From :

Wagon. A cranky contary female / an ugly female. She\'s some wagon eh?

wagon. wagon - an awful woman. than one is such a wagon!

wagon. a woman thats a bitch. dat ones a right wagon.

Wagon. A cantankerous old woman.. Yer wan's some wagon, I asked her could I feed the seagulls and she lifted me out of it!

wagon. car or other mode of transport. i'll drive my waggon.

Wanderly Wagon. A much loved Irish children's TV program which ran from 1968 to 1982

Monday, 23 April 2012

Day 10 - Venterol to Teysierres

or "And we thought the Monts de Vaucluse was Tough"

Our stay in Camp-Anes near Venterol was damn near idyllic.  We had booked a paddock for the horses, but unfortunately there was a sanglier incident the night before we arrived, all of their horses took fright, broke the electric fencing and escaped.  Not wishing to risk any damage to visiting horses, Jean-Yves and Anne-Marie gave us two stables instead.  This is the view the horses had :
Apologies for the colour being a bit "off", Flurry was in fidget mode on Saturday and I accidentally set my camera into some weird mode which affected the white balance.  It's all fixed now (thanks, LSH!)
Camp-Anes' main business is hiring donkeys to walkers - they have a total of fourteen donkeys which are used by groups of walkers (mostly families) as pack animals on hiking holidays.  Jean-Yves is a mine of information on the local routes, as he is constantly sending tourists off in all directions with one of his beloved donkeys, so when he offered to advise us on routes we jumped at the chance - you can't beat local knowledge!  He marked out what seemed to be the best choice on a special map - it's called an "a la carte carte", made specially for walkers in this region - you can't buy it in the shops!
We're going demi-pension in all of the gites at the moment, which means we get breakfast and dinner, and a packed lunch if we pay extra.  We'd had three days of eating out in Beaumes de Venise and we all needed some good home cooking, which we certainly got!  Magret de canard, risotto made with spelt, goats cheese salad and apple crumble, complete with Côtes de Rhone rosé and red wines on the table.  Anne-Marie is passionate about serving locally sourced food, and it was all delicious.  Her enthusiasm is infectious, and we spent ages talking about the problems faced by the local food producers and how best to use truffles - Anne is updating the recipe section accordingly.
Our best find in Camp-Anes was this - a Wanderly Wagon!
Godmother and Judge are at the window... that must be Rory and Foxy at the back steps!
All of us were rejuvenated after our rest day, and we headed off eagerly on Monday morning.  We thought the donkey balisage was quite charming :
 and the first half of the day went very well.  We negotiated a tunnel
 and this fancy bridge
 and then followed an old railway line through yet more vines.
the stream which followed the road
Our seasoned trekking horses took everything in their stride.  We followed a country road alongside this little stream for ages.
Flurry and Gigi are now accustomed to drinking regularly while we're out, so we stopped a couple of times and let them fill up.
To be honest, it was verging on boring, but there was no traffic and the scenery was very pretty, so we were happy enough.
Pretty valley along the country road
Just as I was starting to get worried about having missed a turn, we found what was unquestionably the correct road, which led off to the right, and up the mountain via a series of hairpin bends.  While going around one of the bends, I noticed a scrap of fur to my left.... and then realised there was an open eye as well!  "Is that dead or alive," I called back to Anne.  After an initial "What? Where?" she spotted the fur and replied "Alive - it's a leveret (a baby hare)."  So I quickly circled back and snapped a photo, but didn't hang around in case I scared the little guy!  He was incredibly well camouflaged, can you see him?
Leverets stay where their mother leaves them, flattening themselves into the ground, just like this guy.  It seems to be a fairly good survival mechanism!
We continued to climb, with Mont Ventoux looming over the hills in the distance.  It's funny to think that on Saturday, we were up there, having a picnic, looking over in this direction.
Mont Ventoux
We knew that we were in the environs of a goat farm, so it seemed inevitable that we'd meet them.  Sure enough, we heard a faint "Clong! Clong!" in the distance, and after a few minutes, spotted the herd of goats scrambling up the hillside to the left of the road, complete with goat-herder and dogs.
With goats (possibly of the horse-eating variety) to the left of us and a sheer drop to the right of us, we decided that the smart thing to do would be to dismount and lead the horses past.  Much to our relief, they were fine, Gigi was very tense, but Flurry was quite happy.  Shortly after we stopped for lunch at this corner of the trail :
It was very distinctive, and I knew for sure that we were at the point where Jean-Yves said we should leave the trail and follow a path.  He had advised us to dismount and lead the horses down the first sections, he described it as being quite overgrown, difficult to see the ground, and with a lot of steps down for about 50 metres, but quite passable, so long as the horses would not rush, which we were quite sure they wouldn't (we were right!).
We could see that the path dropped very steeply, so I checked it out on foot.  Sure enough, it was a very steep descent with lots of big rocky steps down, but after some distance (I would have said 70M, not 50) it seemed to get a little easier and started switchbacking down the hill.
I went back to Anne, and we had a quick discussion.  We'd been caught out on Friday and Saturday with following footpaths, which turned out to be unsuitable for horses, so we were reluctant to leave the trail we'd been advised to follow.  We were in the middle of nowhere, so really, we felt our only option was to trust the advise we'd been given and follow the path down.  So we descended somewhere along this crag :
East end of crag
West end of crag

