We read in the “Rando Pedestre” (Walking Guide) of the Roya Valley about the ruins of a chateau standing over the village of Saorge and we thought, why not try it?
The map gives the impression that it is a cakewalk of a walk but lasting 3 1/2 hours, so we packed our rucksack with wine, food and two bottles of water (regretfully, it should have been “three”), drove the car towards “428” (see map) and parked next to the signpost where it is written “Chateau de Malmort”.
After only ten minutes traipsing on level ground, including a close encounter with a man-eating bulldog and traversing a derelict wooden bridge, we started our ascent to the mountain.
We noticed a huge number of fallen trees in this foresty mountain. They have collapsed on their own because of some kind of disease that attacks their bases.
From a twisty forest path, the ground gradually changes into a pure rocky surface.
At midday, it was time to unpack our rucksack, laid the picnic cloth and started eating our lunch. Sorry folks, the baguette was already ravaged when I thought of the camera. But the baguette paper bag will give you an idea.
We seemed to be getting nearer the summit, the path was getting rougher and steeper. I had to practically take a grip on the rocks like a rock-climber, but without the ropes and the gears. There were patches of almost 80% inclining dirt tracks without anything to hold on to, and only after calling the angels in heaven and promising them that I am going to be good from that moment on, that I only found the courage to hold on H’s “a-la- Saint- Peter’s” stick so he can tow me upwards!
Err, this is not yet the summit, but we needed to do some photo ops
This is a shot from the top of a cliff. The ground where I stood had been badly eroding.
The Chateau de Malmort
Despite the almost impossible climb, it was very satisfying to see the ruins of the Chateau. Sadly, it is continuing to crumble. We can understand the authorities not pursuing any renovation plans as it would be a gargantuan undertaking – financially and physically – to restore something that will benefit only a handful of walkers.
The French flag made of (now rusty) aluminium painted with the tri-colours.
After a considerable moment getting stumped in disbelief, wondering how the heck the people who lived in this Chateau fetched water, trekked down the valley to find food, went on with their daily tasks, communicated with the outside world below while almost completely isolated and geographically inaccessible from all sides, we left and followed the sign going down to the “Vallee de Cairos”.
Walkers! To protect the sheep against possible attacks from wolves, shepherds of this zone are equipped with dogs to protect the troupes. For your security and for the tranquility of animals, please keep your distance from them.
If a dog approaches you, keep still. Don’t cry. Don’t throw rocks. After some time, the dog will (eventually) go away…
The way down was another two hours, just as exhausting as the way up because a different group of leg muscles took another battering. Our water was running low and we were drying up that as soon as I saw a miniscule waterfall in the forest, I practically laid on my stomach so I could reach the trickling water. “Wait until we get to the river!” H called out. But there never was any trace of a river until another hour and as soon as I saw the crystal clear raging water, i quickly stripped off my blouse (there was not a single soul in the vicinity) and with only my bra and jeans, took a big dip into the cold Roya (river) ! Whoah, what an instant relief to my dehydrated body that was! I swear I was at the edge of a heatstroke so despite the freezing temperature, it was pure heaven to feel the water on my nearly steaming body.
Five hours of gruelling walk. We went over our limits and it nearly knocked us down. We collapsed in bed as soon as we got back home, but the experience is one for the books.
We will definitely do it again…