After leaving Nimes we carried on with our mission to see the most beautiful parts of the French landscape that we could find and continued through the extensive list of suggestions provided by Phil.
Two gorges were well worth the visit, very different but both stunning.
Gorges de l´Ardeche and Gorges du Tarn…..
Whilst the road through the Gorge de lÁrdeche took us high on the mountains, through the Gorges du Tarn we were right down in the valley following the line of the river.
It was all very scenic and food for the soul, however even southern France was throwing some more practical problems at us now we were getting towards the end of October.
I may have mentioned the bitterly cold mornings and evenings once or twice in previous posts, this was becoming increasingly challenging – especially as we have packed minimal warm clothes knowing that most of our time will be spent between now and our first return to the UK in March in steaming heat.
However we were now facing a further challenge. It is definitely the end of the tourist season, no-one in their rights minds would choose to camp in France in October…would they?! Campsite after campsite is closed, most having been shut since September. We are surrounded by ghost camping spots with shutters down.
Wild camping in France is legal, however pretty spots in the middle of nature are not really on the cards around here. Fortunately there are plenty of Motorhome parking areas which are open and relatively inexpensive – but offer no facilties other than (if you´re lucky) a place to fill up your water cans. So we have been spending most nights in these places – functional, far from pretty but a safe place to sleep.
We had been driving the Gorges du Tarn all day and gorgeous as it all was we were getting tired and had been looking for somwhere to park up for some time. We´d given up on campsites days ago but even the Motorhome parking had now dried up – town after town went by with no practical options for a Landy built for outdoor eating, showering and toiletting. Worse still, any off-road path leading to a potential wild camping spot was chained off – we were beginnig to fear we would spend the night in a layby with no dinner.
Just as dusk was settling on us James spotted a small dirt road to our right leading down towards the river and there was no chain. We darted down it to take a look but quickly found the track got very steep, narrow, twisty and rocky – no problem for the Landy but if there was nothing down there it would be a pain to reverse back up again.
I jumped out and walked ahead to see whether it was worth carrying on. Two bends later I was greeted by a view that put a big smile on my face
I rang James….´come down, it´s beautiful……´ I breathed.
We almost certainly weren´t suppseod to be there, the chain across the track had almost certainly been broken. We definitely had to ´stealth camp´ but all that aside we had the best wild camp of the trip so far, even managing to have a small camp fire.
We are heading towards the end of our time in Europe – quite possibly for a decade or more. Our plans for our nomadic lives had never included a great deal of time in France or Spain, and certainly not in the cold – our sites are firmly set on the warmth and serenity of the majestic continent of Africa. However, these two countries have definitely found their way into our hearts – France in particular is somewhere we have felt we could settle once/if our wanderlust is ever satisfied.
From soaring eagles to bizarre hot air balloons in the middle of the night, to friendly bikers wanting their photos taken in return for a smile. To mysterious nests on trees, warming the gas with your hands to get a cup of tea and the endless beautiful landscapes. The last 7 weeks have been frustrating, freezing, challenging but wonderful.
We are now heading towards Sete to meet up with our convoy, collect our new wheel hub and axel from them (to finally get Henry driving on full power again) and then hop on the ferry on 29th October 2021 to depart the continent we have always called home and venture out into the unknown territory of West Africa.
My feelings are a mix of excitement so overwhelming I can´t contain it, abject fear of spending 48 hours trapped on a ferry and terror that we won´t get through the border in Morocco due to some COVID rule or error in the booking and will end up right back in France!
But Africa has been calling me since I was in my early 20s. I have spent a great deal of time there but always wanted more. I recall not wanting to get on the flight home after my first month in Namibia and bursting into tears when we landed at Gatwick to a sign saying ´Eat football, sleep football, drink coca cola´….I remember shedding a tear after 3 months working in the Tanzamian rainforest when the bus taking me back to civilisation bumped up from the dirt road onto tarmac. I recall actually not getting on my flight home from one particular trip and having to find a way to get back a few days later when reality and responsiblity sank in.
Sometimes I lie awake in bed wondering what on earth we are doing, stuck in a Landrover with no personal space, no home base, no safety net. And I smile….I´m doing exactly what I have wanted to do all my life…..