Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ravin des Arcs

There are different ways of spending a childless Sunday morning, from engaging in extensive undercover maneuvres to sleeping, going to church, or... going for a hike.

This morning was a day for a hike. The season doesn't last long in the South of France since it soon gets too hot for much exercise during the middle of the day so everything has to be squeezed into the hours before 11am or after 5pm. Spring, however, is perfectly gauged for walks, picnics and exercise.

Just north of St Martin de Londres there is a carpark at the beginning of a path to the Ravin des Arcs. It's a 5km circular walk leading to a spectacular ravine. The path takes you across a range of terrains, from a gentle stroll in the garrigue through woods where you clamber over jutting stones, and down a steep stony track with increasingy dramatic views which enfold of the ravine before you.

Once at the bottom, you are welcomed with limpid pools and giant rocks, waterfalls, and caves. The amount of water in the river depends on the time of year. As you can see, the water was deep and would have been inviting had it been warmer. The river flows lazily between giant rocks which force it through waterfalls as it makes its way downstream.

In places, dramatic evidence of the power of water can be spied in orifices of worn out rock where years of turbulence has created little hollows.

The river banks provide smoothed rocks which offer perfect seating for a little refreshment. After a good 2.5km walk, this is a welcome opportunity. We found this linear frogspawn tucked into a protected niche of a rock, and heard bullfrogs croaking their amours which echoed around the ravine.

At this point, you can either turn back the way you came, or continue to complete the circular walk, following the GR 60 (Grande Randonée) back towards St Martin de Londres. For this, you have to cross the river where indicated, skipping across inviting-looking boulders and on to the other bank to attack the aerobic path which climbs the hillside in oakwood so it's lovely and shadey. Once at the top there is an agreeable walk downhill back to the car.

The whole walk took us just over 1 1/2hrs, although its recommended time is 2-3hrs, so giving you time to dawdle with kids and aged parents... We had intended on having a picnic there, but it was only 11.45am when we hit base, so decided to push on to find the perfect spot...

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