After a very long night without a single breath through my nose, I was ready for the day to start. Sitting up did not prove a better position to clear my sinuses, though, so I headed off to take a shower at the block that actually WAS functional but nowhere near our tent. I was thrilled to find that the hot water was not really hot, but a bare luke warm. After the quickest shower as I could muster, I shivered all of the way back down the hill to our campsite, only to curl back up miserably in the cold tent with my new best friend Zyrtec in anticipation of the sun, pretty sure that I was done with our campground.
We had trouble deciding on what to do this morning (we always do better if we go to bed with a plan), since the kayak rentals did not open until 10 am. After a lot of indecision, we decided that we would enjoy the cycling best in the morning before the heat, and then cool off in the afternoon on the water.
Since we were a low on food for breakfast, we went down to the tiny supermarket just outside of our campground. The market oozes coolness with its reggae music and young french dudes with dreadlocks and goatees selling dancing and selling flip flops, baguettes, and postcards of kittens in hammocks superimposed over pictures of the gorge. We had a baguette and the most amazing croissants there ever were. How is it possible that a little roadside shack in the middle of nowhere has fresher and better bread than our local grocery stores at home?
Cycling without our heavy load always proves quite enjoyable, even though our bikes feel a little squirrely since we are so used to the man-handling required for steering a loaded bike. We flew up the hills that our Australian friend warned us about as we made our way to the rim of the gorge. I swear that when a sign says “16% grade” here, someone just totally made the number up and posted it. The hills never seem to be as bad as the signs make them out to be.
After riding 7 or 8 kilometers, we had climbed quite a few feet and finally entered the mouth of Gorge de Verdon. The gorge was beautiful as we looked down on the river as it sliced thinly through the canyon walls. They call this place the “Grand Canyon of Europe”. While it isn’t as big or as deep as the Grand Canyon, it certainly has its own appeal. The roads were a little scary, though as we looked way down at the water. I would definitely not recommend them for anybody with a fear of heights. Even Bree was a little nervous, at first. The cars gave plenty of room and drove slowly enough, though, that we had plenty of space.
We rode along the north rim of the gorge for 11 kilometers. By this time we could no longer see the river – only the green mouth to the cliffs of the gorge. With the weather getting a little warm, we decided it was time to cool off in the river. As we descended, the light finally filled the canyon and we got some great views of the gorge.
As any vacation would not be complete without kayaking, we rented a double kayak for 3 hours to explore the canyon from the water. It is amazing how much faster it is to kayak up the river then to ride our bikes clear up the window road to the rim.
The water was a little chilly, but it felt nice against the hot sun as we paddled lazily up past the waterfalls and caves that litter the cliff walls on either side of the river. We eventually hit some very weak, shallow rapids which prevented us from going further upstream, but that didn’t keep us from hanging out on a rocky bar and enjoying the beautiful canyon.
We got back to camp just in time to meet some fellow cycle tourists. They are here from Sydney for one month, and are toting along several small children on their recumbent tandems. Having seen the work and energy that goes into everyday life on the road, I can’t imagine doing it with such small kids.
We decided to once again move our tent from our hayfield in the trees to some drier, less fertile ground, we once again picked up our tent and hauled it down the road. We must have looked ridiculous carrying the fully assembled tent down the road to our new site, but we didn’t care. Fewer allergies, electricity (the box next to our campsite didn’t work), and even more importantly a bathroom that didn’t require a short hike made it worth the move.
Now we can journal, plan our route for tomorrow, and process our 174 photos for the day in peace as the sun sets over the lake. Today has definitely been a highlight for our time in France.