Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More wonderful flowers as we descend into Spain. Remarkable weather too on the Spanish side; the skies quickly darken, thunder fills the valleys, the rain gets thicker then colder and turns to hail. Not worth wearing an anorak reasons Mossy. By the time one gets it one, one is soaked already. One of our guides, George, unfurls his khaki mountain umbrella. We are glad there is no need for his other piece of special equipment, an ice axe, although we all enjoy those sections of our climbs and descents which take us over snow (it's July and the snow is still there).

I've never seen anything like it; whole valleys are filled with the grey green strap like leaves of narcissi with tall white spikes of flower. Losing my way on a particularly steep and slippery section of hillside I discover purple and red orchids among them.

Then comes the only mishap on our walk; Eric's rucksack comes hurtling down. Mercifully without its owner, disgorging plastic packages as it falls. On the pre-text of gathering them up, I clamber back for a second view of the orchids.

Further down and all through Wednesday's walk are fields filled with tall yellow gentians; I've always longed to see them but until now never have.

We've reentered woodland. Our guide explains that the Atlantic influence make the French side wetter, hence the deciduous forests. But here on the Mediterranean side it is drier (!), thus the pines are the wonderful scent of their needles which cover the woodland floor.

At length we reach the river. Later that night I read of a group of allied airmen who climb for 19 hours through terrible weather only to find the river on the Spanish side in spate and the water impassable. The bridge is of course guarded by Franco's army. They have to turn and climb all the way back. Mercifully they make a successful passage a few days later.

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