Luchon to Mérens
[extract from If you only walk long enough - exploring the Pyrénees]
In the hostel at Rouze
The heat intensifies but clouds start to arrive from Spain, billowing at first, then blackening. By 4 o’clock it is raining. Through the window of the hostel, we can see the lightning striking the Valier. Half an hour later the farm is awash, the lightning and thunder all around. Ça pisse la vache, it is raining like a cow pisses.
A voluminous, agitated mass runs up the steps outside, taking them two at a time. The door opens and the mass divests itself of its outer layers leaving a rucksack, anorak, pullover, and boots in a sad, damp, inert pile on the floor, and a jumpy, shivering man in front of us. It is as if all the energy has been sucked out of the discarded shell and concentrated in the man himself.
‘… twenty minutes from Couflens,’ he gasps. It took me thirty and I thought I was doing well.
‘Sit down and have a cup of tea,’ I suggest.
‘Yes,’ he replies, but he remains standing up, jigging from one leg to the other, shaking his head, distributing droplets around him.
‘I don’t understand it,’ he continues. ‘I don’t normally get shocked by electric fences. But every one of them between Couflens and here gave me a shock.’
‘You did use the handles, didn’t you?’
‘Yes, but I don’t understand it. There were nine fences. I counted them. Each with two wires. Eighteen shocks. By the time I saw the farm, I was dreading each new fence because I knew what was going to happen as soon as I gripped the handle.’
‘It must be the rain. The handles were wet so they were conducting the electricity.’
‘I don’t understand it,’ he repeats mechanically. ‘I don’t understand it.’