September 16 – Saturday

Didn’t sleep too bad – the tractors pulling the huge bins with the hand-picked grape harvest to a facility down the road seemed to go by all night long, though (we wondered later if they picked all night as well as all day). It was cold, but not wet so taking the tent down and packing up didn’t take long. Before we left we went up to the cafe, which wasn’t open yet, so sat outside for a bit using the wi-fi. The signal here isn’t that great, so didn’t get much done before we left just after 10:00.

Took the main highway northeast, bypassing Pamplona where we veered southeast for a bit then got onto smaller roads to the town of Ochagavia. Nothing was open – 3 hour lunchtime not over yet – so we decided to keep going into France.

Passed into the foothills of the Pyranees, and through many pretty towns, including one that has Roman (I think) excavations happening, then into the real mountains. Saw a herd of horses on the road – they looked like mountain horses, slightly shorter, rounder and shaggier than regular horses. A herd of sheep was on the mountain right beside the road – you could hardly tell them apart from the rocks as they were all the same colour and size.

Crossed the border at a tunnel above the tree-line at Pic d’Orhy – there were cattle-guards in the road at each end. I guess they have to keep those short-legged chubby Spanish cows out of France – ha ha. I don’t think I mentioned it before – in every country there are always signs ‘watch for deer’ with a deer jumping, or ‘watch for cows’ with the silhouette of a cow – the cows on the signs in Spain are very chubby and have very short legs compared to the cows on all of the other countries’ signs so it’s been quite humorous to me every time I see a sign – the actual cows look about the same as those elsewhere.

Down, down, down the other side of the Pyranees into southern France. Just after one village we were slowed right down by a herd of sheep being moved along the highway – there were 5 herders at the back of the herd and another four or five at the front, as well as a van (to warn oncoming traffic, I think), also two dogs, one of which looked like a small sheep himself. There were hundreds of them – we pulled over for a bit so they could get further ahead and we wouldn’t be pushing them.
Not far around the next corner they were all stopped towards the side of the road and there were a couple of big trucks and a holding pen or two where the sheep (and a few cows) were being sorted for transport.

At another village there were a couple of men directing traffic in the middle of the highway (one doing a very poor, kind of spastic job), and dirt bikes everywhere – there was some sort of dirt bike race happening and the whole field on the left of the highway was covered with stalls and things.

A little further on at another village there was a festival of some sort – a parade across the bridge of local folks dressed in traditional costumes, with girls holding bread baskets (that were empty) and boys with red berets playing a drum and flutes/pipes.

Drove up thru Oloron-Ste. Marie, where we did a bit of food shopping, then continued on a bit southeast to a lovely place called Louvie-Juzon and a campground Colin had looked up. It’s on a hillside and covered with trees – a very nice, kind of remote place.

I went for a look around, and near one end there’s a cabin that had no one in it so I went to the back where I could see stairs leading up to a bench. At the top you can see across the treetops to a mountain peak – just beautiful.
The ground was soaked from rain earlier in the day, and it was supposed to rain again so I didn’t end up setting the tent up. Read for a bit, then was just starting to fall asleep when we were startled by the sounds of fireworks. The dogs, especially Mo, got quite excited. There seems to be a lot happening all around here this weekend.

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