September 24, 2012

Lac d'Estaing & Col de Bordères

My legs have been demanding a bit of a break, and for these past two days they have had a reprieve. Yesterday I rode to Lac d'Estaing, a beautiful lake and favorite destination for both local visitors and French vacationers. It isn't far from Arrens Marsous, where I'm staying, and my route took me through several local villages. I didn't take many photos until I arrived there, but this church door demanded attention.

The lake is well known for its blue or green waters, depending on the wind and the sky. It is also well-known for the grazing horses who beg food from visitors. This little donkey was the first to beg as people got out of their cars. The children didn't know whether or not to be scared. For whatever reason, and I am glad, the grazing animals pretty much give the bike a wide berth, though I have narrowly avoided a collision with a non-budging cow or two.

It is a glacier lake, left I suppose by the last ice age, and surrounded by high mountains on its upstream end. It reminds me of glacial lakes in the high Rockies and Sierra. It took a long time to see them, but I heard them first, because it sounded like whistling coming from the lake surface. There were tiny tiny little diving ducks on the lake, I doubt if they were any bigger than robin sized. I checked with my expert birding friend, Larry, who identifies them as Little Grebes, not ducks at all. They are only 23 to 29 cm in length.

Camping vehicles are supposed to be limited to that end of the lake, where there is a campground, souvenir shop and restaurant that was part self-service, part carryout and part cafe tables. It was confusing to me what I was supposed to do to get something to eat. Sit down? Go inside to order? When I went in to ask what the drill was, for whatever reason, my language skills just about totally deserted me and I stammered something totally incomprehensible, I am sure. I have noticed that when I lose language I have this odd tendency to sort of wave my hands from side to side right in  front of my face. I guess it is a waving away of the offending lack of fluency. I don't know, it is reflexive, and must look very strange. Luckily for me the person behind the counter was kind and patient, and had probably seen worse. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for cyclists who travel in countries where they have no language in common with the residents.

Leaving presented a very different landscape, as I retraced my routes downstream.

I turned left, climbing out of the valley to the Col de Bordères. And here I will spare you the obligatory photo of you-know-what. After the last few days long climbs, this was short, if steep, climb with a descent offering magnificent views.

The descent took me right down into Arrens.

I sat alongside the Gave d'Arrens for a bit, admiring its swift descent down the valley, and playing with the camera,  before continuing into town.

Lastly, a detail of stonework.


  1. You are having better luck with the weather than we are over here, I'm glad to see.

    1. Didn't realize it has been wet there? I have been very fortunate indeed!


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