Monday, October 19, 2009

Hiking by the sea

As you can see, we were intrepid little mountain goats, scrambling along rock faces like that (above). Below, please realize that there was a very, very steep, tall cliff between the hikers and the sea, and we had only a very narrow little path to walk on. Thrilling stuff!

The Mediterranean isn't exactly something you get sick of looking at . . .

Our hike was a guided tour, with a large group and a botanist and a geologist. As you can imagine, I didn't quite catch everything those sciencey folks were saying (non-technical French is hard enough!), but I did get that this region is the driest in France, but there are some 900 species of plants nonetheless (did I hear that right?). There are tiers of habitats, starting with the ones closest to the sea, where there's too much salt and wind for much to grow, and continuing until the other side of the hills, protected from the wind, where actual trees can grow. The trees facing the sea don't grow straight; they grow sideways, forced by the wind.

You probably think by now that I live in some vacation paradise where all is warm and sunny. It was shocking for me too, to realize that this land is actually quite rugged. The first I noticed that was swimming on a windy day, and I could feel the sea fighting back. That huge body of water - it wasn't just there to pamper me! It is a beast in its own right. The wind here too can be very fierce. It was after one especially windy day -- so windy it scared me, almost! -- that I started to notice how rocky and rough the land was, and how it resisted the power of the wind, and how it will continue to all winter.


  1. Hi, It's good to see you're becoming a naturalist. I'd be curious to know how much of the landscape can be considered a natural ecosystem for the area. Is the scrub growth on the seaward cliffs due to climate only or was it overgrazed in the past? Here in NH even mature forests are second growth on abandoned farms or land that was logged just over a century ago. We only have pockets of "old growth" representative of the pre- colonial forest. With the long history in that area I wonder if any "old growth" survives? I wonder how many plant species are native and how many are introduced? I expect a full report in the next post.

    Sai kwana biyu. Dad

  2. Easy does it, Dad! The best I can do is make up answers (as any good teacher should know how to do... ;-) ). I'm sure the plant life has changed plenty over the years, although I don't know how or why. It really is a very dry region, though, so I don't know how much plant life could have been supported in the best of circumstances; and I can't picture an area this rocky and this close to the sea being used much at all for grazing -- maybe more inland that could be a problem? I don't know. The botanist definitely did talk about pollution being a problem now, and that the plant life is definitely changing because of it.