Monday, December 15, 2014

Verdon, Provence, France

Executive summary by darmansjah

So much to do here, not sure where to begin.

We downloaded hiking routes from wikiloc (not soo accurate), better to get a leaflet at a tourist office (Castellane for example). We decided to start with the Sentier L'Imbut, but from La Chalet de Maline, which means you go down on the Sentier Martel path. At the junction (at the bottom, with the river in front of you) you then go right to hop onto the Sentier L'Imbut through the Passage de l'Estrellier (walking bridge over the water), then you go right again and continue your way to the Imbut and if you're up to some climbing over rock formations you can continue to Baou. On our way back we had the company of a very friendly goat, who had to leave us when we scrammbled up the Vidal (very vertical path), and continued to Cavaliers. Unfortunately we didn't have two cars to park one on each side, so we went back down in the Gorges, back over passage de l'Estrellier and up again on the Sentier Martel. It took us 10h to walk the more than 20k (according to our GeoTrex, which did loose his GPS connection sometimes), with walking sticks which were really holding us up towards the end. This is not a hike for people unaccustomed to hiking on rocky surfaces, who have fear of heights or whose physical conditions is not 100%. You can off course cut the walk short and return or only walk one side of the Gorges.

After a deserved break, we went then climbing with Pascal Fadou from Aventures et Nature. He is a great guide, who really knows his way around the Gorges. The climbing was terrific, the via cordata 'les cataractes' with a rappel of 160m and 60m and lots of traversees is impressive and the canyon Baudan Baou was exciting to say the least. We did all this with Pascal and would go with him again for sure, he is not more expensive than the other more commercial organization and for 2 of the 3 activities we were alone with him, which is a big plus! We also did the bungeejump from Point de l'Artuby with Latitude Challenge, no words can describe this and do take a video, you'll want to watch and rewatch your jump. It did cost more than 100eur for a jump that takes less than 2min, but it's something you have to do once in your lifetime (or so I belief).

We couldn't do the hydrospeed or rafting because in September there are only a few days left that the water level is ok for these activities (so book well in advance or go the last week of August, when the tourist streams should have already gone down a bit).
This on the active part of our holiday.

For the villages:

Castellane is probably the most touristy and offers the most shops, accomodations and activity agencies.
La Palud sur Verdon is more towards the lake and is a great fallout point for hiking, activities and visiting the lake.

Aiguines has a nice view over the lake, but not much activity (in September). Moustiers Saint Anne has a nice chapel on top of a cliff overlooking the village, which you can hike up to and a lot, a lot of shops with faience (decorated pottery). Bauduen and Lac Saint Croix are nice villages if you want to stay around the lake (not big, but you do find some restaurant, hotels and campings there).

Trigance is a nice medieval village, but that's about all there is to say about it (the view from the road is very nice)

You have the rive Gauche and the Route des Crêtes that you can follow to travel around the canyon (car, bike, motorcycle), I prefer the Route des Crêtes as you had more views of the high cliffs, also the route from Palud to Lac saint croix offers some nice scenery and brings you to the entrance of the canyon (nice views of the canyon and the lake)

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