September 15, 2013

Standing Stones

Menhir, or standing stone, at Cham de Bondons

Departing Ste. Enimie immediately after breakfast was served at 8:30, my route took me only a short distance up the Gorges du Tarn, which I had previously visited in 2010. But I couldn't resist this photo of Castelbouc, nestled between the river and the cliffs.

Castelbouc

At Molines, I turned north to climb out of the Gorge du Tarn  to Col de Montmirat. For me, loaded, it was a tough climb up to the Causse, frequently steep, climbing about 1900 feet in about 4 miles. Here's a view looking back down the road, then one looking ahead. Once out of the gorge, up on the causse, the climb is far more gentle. I never did find a col sign, though there are some spectacular views back to the gorge on the way up.

This is about where I decided it was steep, and took a look back towards where I started.
The switchbacks climbing out of the gorge.

Once on top, I crossed the Causse on this little road, again with almost no traffic, where I passed by these horses, just waiting for a few friends of mine to arrive for some exploring on horseback. Ummm, maybe the horses had something else in mind.

D35 crossing the Causse. The signs warning cars of loose gravel are equally helpful for bikes.

I saw horse tracks later on the path around the field of menhirs.  Maybe these horses.

The reason for climbing back to the top of the Causse was to visit a field of standing stones, near Bondons. I only learned of this historic site because Double J told me about it, and planned my route today ... thanks! He has written an article about these menhirs (standing stones, in French) that you can read on Velo en Cevennes. Named Le Cham de Bondons, these stones date from 2500 - 1800 BC, the late neolithic and is the largest and most important sites of standing stones in southern France. There is a marked walking path of about 5k, which traverses the area. I walked about half of it, before getting nervous about my locked bike, and about having enough time to finish the day's ride, so returned to the road. I would have like to stay longer.

If I were to guess, I'd say the largest is about 8 feet tall. Before this, I'd only read about menhirs and dolmens ... it was impressive to see them in situ and imagine what the landscape must have been like when they were erected. I think it was not forested, and they would have been visible from some distance. Of course, their meaning and intent is lost to history ... whether they gain in power by that mystery or not is an open question. There are many good photos included in this article called Les Menhirs de la Cham de Bondons.

One of the largest standing stones, in the middle of a high open field.

Smaller standing stone

There were these two isolated hills quite close by, both seemed odd geologic features, and both seemed almost man-made.

A hill, called a pech, or was it puech?. One of two, it looks to me something like a child would make in sand.

The other hill. They are right next to each other and so unlike anything else in the surroundings.

The climbing had taken a toll on my legs, and I'd stayed for more than two hours at the neolithic site, so decided to cut my route short. When I arrived at the intersection, instead of a big loop, I rode across the middle of the planned loop on a small, steep road with virtually no traffic. Guess I was enjoying the descent, and paying attention to staying on the road, because I don't have many photos.

I hardly ever see signs like this in France, so pay attention when I do. It wasn't so steep for a bike.

Valleys, with the Gorge du Tarn in the distance.

After recrossing the Tarn River, dinner was at my bed and breakfast in Florac. I had been through Florac on my way to Col de Perjuret in 2010. After I return, I'll put together a list of places I stayed, with contact info, so am no longer including them in text here. 


The Tarn, I think, near Florac







View Ste. Enimie to Florac in a larger map

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4 comments:

  1. Love all of these photos and narrative. Thanks bunches.

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    1. And for me, I love it that you read, and accompany me in the virtual world! Thanks!

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  2. Bonjour Suzan, I learn english now !
    Nices and bigs stones named "Menhirs" in french !

    Une expression française dit "les grands esprits se rencontrent" je vais l'adapter à ta visite en Cévennes en disant "Les grands cyclos se rencontrent !"

    Encore de belles photos, hélas je n'ai pas l'anglais suffisant pour apprécier pleinement les textes.

    click on Double J for a Link to "la cham des Bondons"

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    1. Bonsoir Jean-Jacques,

      It is thanks to you that I found these menhirs ... what an exoerience for me!

      Et pour moi, je te dis la même chose: "Les grands cyclos se rencontrent!"

      Ton anglais est problablement, plus ou moins, à la même niveau que mon français. Donc, you learn English, et moi, j'apprends la langue française!

      I will add better links after I am home, it is impossible on my tablet, my husband is doing this for me.

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