit of grass and some hay.  The rain got heavier and heavier, so we ended up stabling them again - at least they will be dry in the morning.
We told the owner of La Mielandre about the subsidence on the trail - it turned out that section of trail has been closed, and we should have taken a longer route around the next valley.
And the moral of the story? Never take advice from a donkey man about horse trails!

The Everytrail map - our winding descent seems to have completely confused Everytrail, it looks like we meandered aimlessly around the side of the mountain.  I swear, it was nothing like that!
Day 10 - Venterol to Teyssieres at EveryTrail