Tuesday, November 03, 2015

TGO - Cycling round the Etang de Ponant

I have been sent home from work today because of an orange bad weather alert. How different from the glorious sunny weekend a couple of days ago.

The whole country was bathed in a balmy anticyclone for the last weekend of the Toussaint holidays. Perfect weather for a Halloween tramp around the houses with over-excited kids.

We dug out our book on mountain bike trails around Montpellier 'Autour de Montpellier - VTT' that's been sitting in the house unused for five years. It sometimes takes time to catch up with action one's good intentions. I jotted down all the rides that were:

  • on the flat
  • doable in an hour and a half
  • the list was:
    • number 2 at Grau du Roi, 12 km, taking 1h30, flat
    • number 3 at l'étang du Ponant, 13 km, taking 1h30, flat
    • number 5 along the Vidourle river, 17km, taking 1h30, flat

The aim of enjoying a gentle ride was so that we wouldn't repeat the mistake of our last bout of VVT enthusiasm when we launched into a 27 km circuit around the Lac de Salagou, the memory of which was so traumatic we didn't touch the bikes again for months. We learned from that mistake.

La Vidourle river
So we chose the tour of Ponant lake between la Grande Motte and Grau du Roi. You leave the car on either side of the dramatically called Pont des Abîmes which crosses the Vidourle river. Unhitch the bikes and prepare for a couple of hours of delight.

Single track path, l'étang de Ponant
Although the start of the path is a wide 'chemin vert' along the river which is much used by people out to enjoy a nice walk with or without dogs or kids or both, after a few hundred metres, it turns right to start the tour of the lake. There, if you're not used to riding along single file tracks (like me), you can find yourself wobbling and falling off until you realise that you have to look straight ahead and not down at the track. Looking down is a to court disaster. My DB, following me, was highly entertained by my antics.

Boggy patch, l'étang de Ponant
We set out at just after 3pm in autumnal soft lighting and muted colours. The lake was a silky pale blue-grey, its surface barely broken by a gentle breeze. Growing around the edge are typical salt marsh plants such as sea pickle or glasswort. In the summer it's bright green, but in the autumn it turns a rusty red. It makes for a soft landing too...

Glasswort banks on l'étang de Ponant
The path was mostly dry, but there were several patches of boggy marsh. For most we could find an alternative way round, but we also had to ride through some muddy zones which left a sticky sludge on the bikes that had to be washed off with the powerful jet of a car wash.

Peaceful path, l'étang de Ponant
We didn't hurry. It was so peaceful - the water still except for the odd plop of a fish catching insects, the beautiful light that softened everything we saw, hardly anyone about, only a few fishermen sitting placidly waiting, and the perfect temperature for riding.

étang de Ponant
As the afternoon wore on, the mosquitoes came out, but by then we were nearly finished. The sun was starting to set and tinted everything with a rosy hue.

Aigrette on a branch, l'étang de Ponant

Fishing nets, étang de Ponant
There are many different types of birds that visit the étang. We didn't see any flamingoes but did see a number of herons and aigrettes posing stylishly on the tree branch 'sculptures' in the middle of the lake.

Heron? étang de Ponant
This is a fantastic ride to do in la demi-saison - spring and autumn - when it's not too hot, and not too damp. Especially on a wind-free day like the one we had.

No wind today, étang de Ponant
At the end, we felt energised and relaxed after a ride that was good for both mind and body. And we made a speedy getaway before a mozzie attack could ruin the effect!


  1. Looks stunning. Can almost feel the tranquility. Sounds a laugh too!

    1. I kept making 'arrgh' noises as I wobbled along the single paths before squeaking when I keeled over. Hours of entertainment for him behind. :)

  2. That sounds like the kind of ride even I could manage and enjoy.

    I hope you haven't been affected by the awful weather.

    1. It was a lovely easy ride with interesting bits (like the single tracks), and all on the flat which was great!

      The weather has indeed been awful, but I have not been affected thank goodness. :)

  3. What a cracking bike ride - gorgeous photos. Sensible decision about the length of bike ride, nothing worse than over estimating how much you can cover (been there!!)

    1. We definitely learned a hard lesson with Salagou! Never again. :)


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