Nic came to visit with Dolly his dog which was a great surprise. The original plan was that he was going to spend a few days here and then continue on into Spain to visit friends for the rest of the week. At the last minute plans changed and he was here for a swift day and a half. We crammed a whole lot in.
The first afternoon, after one of Marks amazing thai curries we headed out in the mist to walk to Pla d’Adet, the view wasn’t there just thick cloud. Along the path, evidence of several avalanches, one of which had caught several walkers the week before, It worried me slightly that they weren’t over and I didn’t fancy being someone else winched to safety by helicopter in a dramatic rescue. We arrived safely and I waved to one of the bus drivers that I know as we walked into the village, he stopped the bus and we got an impromptu lift home.
The weather was sunny but threatening a bit of snow so we took the dog for a good walk on a route that I have been meaning to do for ages. I always decide that skiing is a better idea but with a dog a walk was a must. We checked with the girl in the ticket office who said that there were no rules forbidding dogs on the station, so we went.
Up in the ‘eggs’ which felt odd without ski equipment and then down on a chair lift, towards the lake. There was a grumpy attendant who wasn’t at all sure that a dog should be allowed but we went, ignoring his protestations. We held the dog tight and I discovered why everyone looks frozen when they take that lift down the hill, it catches a cruelly cold wind. Half way to the lake we crossed an area of ski slope to get to the next lift, Dolly was so excited, running round in huge circles, surprising everyone there, it isn’t often that you see a dog in the middle of a ski resort, miles from habitation.
She got the hang quickly and snuggled between us on the second descent. The scenery was beautiful, the trees sparkling with a slight dusting of snow and their trunks glowing orange from the sunlight reflected back from the snow. Slowly, the huge dam and lake came into view, the water level low and completely covered in snow. It is always a surprise to see the water levels so low but then, most of the water is still stuck on the mountains as snow. It’ll be full to overflowing when it all melts this year.
More surprised faces and comments from folk passing in the other direction and when we arrived at the bottom. It’s a weird sensation descending and alighting a ski lift without skis, Dolly didn’t think so, leaping off at the right moment and knowing exactly where to go.
We set off, not sure how far we were going to walk. The lake looked huge and there was an enormous amount of snow everywhere. The track was evident only by following the tracks of others and not by any of the usual markers. We made good progress and soon decided to go right the way round the lake. We discussed cutting of the far end but decided it would be too dangerous as there was no way of knowing how deep the snow was or if the ice would support our weight. Dolly was in her element, tracking scents and chasing and destroying the countless sticks that we threw for her. Boundless energy.
Nic and I caught up on news since I stayed last autumn, discussed plans for the future and bandied about ideas for his land and making ends meet. He’s started a bee keeping course and is excited about getting his first hive. We explored an old shelter with a vaulted stone ceiling and theorised about winter trekking in the mountains.
Ancient shepherds huts and shelters were visible deep in the snow, and a bridge that we crossed had a good six feet of snow across its top, making it feel rather fragile and unsafe. It was great to be outside in the elements away from the crowds and in complete silence. I no longer notice how noisy the ski station is, but in contrast all there was to hear was the occasional bird in the stillness of the winter landscape. Pictures are always easier than words, so here is where we were:
We had a true mountain lunch of Tartiflet at little refuge by the dam before heading back. Dolly was much more independent on the lifts, commanding her own chair when possible and fascinated by looking out over the slopes, skiers and landscape. The lift attendants surprised and happy to see her so confident on the return journey.
A flying visit needed a bit of calm so we headed to the thermal baths of Balnéa for a soak. It’s a hit with all the guests that go and my brother absolutely loved our visit last year, so I wasn’t concerned that Nic wasn’t going to enjoy it. Two hours of soaking, floating, steaming and sauna’ing under water music and a pile of snow to roll in, what more could one ask for? Nothing.
We left without a trouble in the world, clean and slightly wrinkled from the hot water and me, feeling better than I have been in a long time. It was just what I needed after the holidays. Nic loved it too; he continued on his journey to Spain and I came back to the chalet for the soundest nights sleep in ages. Wonderful.