From slang.ie :
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
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!
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 :
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!
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 http://www.mycharity.ie/event/martine_greenlees_event
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.
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|
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 http://www.mycharity.ie/event/martine_greenlees_event Thank you
Day 15 parnans to montmiral at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find hiking trails in California and beyond
Friday, 27 April 2012
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)|
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.
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.
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!
|We started off in the jagged bit of mountains to the left of the bridge|
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.
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.
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
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 ?
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
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 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.
From there, we had a view South towards Teysierres, where we were two days ago.
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
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.
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.
Monday, 23 April 2012
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 :
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!|
|the stream which followed the road|
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|
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.
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 :
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|
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!
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.
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