La Montaigne Magique
In May, we stayed for two weeks at La Montaigne Magique. We picked super nutritious nettle and bramble shoots to be dried, sorted through wild rosemary buds, created balms using various macerations and helped set up a terrace herb garden. The hosts were always generous in sharing their knowledge and allowed us to take part in many of their processes.
The border between Spain and France, where they are located, is a magical place with steep mountains carved by kilometer thick glaciers in the last ice age. With humid air flowing in from the Atlantic ocean, the area had an abundance of clean spring water flowing endlessly, unpolluted by modern agriculture and airborne pollutants.
For such a deep, wild, mountainous area, the access was really good with the main road linking Spain and France running close. In a village higher up at about 1000m, it can get fairly cold in the winter with a meter of snow to be expected. But for how long? Could it be that in 20, 40, 50 years time, with accelerating temperature rise, the 1000m altitude becomes the new Provence – or an oasis of life among slowly desiccating desert landscapes?
After the stay, with a few good tips from the hosts, we ventured into Aragon. A beautiful Spanish province – one of the least populated in Europe – with the biggest canyon systems in Europe called Sierra et des gorges de Guara National Park and some wild landscapes.
There were hardly any cars and houses were few and far between, especially deeper in the mountains. It really felt like the last remaining wild frontier in Europe with some jaw dropping hiking routes. I’m pretty sure I’ll be returning here for many years to come.
We hiked off trail in the wild mountain goat territory, with millions of sharp limestone carved by infrequent rain. Dived into a magical gorge river with the most beautiful hand crafted bridge that I’ve ever seen. Trail ran the sides of the gorge and trekked the ridge.
As advised, there were no source springs that we could drink from. Those small rivers marked on the maps were dried up and trees were small and thick in stature from the harsh conditions, often growing out of rock. How life still manages to cling on with so little topsoil is an absolute wonder.
Water security is a serious issue here, with wells and rivers drying up fast. It was good to physically experience the climate in person, though I’d imagine it’ll be even harsher in August. How the landscape might change over the next 80 years will be on the back of my mind as I venture into Catalunya next year.
Back to Ariége
For the last two weeks, we’ve been back at La Ferme Des Quatre Sabots, helping to refurbish their brand new second hand caravan which was in a rather sorry state. An old leaking shower and walls full of holes had allowed water to seep deep into the structure and over the many years had rotted parts of the wall and much of the floor. The entire frame was skewed with no structural support and windows cracked and smashed.
Our first week was spent on delaminating, assessing the damage, removing the rot, cleaning, breaking and planning how to rebuild. It felt a lot longer than a week, having to discover more rots and endless ant colonies with every panel that came off. The leaking roof vents, and plug holes were removed, cleaned and sealed with silicone.
In the second week, it felt like we progressed faster with the batons going in, cork insulation refilled and ply sheets cut and panels back on. Though, again, the skewed frame meant that each piece had to be measured and adjusted several times to fit, which was a right pain in the arse. But once the hundreds of holes were plastered, sanded smooth and paint began to go on, it really felt like a completely different space.
This week, we began dismantling another rotted corner with a big ants nest. With some superb hot weather, it’s been fantastic doing this kind of DIY jobs. I’ve learnt the structural weaknesses of caravans, which details to lookout for when buying one and how to fix it if I can only get my hands on a really shit one. All very useful knowledge for me since there’s a good chance I’ll be living in one while I build my future house.
On Our Day Off
We went hiking/trail running in the Pyrenees near Auzat.