Somewhere down the crazy river – Tarn Gorge Kayaking   10 comments

Onwards and southwards.

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Tarn Gorge beach

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.

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D & L, Les Vignes

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Bridge at Les Vignes

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

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Weir at Les Vignes with the water chute in the centre

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.

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River swimming

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.

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Messing about on the river

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.

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Les Detroits

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.

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Tea by the river

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.

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Millau viaduct

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

2.5km long

Total height 343m (higher than the Eiffel Tower)

Expected to last 120 years

See, you’ve learned something about the worlds highest bridge!

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Millau viaduct

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 🙂

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10 responses to “Somewhere down the crazy river – Tarn Gorge Kayaking

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  1. We had the kids out in open canoes a few weeks back. In a thunderstorm – as ever our timing was impeccable. Still, we all enjoyed it and we will definitely be getting some sort of boat, just as soon as we can persuade somebody to give one away on eBay.
    Loved the post and the video. Looks absolutely amazing.
    Lovely chilled sounds too. (Bringing a laptop on your visit?).

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    • Been toying with idea of an inflatable kayak but they don’t come in family size so I’d need two and they aint cheap. Its a superb trip in the sun – I love river swimming. We did a similar trip down the Dordogne on the way home, not as dramatic but beatiful nonetheless and with castles overlooking the river. Have to wait a few weeks till I get round to that post though, several more to come first!

      I can bring my laptop and music collection but I think you have everything I have although I could nick any music you might have so I think I will bring it along. My free music account expired so I haven’t grabbed anything for about 6 months (this track came from an album of yours in fact)

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  2. What a wonderful post full with great photos! I enjoyed Your photos and felt myself like being there.

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  3. Looks pretty idyllic floating down that water!
    Don’t know about that bridge though, but at least it looks like it’s got decent sized barriers at the sides 🙂 I just hate going across that Viaduc des Egratz on the way to Chamonix. Mind you, when you’re on that in the motorhome, the sides of the viaduct are so low that you actually feel like you’re sat higher than the barriers. In fact, I’m not proud, I might as well admit it now – I cried all the way across it last Easter…….

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    • If you do get down this far into France next summer get down to the Tarn Gorge, there are some fine walks by the river and along the edges if you can stand the heat and the kayak trips are great, easy and very well organised (at least 10 companies that hire them out and collect from the end). Aqua Loisirs who we use have the advantage of taking you to the start and kayak back to the car so you do it in your own pace.

      Is that bridge from St Gervais to Chamonix where the carriageways swap over for a few miles. It is mighty impressive and I have to say I love bridges like this and spectacular roads. I would perhaps have been cheeky and called you a wimp but I read your accident tale of coming off the road and that made me shudder so I think you are perfectly entitled to hate these roads in the sky.

      Millau viaduct is pretty cool though

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      • That’s the one – you go up to Chamonix on the viaduct and come back down on the cliff hugging road – and the carriages cross over a couple of times.
        It’s alright, Geoff’s already called me a wimp! It was a bit comical really, Geoff was driving telling me not to be so stupid and I was taking photos trying to take my mind off it, but I couldn’t really see what I was taking through the tears!

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        • Chamonix has a special place in my heart. My very first trip to the Alps and first proper Alpine summit were here. Went back there again last summer and a had a superb couple of days, I really miss Alpine walking and climbing

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  4. Drove past the Millau bridge when it was being built. Having worked in a bridges section most of my working days I saw the size of the columns being erected and wondered if they had gone mad – had never seen anything that big (and thin) before – couldn’t believe the height they were working towards. Watched a TV programme about it – fascinating! They “launched” the deck sections out into space to reach the next pier – incredible engineering. Because of its height it was built, in part, “in the clouds”. Must have been spectacular to see it now.

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    • There are few more photos of the bridge in my post last year (linked in the text above) and I came across the website below with technical stuff and photos

      http://www.bridgeworld.net/wordpress/archives/docs/millau.pdf

      I read about the ingenious way they “launched” the deck sections – just incredible. As a bridge engineer you must have been in hogs heaven seeing it under construction. I must scan youtube to see if I can find that TV program. I’m no engineer but the bridge is so stunning in it’s design and construction that I’m mesmerised.It’s truly a beautiful construction, proves that we can build functional things without them blotting the landscape

      Alas TBF didn’t share my enthusiasm for it the first year as I drove around it, under it, past it and over it – bored her to tears 🙂

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