October 19, 2010

11| Cirque de Navacelles, 2



The Cirque de Navacelles is, truly, an amazing spot. Something like 10 million years ago, give or take a millennia or two, the river La Vis ate its way through the Causse, then circled back, carving out the canyon and leaving the dramatic hill in the middle. Now the Vis river is clear and fast, the riverbed rocky, with a 25-meter cascade and a lovely old footbridge over the river. The town also looks old, and I wondered when and why it was settled --  it seemed so unlike the other towns I’ve seen in Provence last year, or here, that are more defensible, walled, or perched high on hills or cliffs. L’Ammonite, the créperie and chamber d’hôte, is located behind the church and the food is very good. My meal is delicious, leisurely and filling, with a chestnut cake finale. Mike, who I talked with on the phone, was equally helpful in person and I was lucky to meet him. His family has relocated here from Copenhagen, and also owns a gite (vacation lodging, sometimes rented by the night, or week, by different individuals, or a group, it varies from gite to gite) in the village. He returns north to Copenhagen to work in the winters, and told me that there were 7 days last winter when the road was too icy for anyone to enter or leave the cirque, and that it snows occasionally but doesn’t stick here in the bottom, though it might on top. He looked at maps with me, offered hints about my next day’s route and suggested that I change my plans, to avoid two serious climbs in one day. I did change my route, the next day riding directly to Nant, not going through la Couvertoirade or Le Caylar. He also told me that his brother makes the climb out on a bike in 30 minutes …. But immediately agreed that this brother is 17 years old to my 61 and riding a bike that is totally unloaded.
 This was my first day without cell service, and I imagined the cell waves (they are waves?) high in the clear blue sky above us, going somewhere else. Navacelles is about 400 meters below the cliffs that tower over the cirque and town. In the morning I left early, by 6:00, to avoid the sun’s heat; my early start also let me watch the sky lighten up; as I climbed the hairpin turns out, the sun reached the bottom of the canyon.  Again I was grateful for the gearing on my bike, the very low granny gear let me climb out as painlessly as possible(Touring Idea: 7.) The views back and out were magnificent all the way. 

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