Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rambunctious farm dogs enliven trip to mountain pass

February is the quietest month in the village, almost too quiet. The fishing boats remain at their moorings all month, some of the crews kept busy mending multi-coloured nets stretched along the quay, or repainting metal dredges. The weather has been mixed with some rain and some high winds that don't encourage you to travel too far.

But now it's March. All the fishing boats are gone. The sun is shining and Wednesday was the last day of wind for the foreseeable future. We decided to go for a run in the car to see if we could follow one of the small back roads up to Ceret in France. The drive to La Jonquera, the Spanish border town was quite lovely with the brilliant yellow mimosa still in bloom. There were a few people doing the last trimming of the vines. Best of all fields were filled with yellow wild flowers and we even spotted some red poppies. Spring has arrived.

At La Jonquera we crossed under the highway and started up a road that took us past more vineyards. The road narrowed and surrounding us were masses of cork oaks. In fact the road narrowed so much that when a truck came along we were literally hanging off the edge of the road. We kept following the signs for Ceret stopping at a viewpoint, where we could see Empuriabrava and the sea in the far distance.

We kept climbing higher and suddenly we were surrounded by four huge, white Pyrenean Mountain dogs. They were beautiful but they literally had the car surrounded. With all the barking it was quite scary, especially since there was always one in front of the car. I'm not sure if they were trying to herd us or were guarding an unseen farm or were just out for some afternoon recreational fun. Finally, Seamus got around the front runner, who kept running beside us, still barking and barking. We outran him and escaped without harming any of the not gentle giants.

A few kilometres up the road, we arrived at the monument to LluĂ­s Companys, a Catalan nationalist leader and president of the Catalan government during the Spanish Civil War. It was here that Companys crossed into France following the defeat of the Republicans in 1939. German occupation forces returned him to Spain in 1940, where Franco had him executed.

The paved road ended here with only a dirt track leading to Ceret and France. Some dirt-bike riders zoomed off down the trail. We were hoping that we didn't have to pass the pack of Pyrs again but there was only one on our way back. Our plan was to stop at the first viewpoint but this was not to be. There was the leader of the pack looking pretty tired out but nevertheless guarding the viewpoint. I think he must have chased the dirt bikers. The good news was that his friends had disappeared. Just when we passed him a golden eagle swooped in front of us into the trees. What an exciting road.

Now it was time to retrace our steps down the mountain and return to La Jonquera. As a town it isn't really somewhere you want to spend a lot of time. Trucks from all over Europe line the roads and parking lots. Strangely dressed hookers sell their wares at all the roundabouts. There are huge gas stations and supermarkets. We decided to stop at a new shopping centre. This was easier said than done as the entire parking lot and overflow lot was filled with French cars. The French love shopping in Spain, since it is cheaper. After a quick excursion around the mall, we stopped for a cortado. My mouth was watering as next to us was a French couple having chocolat, a thick, thick hot chocolate drink with long sugar coated crulers, donuts for dipping. Mmmmmmm. I must admit I was jealous. Next time.

No comments: