Monday, July 9, 2012

Ardeche

The mountains were lower now but the hiking no less demanding especially due to the hot weather. When planning this route I had realised that hiking in Southern France in the height of summer might not be the best idea but there was not much choice - and now I was sufferings the consequences. I felt like back on the Arizona Trail! Only the trail was easier to hike on the AZT!

Ardeche Gorge
This area between the Rhone and the Cevennes mountains is dominated by the gorges of the Ardeche and several other rivers. This is holiday adventure trip country. Along the roads dozens of boat rental places and camp grounds are lined up. Tourists are everywhere, but of course this is high season now. Strangely enough it is mostly Belgian and Dutch tourists here instead of my fellow German compatriots. After 2 days of frying in the hot sun my mood was dropping. It did not help that my shoes are slowly disintegrating and my Thermarest sleeping pad is delaminating. This is about the eighth or ninth sleeping pad flat is delaminating in my long outdoor career. It is always exchanged for free under warranty but the whole exchange procedure is a pain in the butt. In this recent case I had to find out that Thermarest is almost non existent in France and therefore no chance for an easy exchange en route. I mail ordered one in Germany and although I could have it shipped directly to France this was not an option because I only have a Poste Restante address. Only German mail could be used for shipment but most online shops use different couriers... therefore the sleeping pad had to go to my German "trail manager" who has now forwarded it to France.

Difficult camping
A couple of days ago it dawned on me that I had made another mistake again: not taking enough rest days and this was the main reason why I was getting so grumpy. My birthday was approaching and I decided to stay the night before in a gite d'etape, a cheap hiker accommodation. But when I arrived in the little village all sweaty and tired the gite was nowhere to be found. Even the locals did not have a clue. And therefore I realised at 7 pm that I would have to hike another 6 km before I would be able to find a decent camp spot. But I gritted my teeth and voila, right before it got dark I found a nice spit high above a very scenic river gorge. This was a very nice surprise as camping has become rather difficult recently. The ground here is extremely rocky, sloping and the vegetation is mostly macchia shrubland, an impenetrable dense vegetation where everything is prickly and thorny. My legs are full of scratches and cuts from looking for stealth campsites.

But sometimes you are lucky and you find old farm house ruins in the middle of nowhere. There usually is flat ground, often terraces made for agriculture and off you are really lucky, there of am old orchard. Very often I am feasting now on some kind of little prunes and apricots. Wayside free fruit is definitely one of the advantages of hiking in Europe. But that night I came to the conclusion that I urgently needed a rest day, especially since the next day would be my birthday. In the morning I slept in, hiked 7 km in the burning sun and made it to the tourist office in Les Vans. I asked for the local gite d'etape but was told that it was closed. Oh no, I did not want to hike on on the relentless sun. But I was lucky: the lady found me a decent hotel even with a swimming pool and because of my birthday I didn't mind the splurge. After a wonderful shower I even treated myself with a lunch in a restaurant - and then spent the rest of my birthday lying in my nice soft hotel bed not doing anything. Wonderful!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Herzlichen Glückwunsch, nicht nur zum Geburtstag, auch dass du trotz der Probleme noch immer unterwegs bist.

Eine Wettervorhersage für die kommenden Wochen kann ich mir wohl ersparen.

Werner