Yep, despite the sunset, and a pretty good rise too, the usual maybe-I'll-be-a-cloud-maybe-I-won't puffs of white lurked in the corners. We would go down, and as usual Claudia and I wanted to set off early and get a head start. Not least because using the latrine in this case had meant fording a stream (in the dark remember), which none of us felt inclined to do, and Claudia's "wet 'n' windy" constitution had left her quite uncomfortable. We set off before breakfast. A funny thing happened. This was the last day, so it did not really matter what you lost or left behind, but I don't like leaving things behind whatever the excuse. Even if it was my stupid poncho. Besides, I planned to give it a much slower and more painful death than simply leaving it somewhere. But there it was: gone. Not to be found. It obviously came out of hiding as soon as I had gone, because it was clear enough to Martha that it had been left behind and that it was mine. But she assumed that I had left it deliberately, and left it too.
The first hour or so was a very steep descent off the plateau occupied by the refuge. But towards the end of the second hour we reached the forest which marked the end of the hard walking, and the beginning of the pretty stuff. We decided to keep going until we reached the Bergerie de Tolla , where we had joked that we would meet Martha and Alfie for breakfast. Although it was long after breakfast time, we had still not eaten, and breakfast had begun to be more of a dream than a joke. The further down we went, the more green and lush the forest became. The valley became more of a gorge, and we were constantly in earshot, and often in sight of, the mountain stream which had carved this niche for itself. The water crashed and splashed over the huge boulders which formed the stream bed. Occasionally a tree had fallen across too, and was gradually being eaten away by the force of water.
Figure 28: Ah! Forest. And mountain stream
It was time for our break, but we kept thinking that the bergerie must be just around the next bend, and we would feel mighty foolish if we discovered we had stopped moments short of our goal.
The path was thick with pine needles which were a pleasure to walk on, allowing us to pick up the pace considerably. We were also helped by the level ground, and by an agreement we made that for every minute of walking over the fifty minute schedule, we would stop for an extra two. Finally a straggle of tin roofs hove into view. Followed almost immediately by a straggle of brown donkeys. They were extremely interested in us (the donkeys I mean), but fortunately they were soon distracted by two idiots offering them some bread. The donkeys assumed that the menu was a la carte and started to consume rucksacks, jackets and anything else they could get their faces into. Maps seemed a particular delicacy.