Pilgrimage to Bidarray, Vallee du Baztan and up to Col d’Ezpalza, one of my favourite places on the planet… It turns out my guardian tree – an ample chestnut with bowed mossing arms and broad green leaves – was entirely ravished by the 4th July rains. In its place, a gigantic gouge in the mountainside, an open casket of raw red earth. And I thought my ashes would go to its feet! Turns out I lived longer. Reactive and vigorous climb through the heat, shelter from the sun beneath out-crops of slate rock like a land toad, wet your hat in a trickle of moisture -say the armpit of the land, then, climb some more. Reaching ridge-lines, breathe with the vultures, feel their 2m+ wingspan brushing the space above your lonely head in broad strokes of pure glide. A place where you can hear your breath.