Thursday, October 25, 2018

Parc Alpha

In late October every other year, my school arranges a trip abroad. It is open to all employees, but participation will of course vary with destination, prices and for all I know menstruation cycles. Anyway, this years destination was Nice, France and out of sheer boredom I finally decided to snatch the last available ticket, belonging to a colleague who could no longer go. Since the city itself didn't hold that much attraction to me, I decided to rent a car and explore the countryside for two days. I had hopes of getting colleagues to join me and thus split the cost, but apparently I should have planned way longer in advance (note to self there) or possibly changed my deodorant, because I had to drive off on my own, sweet own.

My first destination was a couple hours north of Nice, up in the mountains of the Mercantour National Park, not far from the Italian border. The Parc Alpha contains three packs of wolves and two souvenir shops that seem too large for the place, but when I saw how many people were there, I understood that this was pretty big business.

The road up to Parc Alpha is winding and in places quite narrow. The French, as is their wont, behave like madmen and many a time I thought I'd bought it only to be saved from imminent death by the width of a French cunthair. Anyways, this pic is from a tiny settlement I thought looked a lot like Italy.
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Not far from the park was a small lake dammed up at one end, with a picturesque bridge and a potent waterfall.
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As I stood photographing the waterfall, two planes crossed paths way up above and suddenly I felt a pang of yearning for my beloved Scotland.
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Up at the first and largest souvenir shop, I bought tickets and consulted a map. The packs had different feeding times and the walk to where the first pack was to be fed wasn't that far, I think appx. 600 meters or around 2,000 feet. Now, one of the later developments of my neuropathy-ridden legs is that in addition to giving me constant, low-intensity pain I develop cramping if I walk too fast or too far. Well, in order to make it to the feeding I had to walk faster than I would normally have dreamt of and I think I kind of reached the limit of my physical ability that day. Keep in mind, I was supremely motivated by the chance to see the wolves and my pace on the walk was quite a bit less than impressive for a regular, fit human, but still I was in excruciating pain. It felt like vices were placed around my legs, pressing against them with every move I made, cramps shooting up along them. And here's the thing. Even as motivated as I was, I couldn't quite make it. When I finally had the feed place in sight I almost collapsed in the last little hill up to it. Fortunately, a bench was placed next to where I almost buckled, so I managed to make it seem like I was just sitting down, but another couple of steps and I would have hit the ground. As fortune would have it, the feeding had only just started and after a good rest I got in a few shots; have a looksee below!

A hungry wolf trotting out of the woods.
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Beautiful animal.
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Another one making his way down to the feeding place.
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Afterwards, I wisely decided against trying to climb the steep, alpine hill to get a glimpse of the pack at the top of the park and instead began walking slowly down towards where the second feed site was. There were some laminated posters put up here and there and they looked very informational, but proved way too much for my almost forgotten high school French. I had some time before the feed, I was almost the first one there, so I had to walk around almost half an hour before anything much happened, and in this place there were no fucking benches, at least that I could see. Finally, fucking finally, the wolves started coming out of the woods toward the shack where by now I'm sure a hundred garlicky Frogs had assembled, all croaking in their native tongue. I saw a lot of families and tons of children, so I don't know if it was some kind of school holiday. Also, America had culturally assfucked France by exporting the tradition of Halloween to them and I saw quite a few little anklebiters dressed in various costumes and oh, how I love me a bit of Yank cultural imperalism.

This wolf had glowing eyes.
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Carefully approaching.
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This one had glowing eyes too.
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And that was basically it. Two fairly brief feeding sessions viewed through glass windows, standing with dozens and dozens of Frenchies and my legs a-hoytin' like fuck. Still, it was worth it just to see the animals, and the nature around there was very nice. Walking back toward the car, I stopped in at the two souvenir shops in quick succession, almost causing a stampede in the last one, when I approached the till and attempted to ask a question in English. Finally, one of the employees was pushed forward and she proved to be, if not exactly fluent, then at least able to somewhat communicate without having a nervous breakdown. Since they didn't have a single fucking t-shirt in my admittedly elephantine size, I bought a fleece jacket and a coffee cup; the last one a "gift" for a colleague who is also a farmer and would no doubt have nuked the place if given half a chance.

Driving back, I stopped and lunched at a restaurant in a small village I have completely forgotten the name of and have no intention of trying to recollect. Here, I had a nice surprise when the women who waited on me turned out to be English. Her parents had moved to the region when she was a teenager (probably due to the nice climate) and she had retained her lovely Engerlish accent, a welcome respite to my ears after a day full of harsh ribbit-ribbit sounds.

I had apple pie. Because I deserved it. Don't judge me.
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Some more pictures from the road. A lot of this looks very Italian, doesn't it?
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The light coming down into these steep, narrow, rivercut canyons was sometimes quite spectacular to behold.
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