Before leaving for cold Britannia, Geoff had spotted in a local ex-pats publication what was, to us, an appealing event. There was to be a free guided walk around the Bernia on Sunday morning, meeting at 9:00 AM in Jalon’s main village square. On this exchange rate, “free” is a particularly appealing word. There’s not a lot of parking available in what we thought was Jalon’s main square so we were a little uncertain as to precisely where the intended meeting place might be but we thought we’d give it a go anyway. We had circumperambulated the Bernia on a previous trip but it’s a great walk and we were keen to do it again. Besides, it would refresh our memory of the route so we might be better prepared to take Steve and Rosemary who are flying out to join us on the coming Wednesday.
So, pets fed and watered, we set off at 8:55 AM for Jalon. Sure enough, the main square with very few parking places was the meeting place and cars were littered all around with gay abandon. I joined in and littered Geoff’s car along with the rest. We had been expecting a British party since the notice was in an ex-pats publication. However, it soon became apparent that all bar one of the assembled throng, about 20 strong, was Spanish. Maybe this is an excursion run by the Val de Pop tourist office. There was one other British lady who had apparently lived in Jalon for 18 months so we might have someone else to converse with, but she seemed to get lost on our eventual drive to the start point. Darn! How can she have lived in Jalon for that long and not know where the Bernia is, I wonder?
I’ve been listening to some Spanish podcasts in order to get as bit more familiar with the language. This is not a difficult task since I’ve never before learned any Spanish. However, after a brief round of the obligatory and simple “hola” and/or a perfectly pronounced “buenos dias”, I was floundering. Given my dozen or so 20-minute lessons, I could have told them that today is Sunday, which at least was true, or that I was a student in Madrid, which clearly isn’t true, but they already seemed to be well aware that today was Sunday and I really didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot lying. Neither did it seem appropriate to suddenly announce that I had two brothers, three sisters, one mother, one father, six sons, five daughters and twelve wives. However, should I ever be in a position to impart such intimate knowledge, I will be well equipped to do so. Let’s hope that we’ll eventually meet someone next who is keen to know such things – a blackmailer, perhaps.
Having collectively littered around our various forms of transport once again, this time at the base of the Bernia, and having wondered what had become of our new found but short-lived English friend, we set off amidst a lot of excited Spanish jabbering. After about half a kilometer, I had that sinking feeling that I couldn’t remember having locked the car; Geoff’s car. It’s many years since I attempted to run but, with the Spanish contingent striding purposefully forward, run I did back to the car. At least it was not a false alarm; I hadn’t locked it. Correcting my oversight, I began running all the way back again. I am now very well aware of the reason I found running to be a particularly silly and uncomfortable pastime, especially with a heavy, camera-laden rucksack on one’s back.
Eventually we caught up with the throng and discovered a particularly jolly young lady accompanied by her very tiny dog called “Nilo”, or some such. Nilo was about the size of a Chihuahua but with a pointy snout – painfully cute, really. I wondered if Nilo meant something like “nothing”, given its lack of size. Nilo lived life at a hundred miles an hour and entertained the multitude all the way around the Bernia walk.
Probably the most interesting feature of the walk around the Bernia is crossing from the north side to the south side through a natural tunnel. The tunnel is very low and required everyone except tiny Nilo to crouch to get through it. After negotiating the tunnel and a few scrambles up rock faces, more akin to rock climbing that walking, we eventually completed our walk around the Bernia without further mishap, other than Carol and my legs being savagely licked by little Nilo, presumably for the salt.
Having filled in an assessment form for the guided walk, we once again returned home to free our captive, borrowed pets, before settling down to a well-earned beer/rosado on the patio. I was almost – almost, that is – too hot. What a difference 1000 miles south makes to the strength of the sun in December.