Day 1 Paddling beneath the Pont du Gard
Here we are in the Ardeche/Gard regions of France picking up our guests from the Papal city of Avignon. It takes some manoeuvring to get around the narrow streets and one-way system of the inner city of Avignon but finally we find our guests and are on our way to the first river. Today we will paddle on the Gardon river under the legendary Roman Aqueduct of Pont du Gard. It’s almost 2,000 years old and was build to deliver spring-water to the city of Nimes 25 miles away.
Our guests are Melissa & Wayne and Vonda & Ed, who hail from the Dallas part of Texas, USA. It’s only a short drive from Avignon to Collias where we are to start our days canoeing. Ed & Vonda have brought collapsible canoes and these will have to be constructed prior to departure. Whilst we wait for that we paddle about at the put-in and practice a few strokes.
Here we are getting ready ready for departure. The sun is already beating down and hot.
Before long the canoes are ready and we are on our way. Here we can see the collapsible canoes as we pass the flowering Water Crowfoot which is a weed which flowers early in the season. It’s almost finished now. A closer look reveals that it is very popular with the dark winged damselflies called Beautiful Demoiselles. The males have glittering iridescent blue bodies as well.
The females, on the other hand, have green bodies and golden wings.
The water is often shallow but we have enough water to get by and this stretch of the river doesn’t really have rapids – just the slightest of riffles and faster water. We cool off by hanging our feet in the cool stream.
We are in limestone country here and we will get familiar with the geology as it is very much the same on all these rivers which flow down from the Cevennes, into the Rhone river and then south to the Mediterranean.
After a couple of hours gentle canoeing we approach the Aqueduct of the Pont du Gard.
It’s astonishing that this is still standing after 2,000 years and was still used to irrigate the frm land up until 300 years ago. A remarkable piece of civil engineering.
After passing under the Pont du Gard we continue downstream for another 30 minutes or so before reaching our take-out. Our driver Steve is here to meet us and has our lunch ready on the river bank.
We now have time to visit the Pont du Gard on foot and have a look around the museum site and find out all about it.
After this we drive to where we are staying the evening over in the Ceze valley. Although normally we stay in the Prieure D’Orniols in La Bastide, this time we are staying in a small house in the upper village of Cornillon. We have time for a short walk around the village before returning to La Bastide for dinner.