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  • Day76

    Boating up the Verdon Gorge

    June 15 in France ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    The family we’d met in Olbetrello had raved about this campsite around the Verdon Gorges, and although we didn’t know we would visit here, from their description we knew we had to go.

    We arrive, after a wiggly journey into the hills, at a peaceful campsite in the trees, set beside a lovely lake.

    The children immediately find the park (anyone noticing a trend?!) and we manage to get camped up right next to it so that they can go back and forth to their hearts content.

    There’s also a bouncy castle and a lovely pool with a toddler pool for that’s the kids sorted for a few days! We manage to drag them away briefly to see the lake (the bit that nature created, though they love the man made stuff more), and Amelia and I (Sarah) get a real life game of stuck in the mud as we realise too late that the low lake bed has left some very sinky mud behind, and we don’t quite hear Nic shouting across the lake that ‘that mud is really squelchy!’, but we manage to find a rocky spot to wash off (although Amelia does take another fall caking herself from top to toe in the thick squelchy stuff)! We even manage a post-dinner swim on our first night after coaxing the children off the bouncy castle to eat.

    As it’s Father’s Day and Nics birthday coming up we decide to stay and relax.

    As we’ve been in France for a few days now we have found more and more English travellers. We also meet another young family who are doing an 18 month trip which makes us very envious!

    We decide to hire one of the electric boats to see the gorge, one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe apparently, so not to be missed and a nice treat for Father’s Day.

    The first day we try, the water is too low to get the boats out, as they rely on the dam up the river opening to rise the waters, but they don’t have control or know when this will happen. Luckily the campsite let’s you borrow equipment for every fun activity under the sun, so our day is filled with mini golf (impossible golf as we renamed it!), pétanque (note if you ask for a platonk set as I did, the french will not know what you’re talking about and likely give you a pencil!), bouncy castle, and then ‘we’ (ahem, Nic) decide that when Coen was asleep in his pushchair we should go and jump off the rocks of the gorge into the river. The problem was that this involved taking the pushchair around the lake (through that sinking mud), into a tiny, rocky horse track and down into the rocks. At which point another child started screaming and Coen woke up and got out of the pushchair. But never-the-less, jumping into the river was fun, a little chillier than expected, and more juggling with two children awake when on the edge of a ‘mini-cliff’, we both managed a swim across to the other side, and Amelia was happy paddling up to her waist in the chilly water, while Nic convinced Coen to have a piggy-back ride swim, which lasted half a second before Coen realised the temperature and was desperately trying to get back to mummy on the nice, dry, warm land!

    Another swim and we pack ready for our boat ride (as it’s Nics birthday on boat day, packing means making sure beers are cold and there’s room in the dry bag for them).

    The boat is a little electric one, so the top speed is abt 7 km/hr, there’s two rivers to explore - one in each direction and we’ve checked with the boatman on which ones best, so we head down towards the first dam (I am hoping there is a really clear sign of when to turn around as have visions of us casually floating over the dam down a huge drop). The first part of the gorge is wide, low and pleasant, but as it opens out onto and lake and then under a road bridge, it turns to amazing. Narrow, high walls of rocky cliffs shoot straight down into the water, there are tiny little caves under parts, the water is icy cold now and the sun is high, water drains from the sides of parts of the canyon walls making little waterfalls which Amelia and Coen want to touch, and we see little birds nested in holes in the sides. It’s beautiful scenery, and the quiet little electric boat makes the whole thing very peaceful, with just the odd kayak paddling around, or electric boat passing by. Amelia enjoys lounging about, Coen between snacks enjoys driving, throwing a rope over the edge and testing the kill cord. And luckily at the end there are huge, inflatable barriers meaning we don’t fall over the edge.

    We power back up the first gorge to the start and then make our way down the second river, this one still lovely, but wider and lower. We aim to stop for lunch, but realise when we get to the end of the 2nd river that the campsite have the timings bang on, we have a 4hr hire, and they said each river was 2hrs, we have reached the end of each exactly to the minute an hour after starting, so we ‘eat on the road’, Nic gets a quick jump from the higher gorge rocks and we make it back on time.

    More pool, park, bouncy castle, pétanque, making friends with German older girls, and lots of beer later, we’ve had a fab stay here, it’s a wonderful place for families, and considering it wasn’t in our to do list, as has always been the way, we’re glad to have found it.

    Now for a long journey across to the Ardeche...snacks are packed!
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