We had long thought of spending a night up at the Batere, and this September we achieved it. It must be admitted, however, that it did not all go according to plan. We had been a little worried about flies, and had chosen what was expected to be a breezy night; there were, indeed, few flies, but there was a strong, cold wind all through the hours of darkness. It so happened, too, that the cows had decided to take up residence close to the best place for parking the old campervan; their bells may be evocative during the day and in the distance, but when you are trying to sleep and they are close by, they sound rather less poetic … and one cow, standing very close to us (despite being moved on a couple of times), was into heavy breathing. So, we did not sleep that well, but it was nice to wake up and see the sun steal over Vallespir; a nice, peaceful morning ...
For a short while. Fortunately, we were up and dressed before les chasseurs arrived. We had not thought of them, but it was, after all, mid-September and a Sunday morning. They were quite pleasant and indicated that if we aimed to go higher up the gentle hills, we could come to no harm; they were going to be in the dense wood and shrubland below the road. That indeed turned out to be true, and I have to say we were most impressed by the safety measures they put in place. Notices were placed, orange vests worn by everyone, and observers with walkie-talkies posted at regular intervals along the track to the tower, which is where most visitors would venture. There were a few higher up, too, as we discovered, as we walked up our usual route towards the col between the rounded summits.
Once round the corner, into what we think of as “marmot-land”, there was no noise, and we began to relax. There were some marmots to be seen, one presumably rather old, with a white muzzle, but they were generally wary and offered no great photo-opportunities. We did wonder what exactly they were getting to eat, as all the grass was brown and dead, cropped short. The whole place was drier than we had ever seen it, and, in addition, there were far more sheep. Given how readily sheep die, it was a surprise only to see one vulture during the entire day.
Realising the other ambition was a matter of pure luck. Neither of us was feeling that great, but when the forecast was for another hot day with calm seas, we summoned up the energy to get out in the boat. We are so glad we did. There were countless fish on the Marine Reserve; around the rocks, curtains of bream hanging almost motionless, and the densest masses of salema (rather as you imagine shoals of herring used to be) we have ever seen.
After a while, the sun largely disappeared in high cloud, and we decided that if we aimed to head back northwards, a bit out from the coast, then we might stay in its gentle light. This we did, and while still in Spanish waters, we noticed something moving, occasionally splashing well ahead of us. So we speeded up, and headed in that direction, to find that we had met a small group, (maybe eight or nine individuals), of dolphins. They were, very firmly, heading south, not in a greatly playful mood, so only very occasionally and quickly breaching. Mostly, we just saw part of the back, and the fin, but had good views of these, and eventually, one or two passable photographs.
We only have a couple of books from which to judge, by the shape of the fin, which species they might be, and it is not easy to decide, but, on balance, we think they were bottle-nosed dolphins. There was certainly no apparent light colouring on their sides, which characterises the common or striped, which are the other likely candidates. But, in a way, it was not the ID that mattered.
Here, in the Mediterranean sunshine, off our wonderful coast, we had met a group of fellow inhabitants of this planet. They were strong, sturdy, aware of us and unworried, intent on their own lives and requirements, deserving of respect … how better could you end a day at sea?