The third part of the Basque Country series is devoted to La Rhune, a mountain range that is part of the Pyrenees. The IDS-FunMat group went to La Rhune as an excursion, as we did in Lisbon last year. In the Lisbon entry I mentioned that the word “excursion” reminded me of elementary school field trips, and it still does! The whole class hops onto a bus, all curious and excited. Where would it be this year?
But seriously, we didn’t know where we were going until we actually GOT there. Unlike the previous year, the organizers said nothing about the excursion beforehand except “bring good shoes as we will be going to a place with a scenic view”. Uh, okay. No name of the place was mentioned, why so mysterious? Consequently though, I think some people brought hiking shoes, expecting some arduous trek or heavy walking, but boy, they were sadly mistaken.
You see, according to inside information from a friend, we would be “going to some place by bus, then taking a little train to go up, then we take some photos and leave”. Dot dot dot was followed by more silence. WHAT?! Some place WHERE? Going up WHERE? Take some photos of WHAT? Then confusion was followed by relief for those who didn’t bring hiking shoes – which was most of us – as apparently one of the organizers said, “You could even go in high heels.” Ha!
So we boarded the bus without knowing where we were going. I mean, they could have been driving us to an island for Battle Royale and none of us would have been suspicious. Ugh, what a horrid thought, I shouldn’t have even conjured up that imaginary scenario. Anyhow, we did pass by Biarritz on the way. At least I was quite fascinated by the views of the city from the bus, and some of us wondered why it wasn’t the destination of the excursion instead. (I suppose it was too close a city to be considered a place for an “excursion” yet too far to go on foot.) Those of that did wonder eventually did go to Biarritz…in the next entry 😉
So after about 40 minutes of bus ride, we arrived…at the base of La Rhune. Of course I still didn’t know what this place was, nor did I know that we would be ascending 905 metres to the top of the mountain for some spectacular views of the Basque Country. I waited in line with the others, got my ticket for the little train, and on we went.
We mounted the little train that would take us up to the top of La Rhune. According to the web site of Le Petit Train de la Rhune, it travels at a speed of 8 km/h and delivers you to your destination in about 35 minutes, to an altitude of 905 metres. And the train has been operational since 1924, strong and proud! 😉
Along the way we saw quite a few horses on the steep hills around the train tracks on which we travelled. Some sheep were spotted as well. Up, up, and up still we went…
We passed by some stretches of forest on the way up. As in Anglet, the weather was perfect, though before departure we were advised to bring a jacket or wear something with long sleeves. Advice well-heeded, as it did begin to get slightly chilly as we mounted higher and higher. (Though, 905 metres sounds like child’s play compared to what this guy is doing, especially since we were taking the TRAIN while he’s TREKKING up Everest. Kudos.)
I mean, of course you could get to the top of La Rhune by walking as well, as was made clear by the alternative hiking paths that we saw from the train. It probably would have been an interesting idea, if we didn’t have more than 60 people in our group 😛
(This view also reminded me of the views from the mountains in Gansu province in China, where my mom came from. The last time I was there, it was eight years ago, so my memory may be failing me, but the spectacular rice fields in China were truly fascinating and noteworthy.)
And finally, there we were! At the top of La Rhune, everyone huddled around the big red antenna as our tourguide – wait, we had a tourguide?! – explained the details of the history of La Rhune. I strayed from the group quite early on, so I didn’t hear the story, though I heard later from friends that Napolean’s wife used to come here pretty often…or something. So, instead of paying attention like I should have, I left the group and delved into the surrounding areas.
Apparently, La Rhune lies right on the border of France and Spain, so on one side of the mountain range, you could see the French side of the Basque Country while the Spanish side is on the other side. Right here, the French Basque Country is laid out right in front of our eyes. We knew this was the French side because we could spot the lighthouse where we were at in Anglet, somewhere in the distance. Teehee!
One thing I remember distinctly from the trip was seeing a crow, pitch black, fly by my ears. Even though we were a large group of tourists, our surroundings were so quiet that I could hear its wings flap so loudly and clearly, that the sound echoed in my ear for seconds after the crow disappeared from my sight. It was the first time in my life, I believe, that I’ve heard the flapping of a bird’s wings, and that, to me, was remarkable. Oh, and the crow also reminded me of the song “The Crow, the Owl, and the Dove” by Nightwish.
As I was daydreaming, my friend Uyxing pulled me over to a corner and pointed to those white, fluffy objects. SHEEP! They way they were arranged made them look like they were hiding from people, and they probably were, crowded in a little edge like that! At that very moment I really wanted to grab one to hug, harhar! 😉
Though Annie loves cities and landscapes with water, the mountain trip was a different experience and a nice change from the Atlantic Ocean that had been accompanying me for days before the excursion. Now the next step is to go on a skiing trip when next winter comes along. A friend just told me that “life is not complete without a skiing trip” and that just sparked my desire to go. Adding it to my bucket list? Maybe I will!