TransHu Autumn 2013: Day Seven

Slightly remiss of me, I ended on day six when in fact day seven can still be counted as part of the adventure.
Occasionally one or two of the party may head for home late on the evening of day six; for the rest of us, day seven marks our departure from Porta and the beginning of the long haul home. But before the night train trundles its way northwards, some of us take time to enjoy our last view of these spectacular mountains from the relaxing environment of the natural spa baths in Ax les Thermes.
But imagine the shock on exiting the baths to find that the night train has also been cancelled… so it was all aboard a rather chilly TER to Toulouse where our train would finally leave in the wee small hours.

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TransHu Autumn 2013: Day Six

And here we are, sitting at the breakfast table on day seven, writing up the events of the penultimate day. As always, and certainly in retrospect, everything has passed very quickly; and nothing more so than the last day in the saddle.
Our departure from Puivert at 09:15 was accompanied by rain, initially light but the higher we climbed, the harder it got! Fortunately, not constant but we were all pretty wet by lunchtime.
The morning was marked by two small incidents: first a GPS failure meant we missed a turning and had to double back; a short while later, half the herd charged through an electric fence belonging to a horse owner! Repairs were rather hampered by the fence being live…
Day four is pretty long so lunch was not extended; which meant fighting to don wet jackets and saddle the horses with wet saddles. The atmosphere changes slightly too – everyone realises that this is the last afternoon and the end is in sight. Nevertheless, everyone is still in a good mood and a number of long gallops and horses taking short cuts kept us all awake.
And suddenly, there before us, was the last corner and the last gallop to the highest point of this wonderful herd’s winter domicile. TransHu d’automne 2013 was at an end.
In the evening we reflected over the traditional glass of champagne followed by a “raclette” supper. Bed was a necessary evil with everyone turning in by around 1 in the morning!00!

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TransHu Autumn 2013: Day Five

Just a short report today. Our departure from Comus was rapid and without problem. The first part is over quiet metalled roads; after the first col, we took to the rutted tracks again – and again 50cm snow! This is actually quite useful in slowing the herd and stopping any horse from attempting to overtake.
Lunch was at the house of the Maquisades that was torched by the Nazis. This is the same spot where we have lunch on the second day of the spring transhu. Just like then, this is a longer lunch break since the afternoon is reasonably short. Having said that, there is a long descent over a lot of rocks – the surety of the horses being highly valued at such moments.
This evening, the horses can rest well, next to the graveyard!

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TransHu Autumn 2013: Day Four

A very long and tough day – therefore no blog last night. At 08:30 sharp Mr. Many’s minibus whisked us off through the Tunnel de Puymorens to reunite us with the horses.
Either because of incidents or somewhat mismatched horses, there was some shuffling around but we were still on the road pretty rapidly. Lots of ice on the first stretch made it treacherous at times but we got through Mérens-les-Vals without incident.
There is then a very long, very steep climb where all the horses struggle and, usually, once at the top, a number then has a good roll in the snow – only this time, we encountered half a metre of snow rather than a ‘layer’ so there was no rolling this year! The decent was incredibly tough – with snow that deep, it is step for step, each horse following exactly in the footsteps of the one in front.
The customary holding-up of the traffic in Ax les Thermes was followed by lunch on the side of the road up to the Col de Chioula. The sun and snow made pleasant change from the torrential rain of two years ago.
Once over Chioula, it is a decent – again, this year all on the roads due to the snow – to Comus. A “short cut” down the D20 saw us back in deep snow but luckily just for a short distance before heading for the night-meadow at the back of the village.
All in all a good day but at 50km, very long.

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TransHu Autumn 2013: Day Three

At 9 sharp, everyone was in the meadow ready to catch, brush and saddle up their horse. At 10 the “caravane” was ready to depart. From La Pastorale at 1500m the route took us through Porté-Puymorens over the hairpins of the old road to the Col de Puymorens at 1915m. Contrary to previous occasions, we caused some gigantic traffic jams! This time we had to stop at a couple of parking areas to allow all the cars and lorries to pass our herd of 73 horses. Once we passed the col, it was a rapid decent, in a trot, some 7 km to L’Hospitalet près l’Andorre and lunch. The horses were left in a small meadow with the snow 50cm deep!
This afternoon was different from normal; a mini-avalanche had blocked the regular route and so we had to take the route nationale for quite some distance. Once we had passed the blockage, we got back onto the small tracks to head for our end point for today just a couple of kilometres from Mérens-les-Vals – where the Mérens horses come from.
Because we had a load of riding on the roads, we got to the evening stop early – nevertheless, it was a tough day.

TransHu Autumn 2013: Day Two

The rest of the group arrived just in time for breakfast and then it was all hands on deck rounding up the horses. Being spread over a few thousand hectares, that can be quite a job but luckily about 65 were on the lower slopes – but the last few had disappeared up the mountainside! And it is quite hard work when the snow is 40cm deep, hard in places and soft in others… But we managed to round up all 73 before lunch.

This afternoon was the “trial run” matching horse and rider and making a circuit of about an hour and a half. Not without any incident – one or two horses had major slides on sheets of ice covering some of the rock. Happily everyone stayed on and the horses did not suffer any injuries.

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TransHu Autumn 2013: Day One

Actually day two since I started out yesterday afternoon, but since I didn’t arrive until 08:00 this morning, we’ll call this Day One.

Actually a quiet day – people start drifting in from around lunchtime and find themselves in the middle of some activity or another.
The main jobs today were to do with insuring the trailer was loaded up with all the things needed for the next few days.

By the evening meal, all but three of our company had arrived. The level of experience is mixed; some have already ridden one or two transhumances, for me it is my fourth and for the rest it is the first.