Onwards and southwards.
After our day in the Monts Dome scrambling and slipping around on volcanos we took an overnight stop in the pretty French town of La Canourgue in one of our favourite hotels La Portalou with its creaking wooden floors and character. (photos from last years wander through the village here). It’s been our base for the last couple of trips, for a kayak down the Tarn Gorge. No sense in changing a good plan so the following morning we headed down to Les Vignes at the southern end of the gorge.
In both the last 2 years it was hot and sunny in La Canourgue but we woke to cloudy skies and cool weather before a steady improvement through the day. This year it was a glorious clear cloudless morning and stayed that way for the rest of the day.
We’re almost regulars at the hire place of Aqua Loisirs and the friendly owner Karine remembered us, gave us the usual warm welcome and discount as regulars! My post from last year contains all the details of the trip down the gorge so flip back there if you want to check it out. There are also more photos and videos on that post courtesy thios year, of me forgetting to take a spare battery for my camera like the senile old git I’m turning into. We had to wait an hour for the minibus to take us to the start and I really wanted to take a dip in the waters in Les Vignes but I had to drive the car to the rendezvous point and didn’t fancy a wet seat. Les Vignes is a lovely place with a beach by the river and would a nice place to spend the afternoon and watch the kayaks go by and especially descend the weir just above the car park down a water chute – I so wanted to give that a go
Safe to say it’s a truly superb day out and one of the days I really look forward to. A mixture of gentle kayaking along a crystal clear river, stopping to swim in the silky cool waters, watching the dragonflies buzz past, the fish in the water and the eagles and vultures soaring high above.
We even have our own favourite picnic spot just at the end of the narrow section of Les Detroits where we can sunbathe swim and pig out. Both kids now like to find the faster flowing bits for a swim so they can float down the rapids. We found several of these to enjoy this year.
Just like in the Monts Dome it’s the vivid colours that really make the spirit soar. The river moving from dark blue to pale green but always clear, the bright yellows, browns and whites of the cliffs interspersed with luxuriant multitudes of greens from the trees. The height of the cliffs is awesome and the carved shapes are different and amazing at every turn and bend. One of my favourite places.
The trip always seems to end too soon and you just want to carry on and on. Before we headed off on the next part of the journey we stopped at the end point and had a snack and cuppa on an island in the middle of the river. We swam some more and watched the kayaks trying to negotiate a rather tricky fast flowing section. At least half ended up going backwards or crashing into the rocks and a handful capsized to keep us all entertained.
Time to continue the journey, heading down to our hotel in Narbonne. An unsurprising need for a pee stop for TBF gave me and D the chance for a close up look at the Millau viaduct from the Service Area built at one end. It’s a breathtaking structure, and impressively designed with slender pylons and graceful curves. I think it’s beautiful.
For the technical among you here are some facts:
Designed by Sir Norman Foster in conjunction with Michel Virlogeux
Cost to build was 394 million euros
Time to build 2 million working hours
Total height 343m (higher than the Eiffel Tower)
Expected to last 120 years
See, you’ve learned something about the worlds highest bridge!
We moved on across the viaduct (always a little disappointing as you don’t get any sense of the height) and headed across the high Causse de Larzac and down towards the Med. Most noticeable was the temperature which increased steadily from the high 20’s to a sizzling 38 degrees by the time we reached Narbonne. Luckily our hotel room had air conditioning, unluckily it was crap, blowing out a dribble of cool air into the oven that passed for the room. An uncomfortable night but after a fine day like that who cares 🙂