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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Recent outings

Since August we have made a real effort to get out and about before summer ends. This is an area with a lot of bird migration and whilst there are some interesting winter/all year round birds too, who wouldn't want to look for Bee-eaters, Rollers and Hoopoes! I'm also always looking for butterflies, and as well as fauna and flora there is the most magnificent scenery everywhere.

We've just had a visit from a friend who is doing the 'Cathar Trail' in her motorhome, and it's just so exciting to think that we now live here, and can visit most of the places she has been to in a day trip from home! Some of the chateaux and abbeys we have already visited, but there is so much still to see. She had a book about all the places to visit that are related to the Cathars, and we've ordered the book too. Just need to build up some energy to get up to most of those chateaux perched high up on mountain peaks!

Before we go on any outings here on the blog, here are a couple of views taken from the house on 22 August. It looks very brown where all the wheat and barley has been harvested, and the yellowy/green fields are sunflowers. I have loved seeing the sunflower fields - they are so cheery! The few dark green fields are vines. 

Looking towards the Montagne Noir.

Looking towards the Malepere hills in the foreground and the Corbieres in the distance.

In August we bought a new car. We wanted a 4x4 for going up into the mountains where occasionally you come across some rather rough roads. Even down on the flat lands there can be gravel tracks here and there, and our last car was very low slung. Dacia Dusters are very popular as they are reasonably priced for what you get, but we paid extra for this colour to have a complete change from the metallic silver and light blue that we've had over the last 20 years. This car is easily spotted in a car park full of silver cars! πŸ˜€ We also have a lot more space in our garage as our last car was a very long estate car. This one is surprisingly roomy though with a decent sized boot, enough room for people sitting in the back AND enough room for a 6'4" driver! It feels nicer sitting higher up like in the Moho; in the last car our legs were stuck out in front of us, almost like being in a sports car.

We had a drive out to the western Corbieres one afternoon. We were interested to see what some of the roads were like, as when we drove through in the Moho we stuck to bigger roads, our road atlas showing many of the roads to be very small on the map. I don't think we would have had a problem on these roads in the Moho, but you never know! Most of where we drove was hilly and forested, but as we got deeper into the Corbieres there were some nice rocky crags and then we turned up towards the village of Montjoi where you drive along beside a gorge, which although not the most spectacular of gorge sceneries, was still pretty interesting.

I didn't know what this mini castle was at the time, but have found it on the map. It's the Chateau d'Arques, a 14th century chateau which was ruined but has been restored and in part, rebuilt. It's open to the public and according to Wikipedia, is one of the Cathar castles.

A view of the Pyrenees looking towards Andorra, with the Chateau d'Arques in the distance on the left.

Keith in the village of Montjoi. We had sort of planned to do a walk through a mostly forested area, but found it was closed due to a landslip! I was very pleased because it was seriously hot (about 35C) and all I wanted to do was get back in the air-conditioned car. Way too hot for walking!

Me in the same place facing the opposite direction, with the side of the gorge behind me. Down in the bottom of the gorge there is a Roman bridge that we would have crossed at the start of the walk, but again, too hot to do as it was a steep walk down and back up again.

Another day (1st Sept) we took the Moho out for a spin to the coast. The day was a bit of a disaster due to having the Moho with us, because unbeknown to us, there is a low bridge over the road we needed to take to get to the car park to visit the Ile Sainte Lucie near Port La Nouvelle. There was, luckily, a car park very close to the bridge, where a couple of mohos were parked. We knew we would have a long walk from here to the start of the loop walk around the island, which is a nature reserve, but off we set anyway after having our picnic lunch.

However, it was so far it took us 45 minutes to get to the lock crossing to get to the island. By this time I was feeling exhausted, and thirsty. Thank god it was under 30C with a slight breeze, so not too hot for walking, but guess what, two-thirds of the way up the road I discovered Keith had left the drink behind. So the thought of doing a 4.5km walk and then another 45 minutes walking back to the Moho, with nothing to drink either, was just too much to contemplate. On top of this, whilst we were sitting by the old canal way taking all this in, we were getting bitten to death by mossies dropping out of the pine trees above. Eventually I told K I just could not do it as I wasn't having a good day energy wise and that we could come back to visit the reserve. We had planned to visit another place anyway, which was a 40 min drive away around the other side of the lagoons, and there wasn't really time to do both. Funnily enough on one side of the canal were tall reeds and we kept hearing Dartford Warblers in there! I expected them on the island side which is heathland - didn't know they liked reedbeds! So another reason to visit as we have not yet seen a proper view of a Dartford Warbler. We've seen them distantly when we hadn't had binocs with us, as they have a very specific jizz.

