Words and Images by Dan King @dankingphoto
Situated on the banks on the river L’Hers, in the south of the Pyrenees, Zero Neuf is home to the Gather festival and each summer it plays host to a spirited group of individuals who all share an abundant lust for adventure. Gather isn’t about competition, it’s about the experience, choosing your own path and taking the time to appreciate it.
Gather is a human sized ‘gathering’, by that I mean it’s also the kind of festival from which you can remember the names of all those that attended, you’d have shared a coffee, beer and likely the odd tale or two during your time spent hiking, cycling and running in the foothills of the Pyrénées.
If you appreciate a strict routine with a clockwork-like schedule then you might find it a little tricky to adjust to those first few days of Gather life. The day’s run as they run and when the dog’s barking awakens you from your slumber and your nose catches the scent of food it will be time for something. This something might be joining the merry band of cyclists and runners as they venture off on gravel tracks heading someway that way. Or it might be a morning of yoga and birdwatching that occupies your body whilst your mind heads elsewhere. You see what makes Gather unique is that it’s something for everyone but it’s probably not what everyone planned before they left home; yet it’s everything they needed when they settled in.
As riders disappear under the hedgerows it’s the runners turn to lace up and find their way into the unknown. It appears less faff and more stretch for this bunch of adventures, but still laughter and anticipation fill the air.
If the mornings were chilled, the afternoons must be considered slumberous. I often catch the end of laughter led stories, the recounting of memories from the trails that day and the remembering of experiences past but vividly brought back to life for new friends.
Gather truly is a unique experience in itself, at times it feels more like a migration. It seems each individual has been off since last year swapping the miles for experiences to share. Some have gone on harder, slower and longer journeys but everyone is inspired and appreciative of a place to come to share.
There’s something special about the mountain light, the way it rushes up and over the peaks of the Pyrenees first thing in the morning to then ever so slowly slope back down as the day draws to an end. Its glow is ever getting warmer and those surfaces that were too harsh to look upon around midday now become soft backdrops for shadows to play. It’s also in this light that the river begins to settle and whilst the fish rush underneath, the last beams of light carefully dance across the gentle ripples near its banks. The perfect invite for tired weary riders as they head back to camp after another day spent lost in the surrounding forests and fields.
We all need a place to gather from time to time.