Monday, June 30, 2008

In the Pyrenees

We begin to climb and thoughts of history give way to appreciation of the overwhelming beauty of this place. We follow a stream steeply upwards, sometimes across grassland, and sometimes through woods. There are beaches and silver birch with pine and elder.

We find more wild flowers than I’ve ever seen in my life. Purple orchids, rhododendrons with the last of its red flowers (crush a leaf and the rich perfume reminds me of the Scottish bracken), lenten roses growing freely, bilberries but the fruit is all gone and higher up (400m is just the climb before lunch), yellow lilies. I’ve never seen lilies growing wild before.

We stop at the foot of a vast waterfall. It pours over the ledge high above us and divides into half a dozen cascades down the huge slab of rock.

Bruce asked me whether any of the people who fled this way could have had a chance to absorb its natural beauty. We agree that this is most unlikely. At night, freezing cold, hungry, weak from months or years of flight; terrified of capture or betrayal, this journey must have been hell for them, except that it was their one and only hope of freedom.

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