Col de Marie Blanque
The timetable of noise
Not by a long way.
My 4-star campsite, Les 3 Vallees at Argeles-Gazost, provided many more.
The parakeet of a neighbouring camper awoke nice and early. It was full of excitement and expressed its exuberance with its reveille.
I poked my head out of the tent and witnessed a Disneyesque landscape of fluffy bunnies bouncing and curious pussy cats exploring.
These were not your usual brown/grey UK bunnies, but more like domesticated ones.
Apparently, they are wild, and everyone loves them. (I presume more in the cute manner rather than fricasseed).
A ginger and white cat entered stage left and began sniffing for anything new or interesting.
His eye soon caught sight of a distant bunny, and with stealth, proceeded towards it.
I settled down to watch with David Attenborough interest.
Bunny stalking for more than a minute proved too much effort, and so it moved elsewhere in its search for love and attention (or food).
The parakeet, meanwhile, had remained silent throughout this potential encounter. No doubt it was watching with the intrigue or considering self-preservation.
As three time-triallists rode up the path, a hard plastic on gravel sounded as they passed.
They were all numbered and last-minute testing their bikes.
I thought the riders could have earned less money and spent more time training, as unlike their bikes; they weren’t lightweights. (Yes, unkind, but that was my observation).
Satisfied that things were ok off they went, and peace returned.
Up, up, and away
Now, whooosh-whooosh sounds were everywhere, which I immediately recognised.
As this weekend was La Fete du Ciel, (Air Fair) several hot air balloons were readying themselves for the occasion. As they floated up, I was envious of the views they were going to enjoy of the mountains.
But I needed my hot lava java and to think about the day ahead.
Not yet, you don’t!
As I sat down, with 100 climbs app open and ready to study, the campsite echoed with a series of loud HOWLS.
A camp warden passed by as I got out of my seat to look around for any dogs. Noticing my curiosity, he told me it was the wild wolves from the forest howling.
Wow, I missed spotting them, which would have been cool. (From a distance)
A whooping and a hollering
Loud whooping and whistling booms took over once the wolves stopped, suggesting that there was a noise making timetable to adhere to.
I noticed my neighbour was looking up at the forest wit h his binoculars searching for the noise source.
“Bonjour” I said, as he looked French.
He Bonjoured back.
My next French language tactic was to avoid using it, so “Parle vous Anglaise”.
He replied, “No, Irish”.
Much merriment later. I asked him about the whooping sound.
He didn’t know, but said he had heard it at the same time every morning.
None the wiser, I called in at the reception on my way out to ask about it.
Apparently, the noise was from a nearby monkey sanctuary in the forest, and they were the whooping culprits.
Well, I never.
Monkeys, wolves, bunny rabbits, balloons, cats, parakeets, and time triallists — that’s not my usual alarm clock.
Swear quietly, it’s Sunday
Anyway, back to climbing mountains and this time it’s Col de Marie-Blanque out from Escot.
Rated as a 7/10 (beware) and only 9.5Km, it looked relatively straightforward on paper.
After a nice 4% start, in the 36º heat, a 10% section kicked in. This was nasty.
The Col de Marie-Blanque now took on the roller coaster profiles of recent climbs.
The small gradient sections lulled you into easing the legs for a moment, only to smash them with 16º later.
My legs weren’t seeing the funny side.
I wished for a consistent gradient and got it.
The next 3.5 kms were now a steady 11% +.
Oh, you are lucky legs. Be careful of what you wish for.
This was painful. I swore quietly to myself as it was a Sunday.
Inconsistent gradient was now my wish, and it kindly relented to 8% over the last section.
Go for it, Phil. The summit is just round the corner. Leave it on the road! Win be first. Glory.
Or maybe not.
The upcoming 18% wall has other ideas, but at least it was the last tease by the Col du Marie-Blanque.
Sadly, not a lot at the top for all the effort, so on with the descending jacket, get back down and look for the next campsite.
The curious cow
On the Col d Aubisque, I took a picture of sheep, so to address the balance, I thought I would take some photos with cows in.
Conveniently on the roadside, my models were ready and waiting for their big moment.
I propped up the bike at a respectable distance and framed a suitable composition.
One cow, of course, had other ideas about my skills and thought a more personal and closer involvement was required.
I wish it were possible to find out what it was thinking, but speculating occupied me all the way down the climb.