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

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Dress Rehearsal

Today was a milestone day for us.  It's the first chance we've had to do a serious long trek - we would have done this weeks ago if it wasn't for the whole "broken wrist" incident, but then you just can't plan for every eventuality.
The planned route was from La Florentine, Céreste, to our friends S & J's house, near Apt. We guesstimated the distance at 18km and we anticipated it would take between four and five hours.  The LSH had to fit us in around his work, and S & J were clearly intending to look after us "we'll have a glass of wine and some nibbles for you..." so we planned to leave for La Florentine at 10am, hit the road at 11am and arrive with S & J between 3 and 4 pm.
We were off to a shaky start, though, first of all the weather forecast was saying there would be rain in the afternoon, and secondly, Anne has been suffering from a dodgey tummy for a few days.  She eventually decided that the only treatment was 24 hours starvation, which commenced some eighteen hours before the start of our trek.  We also had to pay a flying visit to the Post Office to collect the spare set of Renegade boots, which had arrived on Friday, but which we had been unable to collect.
On arrival (late) at La Florentine, I discovered that I was wearing the wrong boots - walking boots, not riding boots!  I was insistent that I'd be fine, but Anne overrode me, and told me not to be silly, this was our first serious trek, and I should have my proper boots.  Oh yes, and while I was at home, would I pick up her coat too... so I dashed home, changed boots and picked up Anne's coat, paused a moment and decided to bring my coat too... a wise decision, as it turned out!
I arrived back at La Florentine to find that all the delays had put the LSH into "efficiency mode" and he was whizzing through putting boots on the horses.  We finished up tacking up - GiGi was carrying the collapsible bucket plus Anne's lunch and coat.

Flurry had the lunge line, for use as a picket line, and front and rear saddle bags, containing lunch, first aid kit, my sweater and a sponge and brush to wash them down when we arrived at the other end.
Anne's coat came unravelled shortly after leaving Céreste, so Flurry ended up carrying that too, but he didn't seem to mind.
We started Everytrail and hit the road at 11.06.... only a little late, feeling a small bit excited, but not especially nervous.  I was just hoping that Anne was feeling ok, I know that I'm pretty useless with no breakfast, but she was doggedly game, and was not going to let anything get in the way of our dress rehearsal!
View of the Luberon from La Gardette
We headed off up the valley behind the Gardette, climbed up the Gardette at the North side of Céreste, and found that the trail marked on the map was closed off.  No matter, we detoured through the town, it added a bit to the journey but at this stage it's all experience.  Neither of our horses are accustomed to travelling through towns and villages, and they were both on high alert the whole way through Céreste, scrutinising rubbish bins, barking dogs, cats, flapping wind-breaks, suspicious horse-eating rocks/gates/trees...

We all heaved a sigh of relief as we left suburbia and followed one of the many Chemins de St Jacques (GR 653) for a while.  We weaved our way through the valley towards La Bégude, were charmed by a skylark dropping song from on high and saw our first swallows and swifts of the year.
Flurry was very funny, once we had left Céreste behind, he kept "suggesting" that it was time to head home - every left hand turn looked like the way home as far as he was concerned!  I eventually had to resort to Mr Whip to convince him that, no, it wasn't time to go home yet, and he definitely got the message and plodded on in a resigned manner for the rest of the trip.
St Martin de Castillon with some very ominous clouds
Fani had mentioned that there was a horse-trail which went back and forth across the Calavon river, and by pure luck we found it.  It was idyllic, the trail was easy underfoot for the horses and they had a little drink from the river.  We startled a heron and some ducks, who in turn startled Flurry, but he was enjoying the new territory, and overlooked the danger they might present!  Eventually we arrived at La Bégude, crossed the D900 and struck off across country to St Martin de Castillon.

The cobbled stretch of road

On the final approach to St Martin, we were travelling along a very old cobbled road - possibly part of the Via Domitia, an ancient Roman road which ran from Italy to Spain.

