[ blog » 2023 » 09_South-West ]d04: Gard ( by Philipp Gesang, location: An empty campside in the Gardon canyon )

Three Bridges

After three days of uphill business I was looking forward to this sightseeing day. Anticipating the sunday tourist invasion I used the dawn to roll around a virtually empty Avignon intramuros, admiring facades and dodging street cleaners. Bridge number one of today, the Avignon bridge, isn’t what it used to be and could use some mending, which left me with little choice but to take the modern road bridge over the Rhône instead.

The unwanted detour via Avignon took me past bridge two, the Pont du Gard. To my surprise bicycles are allow in the walled off area so I could ride all the way down to the UNESCO site. Here too the early start gave me an advantage as at that hour the first busloads of tourists only began to arrive; an hour or two later and the place would have been teeming with people.

I followed the Gardon to the third bridge, the Pont Saint-Nicholas near Poulx, where there was nothing to see of the river at all: As usual this time of the year it recedes to its underground bed in the karstified rocks below and reemerges further downstream. Quite spectacular that view of a ghost river you know is there but not where you’d expect it to be.

Into the Cévennes

Following the Gardon up its canyon I was struck by the graceful austerity of the typical Garrigue vegetation of stone oak, thyme and rosemary. It’s tough to find respite in this harsh environment, the oaks are just too tiny and lack the foliage to cast a decent shadow. Not great in the 40 degrees heat.

Further upstream the river branches into the Gardon proper and the Gardon d’Alès. I went along the latter until its namesake town of Alès where I rode up its Vauban fortress and the famous Eremitage hill with its panorama view of the Cévennes. Through the hills I returned to the actual Gardon at Anduze; sadly the railway schedule didn’t coincide with my itinerary so I could only hear the steam train rumbling in the distance.

At that point I was already heading into a minor crisis as I hadn’t been able to find a water fountain since before Vézénobres hours ago. I was hoping to refill my water bag in Anduze but all the public fountains in that town were out of service. Not a great feeling rolling around in that heat for hours without getting as much as a sip of water. Luckily in Saint-Jean-du-Gard there’s not just a fountain but also a small shop across the road from it that opens sunday afternoon – hooray for civilization! While I was sitting at the fountain eating local sheep yogurt I had an interesting conversation with an older guy who back in the days used to visit Murnau am Staffelsee with some youth exchange program of SNCF and Deutsche Bahn; it was all a long time ago but he still got excited about Oktoberfest.

The season seems to be winding down for camping tourism which is evident from the fact that this night I’m the only customer at this quiet campsite near Saint-André-de-Valborgne. Even the proprietor isn’t around so I got my pitch from her kids with their adorable thick Languedoc accent. First time so far that I’m camping out; the new tent pitches quickly and compared to my other tents it is incredibly spacious.

With only 1500 m of elevation gain and 157 km distance this probably counts as a moderate day. The numbers don’t quite do it justice though as the main challenge of the day consisted in dealing with the relentless sun.

gps tracks

[view GPS data in mapbox]


gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail