Climbing to the top of the world

The next day we stocked up the house with food before heading off higher into the mountains to take the cable car up to the Observatoire Pic du Midi de Bigorre. This is not only a major weather observatory for France and Europe and tracks weather patterns globally, but scientists also use it for important work in botany, astronomy, cosmology.

The info we had said to catch the cable car from a town called La Mongie, so off we went. The drive up was awesome (I know you’re all getting sick of the same old adjectives but we really have seen some stunning sites). Up to and above the snow line we went as the forests cleared and grass and rocks took over. Even up here there were cyclists and walkers! We’d seen pods of them in matching outfits apparently practising for the upcoming Tour de France.

Trouble was we couldn’t find La Mongie. The town we thought was it didn’t seem to have any sign indicating a departure point for the cable car to the observatory and there was definitely no sign of a cable coming out of a ‘terminal’ and going up the mountain. Maybe it was just my inner fear making me blind to its location. So off down the other side of the mountain we drove, still happy with having seen what we’d seen. Since that day though I’ve had that niggling disappointment about at never having completed that mission (just like not seeing the cherry-spitting competition). And it turned out that the town was La Mongie so we’re stumped as to where the cable car was.

We learnt later from Frédéric, the owner of our gîte, that there have been several occasions where the wind up there has become so strong that they’ve had to stop the cable car, leaving tourists stranded up there for up to 2 weeks with the scientists before they could come down again. Frédéric is a truck driver and also told us of times when he has to drive his tip-truck up there for work. The mind boggles. What road?! The limestone shale looks so unstable now, and with the ice and snow melting and thawing and continually moving the earth it would be a very scary prospect.

A rest day and a bit of cycle riding followed next day. The Tour de France riders were practising in this neck of the woods, so we thought we’d go into training. There are quite a few cycle paths. The one we went on used to be a train line, so it was very straight and flat. Heather kept insisting we were riding downhill and worrying about having to ride uphill all the way back home! It was true, but we had a strong tail wind coming back and she actually thought it was easier!

You must follow the link to Pic du Midi to see where we were going. It is spectacular. Click on the little English flag on the right if you want the site to be in English, and click on the Pic in video link on the right, just above Contact. Don’t forget to turn your speakers on. There are several other really cool things to look at on the site as well.

Tina and HeatherLinks

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One Response to Climbing to the top of the world

  1. Rosie says:

    Hi Girls
    I watched every second of the Tour de France and didn’t see you in the line up. Every morning I rode the last 15km on my stationary bike at home to get Cadel over the line. I am exhausted. I can’t wait to see the alps and Pyrenees.
    See you in a fortnight.
    Love Rosie and Jan

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