An early Spring walk

Spring is a long time coming this year, and since Easter was early there was no guarantee of warm weather. Along with most of Europe we were suffering from a northerly airstream. In England it brought glacial conditions with wind-blown snow; here it produced unsettled weather with a lot of cloud and more rain than usual. Easter Sunday started fine; we sat in the piazza for a while, watching the world go by. But by lunchtime the clouds had rolled in and soon after it started to rain, eventually bucketing down.

Easter Monday began promisingly with a cloudless sky, so a walk seemed a good idea. We decided on the Bevera valley up to Collabassa, a little village above Airole on a ridge between the Bevera and Roya valleys. The path is called a “balcone” as it stays some way above the river. Here’s one of the landmarks along the way.

080324-1And here is yours truly taking a short rest.

080324-2The rain of Easter Sunday had evidently fallen as snow at quite low altitudes, and in a gap between the hills we could see snow-covered mountains further up into the Alps. We later heard that Perinaldo had a snowfall the same day so the snowline must have been at least as low as 600 metres. This may not be exceptional but it’s still pretty cold for the end of March.

080324-3Collabassa looks pretty from a distance, gleaming in the afternoon sun. But as you get closer you can see it’s built on an almost impossible slope of nearly 45°. Getting about in the village is a serious challenge as every street is a steep series of steps. And in spite of its cheerful appearance, on a cool Easter Monday it was downright chilly, with a brisk north wind chasing round the buildings. Nobody was about. There doesn’t seem to be a piazza of any note and the only osteria was closed, so it would appear to be a more dead than alive sort of place. Reaching the ridge at the top of the village we discovered the only road, the one from Airole that winds back and forth up from the Roya river then ends abruptly at a few houses and a messy electricity substation mounted aloft on steel poles. Far away, down by the river, the voices of some hopeful campers floated up; it must have been a cold Easter for them.

080324-4Since there was no bar at which to settle down comfortably with a coffee, and nobody to chat to, there was little alternative but to return the way we came. The clouds were rolling in from the north, repeating the pattern of the previous day, and sure enough, by mid-afternoon it was raining again, though not as heavily as on Sunday.

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