I’ve stopped in the sleepy town of Vieux-Boucau-Les-Bains which, like most of the towns in the region, has gone into hibernation. However, it’s hard to find a decent spot in the village Aire, next to Lake Marin, so perhaps there is more to discover here. Although the only shop that is open is a small supermarket, I do find the tourist information office and it is open. Moreover, a charming young lady behind the desk provides me with a detailed map of the area, and there is a path around the salt-lake clearly marked.
Next morning, the sun has put in a rare appearance and there is not a cloud in the sky. So, I decide to walk around the lake, wondering what I might find along the way. The first thing I discover is another Aire, also full of Motorhomes. It seems that the owners are mostly retired, single men who have arrived for the fishing and some of them have already caught their supper.
Then I reach the dam which regulates the water flow between the lake and the ocean. The tide must be going out because the water is rushing towards the sea, which I can’t yet see but the noise of the ocean is unmistakeable. I have to climb the dunes to find it, following in the footsteps of someone with size 10 feet. When I reach the top, the view and the climb take my breath away. The Atlantic is pounding the sand and exploding with crystalline spray. A force of nature that no-one wants to reckon with.
I wonder whether I have wandered into a forbidden zone as there is not a soul around. Though there are the tell-tale tractor tracks, indicating that someone is taking care of the unsightly rubbish that lies on the beach. It’s mostly plastic. Plastic bags, bottles, a single green croc, a vitamin pill container that has lost its contents and its lid. Such a sight makes you realise how important it is to recycle. But where does it all come from? There are no people on the beach. The summer season is well over. I remember hearing stories of the debris from the Japanese tsunami washing up on the American coastline. More likely, it’s rubbish thrown overboard from Atlantic Ocean liners and cargo vessels.
The final part of my walk brings me back to the town where there is some sign of life, dog walkers returning with their morning baguettes. At least the local boulangerie can always be relied upon to remain open, whatever the season.
[According to the Landes Consul General, 13,500 m2 of rubbish is collected each year along the 120km stretch of Atlantic coastline. 60-70% is wood, while the remainder is tin cans, plastic containers, glass fragments, cigarette butts and other human waste. It has cost them 1.85 million Euros to keep the beaches and dunes clean.]