The sky had been growing more and more gloomy as the morning progressed, and just as we arrived in St Martin, the rain started.  We had a very brief stop for lunch - well, lunch for Martine and a nibble for the horses, but Anne was still starving herself, so she satisfied herself with a sip of water and some crisps.  We both put our coats on, as it was persistently raining at this stage, as our good friends in Met Eireann say!
Anne and GiGi in St Martin
The next stretch was 4km along the top of a ridge between St Martin and Caseneuve.  Despite the steady rain and strengthening wind, we made good progress, and before we knew it, we had arrived at Caseneuve.
From there, we needed to pick up a walking trail which ran from Caseneuve, traversed a valley and a ridge, and eventually descended into the valley which contains Apt and its suburbs.  After one false start, we found the correct trail and followed it steadily downwards.  There was plenty of balisage (trail markings) and all was good - except the weather, which had turned decidedly foul at this stage.
And then the trouble began... Looking at Everytrail or Google Maps, we actually took the best route we could have, but looking at the Carte de Randonnee (large scale walking map) we missed a turn about halfway down which would have cut a few kilometres off the journey.  Our error was compounded by another bad choice - we were presented with two trails, one went right in approximately the correct direction, the other went left and clearly followed the boundaries of a vineyard.  We took the obvious choice - right - and followed the trail as it (hmm) veered in the wrong direction and then (double hmm) started to climb uphill again before it (triple hmm) petered out!  Doubts were well set in by now, so we called S & J and tried to describe where we were... unfortunately, "in a woods just after some vines" wasn't quite accurate enough for them to pinpoint where we were, so we were left to our own devices.
We backtracked and found a THIRD trail, which went straight on, so full of confidence, we followed it.  Both of us were starting to suffer from cramps in our legs by now, so we dismounted and walked for a while.
Alas, doubts once more reared their ugly heads when we found ourselves traipsing through someones garden, alongside their swimming pool.  We had no choice but to continue through their garden, squelch merrily along the path at the back of their house and follow their drive back to the road...  nobody came out to question us, but to be honest, I think we would have looked so miserable at this stage that they would have just taken one look at us and asked us in for coffee.
Eventually, we arrived back to a road, the D35 by my reckoning.  Anne was feeling pretty shook at this stage - she was cold, tired, weak and hungry.  I was just cold, soggy and tired, with a sore bum, so I was the more gung-ho of the two of us. I guessed we were about half an hour away from S & J's, it would have been a shame to give up and call the LSH to collect us at this stage, so we remounted and set forth again.
Eventually, we got there, in the rain, with two wet, tired horses.  The LSH had arrived before us, the jeep and horsebox were in the drive.

The horses loaded with enthusiasm (I had been wondering if they would load well, it's probably six months since they were in the trailer) and the LSH and Anne took them home.
I had a nice hot shower and a change of clothes (thanks S!) and settled down by the fire with a nice glass of Rosé to load the Everytrail map.
Dress rehearsal at EveryTrail

Hey, wait, we covered 25km today!  We've had the worst weather we're likely to face for the whole Trek, and Anne was really sick, but we did it !  The horses were great, and truly picked up on our enthusiasm as we entered the outskirts of Apt - they knew we were nearly home as well as we did.  So we're tired but happy... hoping the horses will both be well tomorrow as we are planning on a two hour trek to stretch their legs before the OFFICIAL START of Le Big Trek on Thursday.

Huge thanks to O'Brien's Saddlery, Bandon and Midleton, for promoting us on Facebook.  Welcome to all our new followers, we hope you enjoy following our trek through France. I can't believe it's finally about to start, the Trek was in jeopardy for a long time because of my broken wrist.  In all honesty, we'd both like to have a few more trips like today under our belts, but you've got to go with what you have, not what you'd like, and, if we are a little under-prepared, we will allow for that in the first few days and hope to build up our fitness quickly.
If you would like to support our charity, please visit our charity page and make a donation.  The minimum amount you can donate is three euro.... it all counts, so please contribute whatever you can.
Your support will encourage us and help us to keep going when the going gets tough - and we know it won't all be plain sailing!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you're all more than ready! Good Luck :-)