Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cevennes

Cirque de Navacelles
I left Les Vans refreshed and with repaired gear. I had bought a cheap cell foam sleeping pad because my Thermarest had delaminated and I needed some more padding in my sleep than a flat Thermarest. I had also bought Superglue and had glued the soles back onto my shoes. That still didn't provide soft padding for my feet but at least I wasn't collecting grass any more with my soles when walking through a meadow. Of course a long ascent was waiting for me out of Les Vans but it brought a nice change. Once above 1,000 m I was back in real trees instead of shrubs and that meant shade and that brought tolerable temperatures. The Cevennes go up to 1,500 m and high up there I was actually a bit chilly at night, not much, but enough to put on a sweater for breakfast. And after all that heat that felt great!

The Cevennes are donkey country and I don't know whether Robert Louis Stevenson started it or whether he just made it fashionable. In any case he once travelled across the Cevennes on a donkey called Modestine and wrote a book about it aptly called "Travels with a donkey". This book must have been real popular, at least the French named the GR 70 which runs across the Cevennes "Stevenson Trail". I had hiked the GR 70 several years ago and therefore I had now chosen a different route which coincided with the GR 70 only for a couple of hundred metres.

Still there were plenty of donkeys and horses. Interestingly enough no one was riding on them. The humans were walking next to their four legged friends which made me wonder why they had even bothered to rent them in the first place. To my big surprise I even saw a donkey INSIDE a National Park information centre and none of the staff seemed to mind. Everyone was walking around the donkey which looked a bit lost between book shelves and tourists but at least it didn't leave any smelly souvenirs on the floor.

River Tarn
I was also surprised how much water I encountered in the Cevennes as I was expecting another water shortage. But I even ended up swimming in the river Tarn! Although this turned out to be more difficult than expected. First I had to wait for a family to leave. But whenever I started to undress to go skinny dipping some tourists showed up and took endless pictures of the river and the old bridge. I wanted to avoid them taking pictures of me instead.... But the refreshing swim was definitely worth the wait.

Cirque de Navacelles
In the end the Cevennes surprised me with a spectacular view: the Cirque de Navacelles which I can only describe as France's mini Grand Canyon. A relatively tiny river has carved a deep canyon into the mountains and right in a river bend is the little, but heavily touristed village of Navacelles. A winding road makes the village accessible by car and therefore the huge amounts of tourists. But the further away you hike along the canyon the less tourists... and the GR 7 follows the canyon for several hours. I was just happy that I didn't have to camp in here as everything was steep and rocky.

I had really enjoyed hiking in the pleasant temperatures of the Cevennes, the well marked trails and the great scenery. There are several trails criss crossing the Cevennes making it an ideal destination for loop trips, too.

1 comment:

Jack said...

You should consider getting a hammock, Christine. It would give you more camping options.

I have a hennessy hammock and it's much more comfortable than a bed and the best thing it's light and packs down small.