Colours, Textures, Sounds… The Secret Trails of the Pyrenees (Day 5) ~ Sougraigne to Granes

Close-up: Rusty gear and handle

Almost Abstract: Rusty Machinery Parts, Sougraigne

We were in the car, in Australia, driving to an appointment last month, when my husband remarked: “You know, it took us two weeks to walk this same distance!”

It’s true – we routinely cover great distances driving without giving it much thought. When I’m walking, on the other hand, I’m acutely aware of the landscape that I am part of. On our walk along the Cathar Trails in the Pyrenees, one of the things we both commented on was how different our walks were each day: the nature of the forests, streams, and even farms and villages, were quite distinctive. Even the smells of the woods and fields and the sounds of the birds changed from one locale to the next.

Trip Notes Day 5: Sougraigne to Granes

We pass the village of Rennes les Bains and on to Rennes le Château with its small castle dominating the surrounding hills. We spend the night at in a chambre d’hôtes in Granes.

Points of interest: RennesleChâteau

19kms. 5hrs30. Altitude gain/descent: +445m -450m

View of Sougraine church and village against a forested mountain

No Two Towns Exactly the Same: Sougraigne Village Church

Sepia: Crucifix, Sougraine Graveyard

Roughly Worn Iron Crucifix Marks an Old Grave, Sougraigne (Sepia)

While it is true that every French village has a church, and every church has a bell, even these were distinctive in their own ways. Every village also has its own crucifix, or several, but no two were exactly alike.

Spring Chestnut blooms, foreground. Old Village House, Background. Sougraine

Fresh Leaves and Fresh Flowers on the Massive Chestnut Trees, Sougraigne

One of the biggest differences, as we set off from Sougraine to Granes on our fourth day walking, was that we were finally out of the wind and the sun was warming the earth. We heard cuckoos for the first time: further proof, if any was needed, that we were in Europe – and that spring had arrived.

Our day started along the Sals River in « Le domaine de l’Eau Salée » (“The Salty Domain”). The waterways here work their way through the limestone mountains, picking up salt and minerals before bubbling up at the source of the Sals River, near Sougraigne. At times, the Sals has 60 grams per litre of salt – twice that of the Mediterranean. Historically, this high salt content lead to the establishment of baths (including at Rennes les Bains, where Mary Magdalene purportedly baptised people) and ‘salins’; lagoons for the evaporation of valuable salt.

It is also an area where people live off the track and off the grid: in railway cars, self-built dwellings, and old caravans.

Peeling paint: "Circus" on the side of an old bus

Peeling Paint on a Temporary Dwelling: The Circus has Left Town

Celtic Pattern on Stone Marker

Modern Rendition or Ancient Remnant of Continental Celtic Traditions?

Looking up - Rough-barked tree trunk into sky

Almost Abstract: The Texture of Sky

Close-up: Rough Tree Trunk

Almost Abstract: The Textures and Colours of Tree Bark

We left the Sals River and forded the River Blanque to visit the Madeleine Spring. According to our notes, there are two springs “surging out of the rock”: one rich in iron, the other sulphurous. I have to wonder how old the notes are; there is no longer much sign of either spring. Our noses found the sulphurous trickle, while the iron was a mere sludge patch across the rock. I’m told it is good luck to bath your feet here – there was enough moisture to make the whole area dangerously slippery, but certainly not enough for a foot bath!

Graffiti carved into rusted rock

Ancient Graffiti on the Rock Face at the Madeleine Spring

Mossy rocks in a running creek

La Blanque River: This is our Crossing Point ~ I was more than a little worried, as neither my shoes nor my cameras are waterproof!

From the river valley, we climbed up through vegetation that changed again: new forests on the sunny-side of the hill, old farming terraces in the shade and “La Roche Temblant” (The Trembling Rock) towards the top. We came out on a logging road which was bordered by shrubbery, plane trees, chestnuts and pines, and which culminated in modern farming operations.

Newly sawn tree trunk on the forest floor

Textures: Newly Sawn Tree on the Crunchy Leaves of the Forest Floor

Pine cones foreground: Hamlet and hills background

Layers ~ View through the Pine Cones

Pine cone with green fungus on the forest floor

Colours and Textures: Fungus, Pine Cones and the Forest Floor

Piled boulders in a deciduous forest

Light and Shade: La Roche Tremblante

Close-up: Young Pine

The Colour and Texture of New Pine Growth

White cows around a hay feeder

Even the Cows Differed from Place to Place.

Red poppy on green grass

Wild Poppy: Remembrance of Days (and Wars) Past

As a reward for our hard work, we stopped for a real coffee when we reached Rennes Le Château, perched atop its hill. Rennes Le Château hides its own mysteries: one of the most prominent stories is of buried treasures – originally belonging to the Visigoths, the Cathars, and/or the Templars. Other stories concern the Arc of the Covenant, and near by tombs of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene. And so on… I settled for the treasures that the local glass-maker creates.

Shuttered doors and windows

Charming Housed ~ Glass and Shutters ~ Rennes-le-ChâteauLadder for Rapunzel? The Castle of Rennes-le-Château

Pink and Purple Lilac, Rennes-le-Château

Sweet Smells ~ Pink and Purple Lilac, Rennes-le-Château

Red, yellow and blue glass candles, Rennes-le-Château

Light a Candle for your Prayers, Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, Rennes-le-Château

Blue glass windows and wrought iron

Colours and Textures: Stained Glass and Wrought Iron, Presbytery of Rennes-le-Chateau

Man using a blow torch to shape glass ~ Rennes-le-Château

Heat! Glass Maker at Work, Rennes-le-Château

View back to Rennes-le-Château from above Les Labadous

View back to Rennes-le-Château from above Les Labadous

To your health


As always seems to be the case, the last few miles were the longest and slowest, but we stumbled into our lodgings at a reasonable hour, with tired legs and whetted appetites – ready for a hot shower, our evening glass of muscat, and a good meal.

Cheers ~ à votre santé ~ ‘till next time.




  • gabe - June 16, 2011 - 11:27 pm

    just as good. this was a really crisp and nice dayReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - June 17, 2011 - 2:51 am

    Wonderful as always, a question though…. with all the magical places you go are you inundated by take home trinkets (ie glassware)or do you have a will of iron? I can’t imagine NOT wanting to take little pieces of memory (or as Lance would call it -Junk) home with me.

    thanks again for the share…ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - June 18, 2011 - 2:23 am

      Ha Ha! You caught us, Signe. We did buy a lovely glass oil and vinegar decanter. Last time we were here, we bought glass calligraphy pens for the girls. Christmas shopping all done – now I need to open a shop. 😉ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - June 24, 2011 - 2:16 am

    Glass calligraphy pens hmmm sounds interesting!ReplyCancel

  • john kenny - February 13, 2013 - 6:55 pm

    Ursula, Very very intresting stuff, especially the Mary Magdalene connection, something i am intrested in ! Great story, JohnReplyCancel

    • Ursula - February 13, 2013 - 11:49 pm

      Thanks for your visit and interest, John. We found the area fascinating. Still, cant wait to get to your part of the world one day! 🙂ReplyCancel

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