Written Saturday, January 24, 2009. (This was the day of the enormous storm that slammed SW France, where I was riding. That would explain the sideways rain and snow.)
It was such a strange stretch of road today between two rivers, the Dordogne and the Lot. For the entire 50km there were old stone fences lining the road and crisscrossing the land, but there wasn’t anybody around. There are only a couple towns between the rivers, but the fences went well beyond into the woods or off across fields. They’d been melting, and some had crumbled or fallen while others still stood well. Many fences had deep green moss growing, covering them like rugs. I drove by these stone fences for an hour without seeing more than a handful of other people. There were other structures too, back in the woods there were unmarked ruins of houses just left to decay until they’ll start looking like others – mounds of stones blanketed by that thick moss.
Three-foot-high huts made of those melting stones occasionally popped up on the road. They looked like little shrines though I didn’t see any with religious material, nor do they keep many shrines in protestant countries (though how long have protestants been around?). The huts could have been tool sheds or mile markers or places to leave information for other travelers at some point.
The strangest thing I saw was something I think was modern: a stone table with a pig carved on the front. It was at the very top of a hill back in the woods and I just caught a glimpse as I rode by, so I pulled a u-turn and followed the tracks back off the road. You can see in the picture above – it doesn’t look like anything else in this region, and it looks too exact to be old. So why is it there? It could be a spot where people clean their kill after hunting, but it looks way too intentional for that (besides, don’t you clean a kill by hanging it?). It really looks like an alter to me. What do you think?
The towns here are gorgeous medieval towns, low on the rivers or high on the hills. They have names that aren’t tradtional French, like Uzeches and Gramat and Cajarc and Puyjuarrail. Then there are a lot with the suffix -ac like Espedaillac, Marcilhac and Vayrac, all towns I went through. Marcilhac is the town pictured above. It’s on the river Cele, which is flooding, and across the river is a towering cliff that must block sunlight seven months a year. I don’t know why anyone would live here for these seven months.
Between these rivers I get the feeling that I’m not in France anymore but somewhere and sometime else.