We have lived in this area for 17 years and visited on holiday for years before that. We have always had the intention to one day climb to the top of the Pic de Bugarach, the mysterious mountain which, at 1240 metres, dominates the immediate area. Yesterday Gay and I, led by the intrepid Bill Harper, finally did that. Bill is a man who was born not too far from the place of my birth and indeed attended school only half a mile from my childhood home. But I met him only in recent years here in the Pyrenees.
Bugarach is the place which was alleged to be the only safe place in the world when the Mayan so-called phrophesies were scheduled to finish all the rest of us off last December. It is the centre of all sorts of other myths and legends as well, as you will find if you Google the word "Bugarach".
The mountain is hollow, many say, and contains variously a huge lake or flying saucers. The mountain is magnetic, it has upheld the feet of Jesus and Mary Magdalene - all these stories can be found. What is certain is that there are frequently odd characters to be found on the slopes of the mountain, singly or in groups. As we mounted yesterday, we heard chanting in a loud voice. Coming down the path towards us was a man, dressed in mediaeval garb. We spoke the usual greeting. He carried on chanting, wheeled left and down another path, giving no sign that he had seen us.
p.s. I wrote the above then went out for a haircut. I mentioned to the barber that we had been up Bugarach yesterday. He said "Did you see any extra-terrestrials up there?"