The little electric train rattles up the hill from Villefranche towards Mont Louis, climbing high along the side of the valley of the river Tet. At request the train will drop you off at Thuès Carança, pausing briefly before grinding into action again with a blast of its distinctive whistle. As silence descends on the deserted platform you are faced with two helpful notices. One warns of Danger de Mort (or danger of death) should you choose to venture across the track with its electrified third rail, to scramble down the hillside towards the river. Another notice warns of a similar fate if you try to climb the unstable cliff behind the single platform. It looks like a long wait till the next train.
The outlook is much better than it appears at first glance. At the far end of the platform a narrow path, fenced between the track and the rock face, leads round a corner to a level crossing. A small sign attached to a tree points to the Gorge de Carança and a great day’s exploration. It’s not as remote as it looks. There’s a small village, an open air café, a car park and a way marked trail up the gorge, but scrambling up the rocky path you’re soon in the wild landscape of the Pyrenees.
For a botanist or gardener there’s a fascinating selection of plants to catch your eye, when looking down into the depths of the gorge seems like a bad idea. Here mediterranean garigue merges with alpine flora and temperate woodland. Sempervivums and sedums cling to sun baked cliff faces, thyme and marjoram lodge in sheltered pockets of earth, and hellebores spread under the oak trees. Flambé, prosperine and citron de Provence butterflies feed on pinks and red valerian, drifting out over the gorge as you approach with a camera…….
Fitting our walk to the timetable of the Train Jaune, we didn’t reach the lake at the head of the gorge but crossed on the first suspension bridge to follow the corniche paths back down the other side. My photos don’t give you the full flavour of the route as I was too busy watching my feet at the best bits, unlike the photographer for La Grolle du Caroux website. Take a look by clicking the link below:
And here’s a link for more about the celebrated, but perpetually threatened Train Jaune: