Marcilhac to Cabrerets
After a hearty breakfast at Métairie Basse we made a prompt start to the day and drove back to the village of Marcilhac for a morning walk before our paddle. On the Célé they like to reserve the morning and evening for those that fish on the river and leave the between times for the canoeists.
We were dropped off at the trailhead high above the village on the causse, that is the limestone plateau. These days the plateau is forested although up until the 1950s it would have been grazed by sheep. Some of the old dry-stone walls and Cazelles (stone sheep shelters) remain.
So off we went in the bright early sunshine to traipse along the undulating trail. Not many insects were about at this time of day and certainly not many butterflies. We had taken a net in order to capture, identify, and release some specimens, but only the usual suspects were abroad.
Eventually we arrived at the mobile telecommunications tower on the cliff directly above Marcilhac. We admired the view and looked at the river below and where we would be canoeing. We then retraced our steps to a fork in the path and began the deep descent to the road far below. We stepped out at another viewpoint on the way and could see that our canoes were still tucked up on the grassy bank .
Steve was at the roadside as we tumbled out of the woods and soon we were down in the village getting ourselves prepared. We have the first chute to negotiate. Was everyone ready? The three canoes scooted over to the dam and picked out the correct entrance to the chute. Trying to paddle down a fish-ladder is not wise. I went first and got only mildly soaked as the canoe hit the wave at the bottom. I then turned around to watch the two boys come down. Awesome. Then the parents came down. A slight wobble, but disappointingly, no capsize!
Off we set then under the bridge where we where nearly stopped by a group of horse-riders coming down to the water. After an hour of gentle paddling under the dappled light of the trees the river once again slowed down as we approached a second dam. It was another Flour Mill. As we approached the water was slow enough for large yellow water-lilies to grow.
Everyone decided to take the chute instead of the portage and after another soaking for the person in the bow we were on our way again. The river twisted here and there and we dodged from side to side trying to avoid running aground but also trying to avoid bumping into the bank as we took some sharp corners. As we approached a bridge I knew that we weren’t very far from the lunch spot at Sauliac. The place was set up for a fete or a fayre but not many people were around. Steve however did have our lunch all ready and we sat down in the shade to devour it.
After a post-prandial swim we were again on our way with our next stop at the ford only an hour or so away. After gently idling down the river we stopped here briefly to check that it was safe to go over the drop. It was and we lined the boats to go over it in the the middle of the little wave, before sweeping left to avoid the shallows.
Shortly afterwards we took a small detour around an island, from where we could see some strange sculptures pinned into the cliff, and entered a small canyon where we had to make a sharp S bend and avoid some rocks. This section can be tricky when the water level is higher but today it was just a bit scratchy.
And so on we drifted until we reached a place where it seemed the river ran directly into a wall. Right up until you reach it you wondered where the river goes and then it turns sharply right. And then about thirty minutes later it does the same all over again and you know you are coming into Cabrerets. As we approach the wall I see some cows cooling off in the water. In the past I’ve seen a whole herd bathing under these cliffs.
We take the turn under the cliff and start the run into the village. We can see troglodyte buildings built into the cliff and then finally the Devils Castle, a ruined English Castle from the 11th Century looms above us. Right underneath it and before the bridge we manage to get ourselves up the river bank – the mud is black and slippery. Steve is here to meet us and before long we have packed our gear away in the minibus and tucked the canoes under a tree to retrieve tomorrow.
A short drive takes us back home to the farmhouse where we loll about for a bit before Leonardo & I decide to stroll off catching butterflies in our nets. In the end it turns out to be a two hour hike as we go out to the Dolmen. We manage to catch some, blues, Commom Blue and Chalkhill Blue, a fritillary of some kind and plenty of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. I make a idiotic fool of myself by hilariously chasing after a Clouded Yellow – which I do eventually catch. We arrive back at the farm all hot & bothered and just in time for dinner.