Sunday, July 27, 2014

Camping, camels, causses and canoes

We've just come back from a week in and around the Tarn Gorges, about four hours away from our home near Toulouse.
The landscape is high limestone Causses (ideal for keeping sheep so long as you can store the water) which are dissected by huge winding gorges. The Gorges du Tarn itself is 53 kilometres long! The motorway which cuts past the area has to cross a number of minor gorges, using viaducts like the one you can see in the photo of our campsite sheep, and of course like the famous Viaduc du Millau, visible in the distance on the high approach to our campsite.
Our campsite was a very basic one, with occasional hot water, showers, some 'French' loos and one highly-contested 'modern' toilet. There was also a large covered area with tables and a fridge (luxury) and beautiful woodland camping spaces, separated by green oaks. Did we take a photo? No we did not - we had real difficulty charging our phones and cameras, which was probably good for us.
La Blaquiere farm makes traditional sheeps' mik cheese, herds traditional tourists into the campsite and some beautiful historic gites, and leads treks across the causse with slightly less traditional Bactrian camels. This is not our photo - we saw lots of the camels but didn't pay for the trek, as we saved our money for the even more exciting canoe trip down the gorge. Did we take a photo of that? No, we were having too much fun getting wet! We canoed 10 kilometres, stopping for swims, a picnic and a chance to explore a riverside village accessible only by boat. We got a 10% discount on our trip, on the charming basis of a note on the canoe flyer marked, 'Bises, Manue' ('Kisses, from Manue'), as our campsite cheese maker is great friends with the canoe trip family! Here's a generic photo of the wonders we paddled through:
The area is full of history, from the medieval hermitage on the farm were we stayed:
to the also medieval troglodite church from which you can see the Viaduc du Millau:
all the way back to prehistoric menhirs up on the highest causses:
with attendant chambered tombs:
Not a bad fit!
As well as canoeing, walking and visiting, we had plenty of time for relaxing.
We spent several days around the campsite, cooking up fun lunches and playing games of Kübb or Trivial Pursuit. On one of those days some of Papé's (the grandpa's) bees swarmed and caused quite a bit of excitement! We bought some of the honey to commemorate the event.
One the other days there were just ordinary old camels to enliven the campsite...