Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter Day Motorbike Ride around l'Hérault and le Gard

Weather over the Easter weekend is often terrible in Montpellier. The local football club organises a tournament every year and more often than not, games are played in the rain, or are called off.

This year however, we had glorious sunshine, and every biker in the land wanted to be, or was, out riding through the glorious colours of spring. My DB and I jumped on the new BMW GS1200 for it's first outing of the year.

Our first motorbike ride of 2017 in Hérault and the Gard
Starting at the bottom, we rode west to Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, stopping to admire the Pont du Diable.
Pont du Diable near Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert looking south
(Click on the photos to get a better look)
We were able to have a quick stop to look and take some piccies because we were on the bike. If you have a car, this is a lot more difficult because there is practically nowhere to stop and park any more. You have to go to the designated car park and walk back. This makes it much more of a faff, and rather obliges you to stay for long enough to make it worth while.

Looking north towards Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert
On the plus side, there's a free navette to Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert so you don't have to double the faff by finding the designated car park there too.

We carried on past Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert towards Ganges, via Saint-Jean-de-Buèges which is very pretty and has a bar with a handy, shady terrace where you can enjoy a refreshing beer. There speaks the voice of experience (after a lovely walk along a nearby river), because it was too early for booze, so we rode straight through and turned left at Ganges towards Le Vigan.

From there, passing a group of bikers on the way, we took a winding route up the mountain to l'Esperou on Mont Aigoual where we had lunch at the restaurant of the Hotel du Parc. We arrived just in time because hot on our heels was a group of 7 bikers (not the same), another group of visitors, and then the group we'd passed previously too. The patronne must have been delighted! Fortunately, we had got our order in first and were served before the hordes monopolised the waitress.

Although it was a lot chillier up at l'Esperou than in the valley, the hotel had a nice fenced off garden where my DB was able to snooze peacefully in a garden lounger while I continued reading my (actual) book 'Nice Work (if you can get it)' by Celia Imrie which I enjoyed very much. I travel prepared...

On  our way back down the other side of the mountain via Valleraugues, we came across a shelter for observing mouflon which look like wild goats with big curly horns. My DB's friend hunts them apparently. I'm sure the meat requires very slow cooking as the muscles must be hard as rock with all the scampering up sheer rock faces.
Mouflon observatory
We had a good peer about, but just saw impossibly precarious mouflon paths up scree-filled slopes. Disappointed, we carried on, having noted the still bare trees at altitude compared with the vibrant greens of further down.

After wiggling our way back down to Ganges, we turned off right to cross the river and head west towards Montdardier and the Cirque de Navacelle via part of the Gorges de la Vis.

Dinky bridge across the Gorges de la Vis

Quite the prettiest trout farm around
To reach the Cirque de Navacelle, we had to climb up onto the plateau on a tiny road with hairpin bends every fifty metres. The views became spectacular pretty quickly. Across the plains, the arid countryside was yet another contrast to the verdant valleys.

(fuzzy) Menhir de Trivallé, causse de Blandas
We stopped to photograph a lonely little menhir, and although it's too fuzzy to read the signpost, it does have a name - the menhir de Trivallé. A quick search of 'menhir Blandas' threw up lots of hits, and it seems there are many of them dotted across the causse (menhir des Combes, circle of megaliths Cromlech de Lacam de Rigalderie), so if you're searching for sites of dolmens, menhirs, etc., the Causse de Blandas is the place for you!

La Causse
The causse seems to go on forever, but suddenly it stops at a dramatic cliff face which overlooks the photogenic Cirque de Navacelle.
Cirque de Navacelle looking south, from the Belvedere visitors' site
You can park in the Belvedere de Blandas where there is a visitors' centre with exhibition, shop and cafeteria, and walk along the cemented path (so no one misses out) to the view points. It's an amazing view.
Cirque de Navacelle by wiggly road
Then you get back on/in your vehicle and tackle the torturous descent to the village. Go back up the other side and you get the less spectacular but by no means minable view looking north.

Fab road on a bike
We returned towards main Ganges road, crossing over the Hérault river on the the sky-blue suspension bridge at Agonès, and then turned off towards Ferrières les Verreries where they extracted iron in the Middle Ages, and glass was made by gentlemen (gentilshommes verriers) from the 16th century up to the Revolution. If you're interested in glass-making, there's a fantastic glass museum in Claret where you can learn the fascinating history of these gentlemen glass-makers.

Cevenol village tucked into the hillside

Seen along the way

We got back in time to shop at the Cave à Bières in Montferrier-sur-Lez on the Ste-Julie roundabout, and pick up a number of bottles of IPA from all over the place. The owner is very knowledgeable and serious about the beer, and keeps the bottles in little wooden lockers to protect them from the light.

Various IPAs - perfect after a day on the road


  1. Helen Devries21/04/2017, 21:57

    What super weather you had for your tour...and those colours!
    I bet the beer was welcome too...

    1. It all looks so glorious doesn't it? And so easy to photograph for the rank amateur.
      The beer was excellent, so different from bog-standard stuff.


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