Today we really learned what makes the Cevennes so special. I hinted a couple of days ago that it seemed to be much more about the valleys or gorges than the mountains, and our ride through the Gorges Du Tarn proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt!
We have hundreds of photos from today, and have tried to select a nice subset. It's the reason it has taken so long to get this post out.
It was only after we returned that I learned we had actually bypassed some beautiful villages and scenery in the upper part of the Gorge du Tarn, when we rode straight into Florac from Ispagnac. Now we have a reason to return!
When plotting out the day's route, rather than backtrack to get what we missed the day before, I noticed a very enticing squiggly line leaving Florac going west, followed by a straight line and another very twisty line down to the gorge. Experience, along with the elevations printed on the map, suggested we would have a nice climb with lots of switchbacks, followed by a good descent with even more switchbacks. Then we'd spend the rest of the day following the various gorges, with a bit more climbing thrown in for good measure. John loves his switchbacks and these got the seal of approval.
We started the day climbing up to there! No chance to warm up, just turn left out of the center of town and climb!
It was cloudy, but warm and pleasant. We were coming to accept the clouds as the dramatic backdrop for our photos.
Given our experience on previous days with finding open shops, we loaded up a pannier with bread, meat, cheese, and chocolate! This was actually the one day we need not worry. There were plenty of open cafes and restaurants along the gorges.
We didn't find a col sign at the top of our first climb, but we did find this dolmen. It could make for a nice shelter on a stormy day! We had a few theories about how they got the massive stone on top. I'm certain it was aliens!
[John: I was apparently beside myself, overcome with the beauty of the day.]
After several days of dreary grey skies, we were greeted with light, fluffy clouds pierced by rays of sunshine.
We rode across the top of the Mejean Causse. We spied these shepherd huts everywhere, as testimony to the very changeable weather up there. Fortunately we did not have to make use of any.
Then we came to the descent to the gorge. John was in heaven. Look at all those turns.
Oh, but wait, look at all that deep, fresh and loose gravel that must have been spread minutes before we arrived!
Thankfully, they left the corners clear of gravel, but it was a nerve-wracking descent with all the loose chippings.
We stopped for a quick coffee in the lovely village at the base. Then we began riding through the most dramatic and spectacular scenery of the trip. I simply do not have the vocabulary to adequately describe the beauty of sun bouncing off the jagged rocks and sheer cliffs and miles and miles of stone walls. And our photos, while numerous, simply can't do it justice either. You must visit yourself!
At some point we realized we'd made a crucial mistake by planning a 70+ mile loop ride, since we wanted to stop so much. Fortunately we had a reasonable amount of daylight, and I suppose in one way it was good that we had to get back or John might still be out there taking pictures!
A scene from Meyrueis, the start and finish of the race described beautifully in Tim Krabbé's, The Rider.
The Cévennes is the centre of endurance horse breeding in Europe.
We managed to make it back to Florac with a bit of daylight left. We cleaned up and headed down for our special dinner, a local delicacy of wild boar cooked in a sac that I could only guess was the stomach, a French version of haggis, if you will. I'm glad I tried the special local dish ... once.
It was certainly a calorie-heavy meal and should power us through the next few days. Stay tuned...
BTW, the route is displayed below... If you are viewing this in google reader or on a smart phone, you may not be seeing the routes. I've been including either the planned route from ridewithgps.com or what we rode, as uploaded to Strava. But I've noticed I only see these when I am actually on the full blog, not from reader or my phone. This map is pretty cool and worth seeing, so click on over to the blog itself!