Carol found a leaflet of balades (walks, outings) in the information room on our campsite. One, a route for walkers or cyclists along an old dismantled railway between Mirepoix and Lavalanet, grabbed our interest so we loaded the bikes on the car and set off to look for it. We are near the Mirepoix end so we began our search there. Regrettably, signs were there none; at least, none that we could see. The route supposedly passed near the village of Camon so we headed in that direction. Success, signs at last for the voie verte (literally, green road).
We set off pedalling towards Lavelanet passing an old station now seemingly used as a house and cycling through an interestingly illuminated tunnel. Next we came across another rather spookily dark tunnel, the end of which was not visible due to its going round a curve. At its darkest point, the surface wasn’t visible either. Pedalling along without being able to see the surface one is cycling on gets a little disconcerting. Eventually we emerged unscathed at the far end and spotted two other cyclists approaching the tunnel from the opposite direction. One of them stopped at the entrance to the dark tunnel, lent over and … switched on the tunnel’s lights. Live and learn.
We chose to return along the road rather than the voie verte. Turning old disused railway lines into cycle tracks is a common practice – we’ve cycled some of the Camel Trail in Cornwall – and seems like a grand idea. The truth of the mater is, though, that the tracks most often go through cuttings or dense trees and you end up actually seeing very little. Our route back along the road took us through a couple of sleepy villages and proved to be considerably more interesting. The tunnels were fun, though, especially those with lights, so let’s keep up the practice.
Camon, our point of departure, sported a particularly bizarre and fascinating construction of iron and wood. It appeared to be something resembling stocks for locking up local villains. Fortunately there was an explanation of its actual purpose provided to put ignorant tourists’ minds to rest. It turned out to be a restraint for shoeing bulls. I’ve never heard of shoeing bulls; horses, yes, but bulls? Bulls were used to pull carts along paved roads, I imagine. Live and learn.
We had considered a picnic out for lunch but had missed the local shops’ trading hours. Instead we called into a Super-U supermarket where we couldn’t resist a pack of mussels for lunch. We returned to camp and I did my best to make moules caravanière, Billy’s version of the French classic, moules marinière. The mussels were utterly delicious. Given our location, why would we have contemplated a picnic elsewhere?