Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Transhumance with donkeys

I had gone out early for a mountain bike ride (in order to beat the heat) and saw someone riding a horse towards me. At this point, the trail was narrow and the mountain was steep, so the horse would probably be nervous. I got of my bike, moved well clear of the trail and sat myself and the bike down. It soon became clear there were several riderless horses following the rider and then ... lots of donkeys, at least 50 of them.

There were 5 or 6 other people helping 'shepherd' the donkeys up the trail. I asked the last one where they were going and she said they were taking them up to the high pastures, where they would spend the summer. This is very common with sheep in the area (and also done with goats and occasionally cows), but it's the first time I've heard of it being done with horses and donkeys. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sailplane to Saint Andre

I've done about 10 sailplane lessons now and, while I'd like to say I'm picking it up quickly, that would be quite an exaggeration. There's lots to learn and, in particular, a lot of instincts to acquire. But I'm doing more and more in each flight and Claude (my instructor) is doing more instructing and less flying. And most lessons are pretty good XC flights in the their own right. 

I realized that I've got a really good opportunity to take photos when flying with Claude, so I took a few today. We had a nice 2 hour flight to St Andre and back, taking a route over the Plateau de Valensole. It's certainly impressive how quickly you can cover distance in a sailplane... A few pics.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hail Storm

Many summer afternoons threaten to overdevelop in in St Andre. It seldom results in a storm, but - especially when flying a paraglider - it can make you a bit nervous. I've almost always managed to be home safely before any storms started, but today was a bit of an exception. Fortunately I was hiking, not flying!

I had a long, hot hike along the Cretes des Serres to the Pic de Chamatte and back. For the last hour or so, I'd been looking at clouds. One in particular had grown threateningly and then - surprisingly - dissipated, making me feel safer. But, about twenty minutes from home, the thunder and lightning started. It was very loud and very near, but not quite over St Andre. 

I still thought I'd get home dry, but within 5 minutes grape-sized hail was falling - and it hurt! I put all my layers on, but there wasn't anywhere I could really shelter, so I rushed home. Initially, the hail melted quickly, but, as the temperature plummeted, it started laying on the ground. By the time I got home, there were rivers of water and hail running through the streets of St Andre, overwhelming some of the drains. The hail would accumulate in some gutters or on roof tops but then fall in a huge lump. 

Fortunately no-one got hurt - though there was damage to lots of flowers and some cars. A new windsock was completely destroyed. Definitely a good time to be on the ground, ideally indoors! A few pics.