Tuesday July 30th Chemin de la Mature, Borde de Passette
Woke up and had to force myself out of the tent ; all is terribly aching, yet being able to feel all my limbs gives me the pluck to zip open into the day, which has well started. I break up and prepare myself a large breakfast, which I’ll soon regret – my stomach no longer used to a decent meal aches and no waters in the vicinity, I squat behind a big stone, only to see the helicopter appear from behind the mountain ridge ! Is this position really the one I’d like to be photographed in? They rapidly turn away which under other circumstances might not have been my wish, but now and thank heaven for some more discreet relief. The moon, this faithful satellite to our planet reflects in all her glory the first rays of that tyrant which starts to heat up the earth; faithfuly reflecting all vibrations, she stands out between the two passes that I leave on my left, not sure which one I’ll finally have to cross, but my legs keep following my commands and I reaching the col d’Ayous. Pic d’Ayous kept to my left, I aspire to the last stretch for the day, descending for the Lac d’Ayous with its’ refuge, where I have a meal; it perks me up, and one appetizer based on white wine with bilberry syrup if I remember well (I’d like to make a note on appetizers-why are they usually so expensive? I am looked at from all sides and feel once again that strange creature which none seems to want to get acquainted with, I don’t even realize it is because of my luxurious appetizer, yet I won’t regret this needed healthy energy which moreover serves my bloodpressure, view, and more). It allows me to continue stiff walking for another five hours, amongst the various lakes, towards the refuge of Pombie.
I witness a real attack from eagles and vultures combined, on a sheep not yet dead which I saw falling and rolling over. Such attacks are I know, but remembering a newspaper article from years ago which mentioned birds of prey combining their efforts in search for food (it was on the Navarre province I recall), I believe my eyes rather than all the flack I’ll receive the following days when relating the event. The attack didn’t end with the first sheep, it was still alive I fear, and they continued to attack others, but I ignore whether they were succesfull at it. I met the shepherd afterwards, who explained to me that it is rather the eagles that attack and the vultures come afterwards, yet I told him I clearly saw both circling together. I learned that it is yet rare for vultures to attack (they don’t have the claws to grasp their victim) ; they occasionally will attack a cow or other large animal having given birth and not eaten in time the placenta, and then it can happen the calf is eaten alike. I still shiver at the image and remember how those who related it, spoke in a very soft voice, which restores my belief in human nature. The event shook me up and relating it in the evening at the refuge of Pombie, nobody allowed me to speak out on the event. When I come to think of it, only the sheperd and another person who seemed to play a little more dubious role, really agreed and didn’t change my story. The employee of a forestry organisation added some story about ‘a myth’ that needed to be created by the people who run the refuge in the vicinity. Truth is often hard to come by, and only serious and unbiased thinking can lead to discern real from fiction and unveil reality. The reality when I think of it now, probably being the real overpopulation of prey birds in the Navarre province.
I receive a rather reserved welcome from the people who keep the Refuge de Pombie, as I don’t want to pay for lodgings (I can’t afford it still) and ask if I can take a shower only (willing to pay of course). For the modest sum of 3 Euros I can rinse myself (with very little water). I hope they won’t have to suffer the thirst I’ve known, and when I start relating the story of the combined attack on the sheep, the poop hits the fan.
Where are those days when lodge keepers and hikers alike, shared their experience in a good natured way and truthful to facts of what they experienced? One would think the extremes in our excessive gain oriented society has even more taken root in the minds of these fellow nature lovers as I’d like to consider them. Yet afterwards I learn that it isn’t really in their interest to attest to what is really going on, and they would supposedly like to install a myth of vulture attack. To start with they made me believe they didn’t find themselves within the territory of the National Park of Pic du Midi d’Ossau, which was an outright lie.
I will be talking about this with a few other people the next day, expressing my concern for the National Park and the implication of people living close to nature within them, and I vow a need to extend the frontiers of National Parks for the benefit of all.
The night is long and restless, as spanish climbers having put up their tents next to mine, keep making hay until after midnight, before catching some sleep, and leaving for their ascension in the wee morning hours. How do they do it?