Indeed, the first 70M or so were the worst.  So bad, that there are no photos.  The horses, once again, rose to the occasion, and obediently followed - down a step, pause, get the back legs down, pause, turn a bit, let the human go down another step, and repeat.  Here's a photo from the next section - the easier bit!
It remained rocky for ages, then we were descending along loose scree.  We stopped for a couple of rests along the way, for the horses, ostensibly, but in reality it was to give our shaking legs a chance to recover.  We were both worried about the possibility of Anne having another "funny turn" like she had on the ascent of the Monts de Vaucluse, but fortunately she was fine all the way.  I was worst off, my knees were really suffering with the constant steep descent.  I was just concentrating on keeping going and checking the map to make sure we were still going the right way; Anne was bargaining with God - "Just let us get down, and we'll never ask for anything again!"
 This photo is from a rest stop, about halfway down:
Yes, we were headed for that valley floor, far, far below.
Finally, we emerged into a field of lavender, and heaved sighs of relief.  After a group hug (the horses didn't get involved, they were too busy scoffing grass) we both agreed that if we'd known what lay ahead, we wouldn't have done it.  We also agreed that riding on French horse trails is confusing - you end up with vast stretches of boredom, interspersed with moments of sheer terror.
We followed a tractor trail out of the lavender field and found these little beauties!

Their owner kindly produced a bucket of water for Flurry and Gigi.  They were less thirsty than we expected - in fact, they were less stressed by the whole descent than we were!
At this, stage we could see rain moving in from the South, so we continued on our way, hoping to get to Teysierres before it got too bad.  
Jean-Yves had said that we would be on a horse trail at this point, and sure enough, we soon found proper horse balisage once again, and followed the trail as it wound back uphill again.  It was nice to feel secure in the knowledge that the trail was horse-friendly... until we met this!
It's really hard to make it out in the photo, but there's a cliff to the left of the trail and a steep drop to the right of the trail.  It's been water damaged at this point and quite a bit of the trail has been washed away down the hill.  I took one look and said "We need to dismount here!"  So we both jumped off, and I led Flurry over it carefully, trying to encourage him to keep left as much as possible.  We crossed it safely, and as Anne followed with Gigi, I heard a bit of scuffling.  "Are you ok," I asked. I can't remember what she actually replied, but "Just about" would have been right.  It seemed that as Flurry crossed over, there was a bit of subsidence, then as Gigi followed, the ground gave away completely and her hind legs went from under her.  With a bit of a scramble, she got all four feet on terra firma - huge sighs of relief all round.  So much for being on a safe, horse-friendly trail!

We had no more incidents after that.  The scenery had become incredibly rugged, and it was raining steadily at this stage.  We wound around another mountain, and finally saw the welcome sight of Teysierres at the far end of the next valley.
Much to our relief, La Mielandre, where we are staying, was just at the end of the horse trail.  We checked over the horses - no cuts or bumps, thank goodness.  Then we washed the Renegade boots - to find that Gigi has worn a hole at the front of her right hind boot!  We will try one the size 2 boots, it might fit, otherwise we will have to order another size 2W and have it sent over from the US.
Gigi and Flurry were turned out in a paddock, to have a nice bit of grass and some hay.  The rain got heavier and heavier, so we ended up stabling them again - at least they will be dry in the morning.
We told the owner of La Mielandre about the subsidence on the trail - it turned out that section of trail has been closed, and we should have taken a longer route around the next valley.
And the moral of the story? Never take advice from a donkey man about horse trails!

The Everytrail map - our winding descent seems to have completely confused Everytrail, it looks like we meandered aimlessly around the side of the mountain.  I swear, it was nothing like that!
Day 10 - Venterol to Teyssieres at EveryTrail


  1. It all made for exciting reading...

  2. I am loving your trip! The photos, the views, the horses!
    Keep up the good work :)

  3. @Denis It made for very exciting living as well!

  4. I would like to read about your meals....prepared, cold, ......or do you just shoot something?

  5. Love the tunnel and bridge--looks like your mounts were ok with them both. What type of boots are you using on the horses? Curious to know how they are holding up to the rigors of the trail. Any rubbing on the heels? Lovely pics! I'd love to pack up and join you!

    1. Thanks, our horses are really great now with everything except sheep & goats! We're using Renegade boots, they're holding up really well except Gigi has rubbed a hole on the toe of her right hind, which she tends to drag.
      No heel rubbing (touch wood)!

  6. Replies
    1. We'd prefer a teeny bit less excitement....