Thursday, 7 April 2011

France - Couchsurfing in Die

1st 55km

Henry cooks me eggs for breakfast. I eat as the sun appears from behind the western ridge. Once my gear is dry I begin to pack up – I notice my reluctance to leave. I have a couchsurfing arrangement which I a keen to fulfil - this helps motivate me to get moving.

I say a big thankyou/goodbye to Henry and the start on the six kilometre climb to the top of the Col de Carabes (1261m). I make good time on the way up and so pause for a while to enjoy the views and the quiet from the top. From then on it's down hill all day – bliss!

I arrive in the town of Die (pronounced Dee) and decide to “just turn up” at my hosts house. It can be difficult to arrange couchsurfing without either a phone or regular internet connection. I find his house but he is not there. I meet his neighbours Pierre and Raffel. They give me a beer. I sit all afternoon in the garden reading in the hope that my host will return. He does – and he brings with him some friends and more beer – from a local micro brewery. A mellow night under the stars. My first French lesson in a long time. Good beer.


Lazy day. I play guitar outside while Wim studies. In the evening we go to a party. One of his neighbours has opened a pottery workshop and is throwing a party to celebrate. I gather from those I meet that this is quite an “alternative” community – lots of artists, musicians, organic farmers, outdoor enthusiasts etc. My kind of place.

Wim and I leave the party early – our plan is to go hiking this evening. His mother gives us a lift into the forest and from then on it's down to our legs. With the last hour of daylight we power through five kilometers of climbing up a plateau at sixteen hundred meters. It's some of the steepest hiking I've done, very enjoyable, but not the kind of place you'd want to take a fall. The star scape from atop the climb is spectacular. We make our way north until we come to the mountain hut – our accommodation for the night. We open the door to see four guys sitting around the table. One of whom happens to be Wim's friend. It's a great building and very simple. Five by five meters, flat timber roof, thick brick walls coated in a coarse pebble render. Inside there's a wooden bunk (for six or eight people), a picnic table, a wood burner, axe, saw and a few candles.

We throw another fat chunk of pine in the wood burner, cook up a feed, and chat around the table. We pass around a tiny (medicine sized) bottle containing a potent concoction – which I suspect even trumps the Georgians Cha Cha for alcohol content. The mixture of mountain herbs and vegetables comes out at brain cell popping 70%.


Thanks to the exercise and the night cap we sleep well. Simple breakfast and then we begin our walk of the ridge. Vultures have recently been re-introduced to the area and all morning we see them riding thermals. We are joined by Wim's friend Isabelle for todays hike. They are both training to be mountain guides and both take an interest in the local flora species. We make regular stops to admire and reference wild flowers. On the walk back down we take an off piste route along a ridge. Either side of us the ground drops away hundreds of meters. There are a few sphincter twitching moments but Wim, being the most experienced of us, comforts me with advice like - “this would be a bad place to fall”.

A tranquil evening with beers in the garden. Sleep very well...

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