travelogue 29

gouffre de padirac 1
gouffre de padirac 1 by TIm Caynes

“no, we’ll go tomorrow morning. we’ll get up early and we’ll get there before everyone else does. well. look at the queue. no we can’t, its raining. r-a-i-n-i-n-g. can you see? anyway, its four o’clock now. let’s just go back to the house and have a nice cup of tea and then we can work out what we’re doing tomorrow. yes we can come here tomorrow. yes. YES.”

not the day before had we been sat by the cafe pool watching our skin peel in the thirty-five degree heat reading about rupert everett’s passage and feeling very pleased with ourselves when up this morning and window opened with a flourish to see a lank of low cloud lapping around the hillside and very nearly piddling into the bedroom whereupon we unpacked the kag-in-a-bags and determined today would officially be not like it was yesterday I mean cold it might rain, yes r-a-i-n. so we trit-trotted off to the nearest enormous hole in the ground and expected it might be a bit busy at this time of year but I mean it won’t be that bad.

“look, it starts there, goes round there and then it doubles back round that tree there and see, look, it goes back round again and there’s the end, right over there.” “I don’t know, at least an hour.” “an hour? more like two hours.” “two hours?” “yes, look, those people were there when we went to the cafe for that drink (plus that mysterious extra tourist drink inserted in the bill), and now they’re just there.” “who?” “them.” “who?” “them. THEM. oh, je m’excuse, pardon.” “right. that’s it then. what are we going to do instead? its too early to go back now and there’s nothing else around here.” “there’s that insect place.” “insect place?” “yes. that insect place we passed up the road.” “what, you mean, like a hive or something?” “nooo. that insect place. insectopedia. insectipedo. insecticidia. something.” “oh, that ‘insectopia‘ place? with the huge insect outside it?” “yeees. that place.” “oh, well, that’s not going to very interesting is it?” “WELL WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST THEN?”

in the end, insidopia insectopia was a reasonable way to spend the hour you’ve got when the place you really came to see just down the road is overflowing with travelling badgers and gypsies. there’s insects in there. which is kind of interesting. I guess. on the way out there was a small shop that sold huge battery-powered bugs made in ipswich that wheel around the floor blarting out inane playground taunts at well-over-threshold volume which, naturally, we bought two of, and spent the evening watching them wheel around the living room floor, blarting out inane playground taunts at well-over-threshold volume, until one of them got stuck under a foot by mistake and its wiry guts fell out yes we can get you another one, tomorrow, maybe.

bright and early we’re off to a hole in the ground. its porridge weather, so we clad ourselves in nylon and pile into the megane scenic and sing songs from joseph although I’m secretly singing songs from manic street preachers in my head but nobody knows and there’s an inner calm from doing that that makes me almost drive into a river. as we pull up, a queue is forming, but that’s just for the pleasure of weeing into a hole in the ground (a different hole), so we pass straight on to the ticket office and I say something in french that I’m assuming is correct and lo, I get five tickets for the hole in the ground and we’re off kids, come on, we can go in the shop afterwards, oh, they’ve got those bugs too, great.

descending the slippery metalwork while holding at least a couple of hoods the air gets musty and damp and so we overtake the couch party from derbyshire and everything’s alright again. there’s not so much as a queuing system for the underground boats, more of a ‘put your hand up if you think they’ve asked you to and apologetically jump the queue for no reason’ thing going on, so I stick my hand up for no reason and we’re ushered onto a flat-bottomed wreck of a pretend boat affair which is supposed to transport us 2 kilometers or something along a freezing bottomless river to the largest cavern in europe (all caverns are ‘the largest in europe’) and back again, which, in the end, it does, and very interesting it is down there as well, but I’m not going to tell you about it because its teatime. you can look for yourself.

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