After this we drove around to the Roc de Conilhac, which is a little hill with 360 degree views all around which is used by the LPO for their autumn migration count. The LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux) is the French equivalent of the RSPB. However, the road leading most directly was a small narrow one so we decided to go a different way, annoyingly we ended up going through Gruissan and taking a really long route around. This was mostly caused by using Google maps as a satnav as the Roc is not marked on either the Moho's satnav nor Waze which K uses as a satnav on his phone. Google didn't know we were in a 7m long vehicle so it told us to go through the centre of Gruissan (to be fair, all satnavs would probably do the same thing, if they thought it was shorter/faster). Not a problem if you are in a car, but the streets were narrow and in one place was full of people eating out at pavement cafes. Keith kept yelling in horror "Where are you taking me?????" and I could only blame it on Google.... πŸ˜‚ We did get through with not too much trouble, but I'll remember in future to take the longer road round the outside of the village!

Eventually we made it to the Roc and walked the short walk up to the top. There was a group of people sitting in the shade of probably the only decent sized bush at the top looking out for any migrating birds, but birds prefer a good north-west wind to help them along the way, and we don't like going out on windy days! It was well worth the visit though as the views were stunning, there were flamingos in the lagoons below (and we passed some in a lagoon at Gruissan), and there were a number of information panels giving not only info on bird migration, but also showing the view in that particular direction and telling you what everything was in the distance.

We had a chat with the birders, who turned out to be holiday makers, as the LPO people don't go there every day if there isn't a wind in the right direction. They had seen some birds but not a lot. There is a blackboard there with a list of the birds and the numbers that had passed - about 87,000 Honey Buzzards and something like 5 Rollers! I knew that Honey Buzzards were early to leave but at least those numbers indicate they (as a species) are doing well, I would think.

View from the Roc de Conilhac looking towards Gruissan (you can see these photos better if you click on them to bring them up bigger).

If you click on this photo you will see some flamingos in the lagoons in the foreground!

Looking south from the Roc.

Keith and other birders on the top of the Roc, looking inland in the direction of the Haut-Languedoc range.

As I mentioned Monika's visit at the beginning of this post, I'll put this photo here, of us with her adorable little dog, Olivia. Sadly, Olivia has her eyes closed in this pic! She didn't come into the house because of the cats, but Monika did carry her round to the patio where Olivia sat on M's lap and the cats glared at her, but didn't run away. Amazingly my really nervous cat, Bertie, was friendly to M, whereas Harry the big ginger boy ran a mile every time he saw her. Cats are odd.

In case you wondered, no we didn't socially distance, but neither did we hug, which is really hard when you see an old friend who you haven't seen for a while. Monika was travelling on her own with her dog and staying at aires, not campsites, and not having a lot of contact with other people, and she thinks she had the virus back in January, so we reckoned we could be brave. I'm not sure how you really manage to socially distance when you have someone visit your house anyway; that would be really hard. In any event, we have barely socialised since the pandemic broke out and have kept our distance from people as much as possible in shops etc, and always worn masks. 

I have more photos prepared but think this is quite long enough, so I will do another post of outings. Tomorrow we are planning to revisit the Ile Sainte Lucie - in the CAR!!! πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„


  1. So pleased to read of your wonderful outings - it really is a lovely area that you now live in - so scenic, good for wildlife and good for history :) Your new car is very classy and sounds just the thing for where you live. Your photos are wonderful. I do like the background colour of your blog - I have decided I want to change my white background as it is too much glare but not sure how so I will investigate!

  2. Hi Caroline, so sorry for being so slow to reply. I get so lazy because I have to use my big computer to comment on blogs as it just doesn't work on my ipad. Well here I am. Thank you for your lovely comment. As far as the blog goes, I just chose the one with the birds on one side which happened to be this beige colour which I liked, and find easy on the eye. I guess you could play around with the settings, and hope nobody is trying to read your blog at the same time, as it keeps changing colour, lol! :-)