Aime à sauter roches et marches; mais caresse les dalles où le pied pose bien à plat.
[Love to leap rocks and steps, but caress the flagstones where the foot lands squarely.]
Victor Segalen, from Conseils au Bon Voyageur [Advice to the Good Traveller - translation by Timothy Billings and Christopher Bush], from Stèles .
There is certainly something of Segalen's exoticism, a whimsical Chinoiserie about the Chaos at Huelgoat, it confounds perspective and scale rather like a Chinese scroll painting or scene on a porcelain plate, or one of those carvings in jade or cork where a tiny, vertiginous world is contained in a small, encircled space, a conundrum of interlocking paths and spaces. (He died in these woods, it seems from loss of blood after cutting his ankle out walking, a copy of Hamlet open by his side, and is buried nearby.)
Trees are dwarfed by the rocks they grow from, and trees and rocks are wondrously sculpted.
('That's a beautiful tree!' exclaimed a mother to her young daughter as she stepped into the majestic bower created by this ancient chestnut.
'Why?' asked the child.)
Nature seems to imitate art, and partly because of the human traffic that passes over and through, often the roots and stumps of the forest floor take on accentuated, readable forms,
animal ones perhaps,
this one put me in mind of the Venus of Lespugue, or something later and more fluid.
(I've turned them to black and white and edited a bit, to bring out the shapes).
The most remarkable forms, though, are perhaps to be found in the cave, or rather chamber between rocks, known as le Ménage de la Vierge, loosely and commonly translated as the Virgin's Kitchen.
Another celebrated bit of geology is la Roche Tremblante,
A stand alone megalith which is known, as it's name tells us, to tremble. But not easily. More precisely, it rocks when rocked.
Or that's the idea.
Another couple caught up with us, and advised on the required place to make the rock rock, and the chap and Tom put their combined shoulders to it, watched by their dog. The woman and I looked on, and assured them that yes, the stone really did move (it did, just perceptibly, at the other end), and, menfolk confirmed in their manhood, we all went happily on our way.
We didn't bring Mol with us on this occasion. I'd taken her for a short walk over some of the rocks the day before when we arrived, but she likes rock scrambling a little too much, gets over-excited and ambitious and a bit tired and anxious, and next day was favouring one front leg when she went out. So we took her for plenty of shorter strolls on more even ground, which she was happy with, and she soon recovered. This meant we were able to explore the rugged places without worrying about her, and there were some where she couldn't have gone at all, such as la Grotte du Diable.
I was somewhat tickled by this idea, not least because there's just one transposed letter's difference between Santa's Grotto and Satan's Grotto. An interesting option in festive retailing, perhaps, but you know you should be very careful what you ask for there, there could be a hell of a price to pay...
To reach it you must descend by this steep metal ladder, and when you enter it's really very dark,
there is a railing, but you must place your feet by feel alone.
Slowly the eyes do become accustomed to it, lit as it is by entirely natural spotlights from chinks in the rocks above.
and you are aware of water rushing somewhere quite far below.
[What does he see at the bottom of the cavern? Night beneath the earth, the Empire of shadow.]
(Segalen again, from L'Abîme, [The Abyss], from Stèles.)
I think you could walk for weeks among the woods and rocks and rivers around Huelgoat, we only really scratched the surface in the areas near the town. We'll certainly go back.
Afterword: I'm afraid my mini-computer died recently without warning or ceremony. It had had a short life (about two and a half years, which apparently is about what you should reckon on for such things these days) but a very busy one. I am in something of a quandary about replacing it which I may write more of, partly in the hopes of getting some advice from you all. Meanwhile, though it may not much affect my productivity here, which is not exactly frequent anyway and we still have the main computer, my on-line time in general is somewhat curtailed, and it will make a difference to how much I get about to yours, so please do not take my absence amiss, not that you would if you even noticed, I'm still about and hold you in my heart as ever!