From Carcassonne we traveled a little further north about 2 hours from the south coast to an area called the ardeche. Along the way we picked up a hitch hiker, Amelia, and the kids got a bit of French language training. It reminded me of 20 years ago or more when my dad picked up a pretty Dutch hitch hiker in France with Simon and I in the car. I can remember thinking how cool my dad was getting a new hot girlfriend for us.
We chose a plush campsite but picked a pitch too close to the entertainment area so have been kept awake by a 60 year old French granny singing frank Sinatra classics! She is like the phillipino elvis impersonator who entertained us on the Barcelona underground.
Our reason to come here was for a two day river trip descending the ardeche gorge. We booked an English guide, Danny, to help us safely negotiate the many deadly rapids. We were very glad we did as we watched boat after boat get sucked in and spat out by the river.
The main draw to the area is the river and there were hundreds if not thousands of kayaks doing short day trips down the gorge. There was never a time when we had the river to ourselves but it didn’t matter as we were either focused on the rapids or gazing open jawed at the thousand feet cliffs on either side of us.
We camped out at an official bivouac site as wild camping is not permitted in the gorge park. Sleep didn’t come easy especially with the raucous chorus of frogs down on the river. Probably a protest to protect their legs!
So many ill prepared, careless and or wreckless paddlers descend the river that at certain particularly dangerous rapids the French pompiers are positioned in the river to help rescue capsized paddlers. We managed to skilfully (or luckily) get through all but one rapid without incident. On the toughest rapid ( but not the most dangerous) dad, holly and Megan never made the turn in time and hit the rocks side on. We ended up in the river with most of the others attempting the rapid.
We took lots of opportunities for swimming in the warm water which cooled us down from the intense heat in the gorge and the effort of our paddling. The kids jumped off high rocks, we swam into underwater caves, drank cold fresh spring water pouring out of holes in the rock walls and caught little hungry fish. Even smaller and hungrier fish nibbled the skin off heathers feet as we took a lunch break.
At the end of the two long days we had covered 32km and our muscles ached. We all snoozed on the 45min coach ride back to the start.
The two days was our best ever canoe trip and we really want to come back one day and try it without our guide.
Our guide took photos for us with his waterproof camera so we can’t post good photos now but there are some to give a flavour.
Today has been a day of rest trying to ease our muscles by soaking in the pool. Oh and also working on our tans. Tonight we go to watch a firework display on the river bank to celebrate Bastille day and tomorrow we head to Paris.