Monday, September 19, 2011

The Painted Horses and the Hill 14 Sept 2011

14 Sept 2011
There are little caves all over this valley
Drank too much at the restaurant, small hangover the next morning. Took us a while to get organised and off but that seems to be standard.

The trip back downstream is pleasant enough and going down in a lock is a lot easier, less turbulent. We had help from Dutch people for the first one. The second one wasn't so great because Luke decided to do it himself. That was fine except that a boat drove up to the bottom while he was still doing it and waited. Then a bloke walked up the track to the lock, stood near Luke, lit a cigarette... and watched. Didn't lift a finger to help. Even though he was right there and it would have sped up the process and helped him out. Nope. Just going to watch. Bloody rude bastard.
The mooring at Bouzies. There were no boozies to be had.
We made it back to Bouzies, docked and I did a lap of the village, hoping to find a boulangerie for lunch. Nope. Closed. Of course. It's Wednesday. It wouldn't be open today. So we had cereal for lunch. Breakfast: the lunch of champions.

Having rung the Pech Merle cave and found that we didn't have to book, we set off on our bikes along the 5km road to Cabrerets, past swooping high limestone cliffs riddled with little caves. We did a bit of exploring and then kept going, following the lovely little side river. I could have sworn the road was all downhill to the village. Once there Luke had a quick coffee which turned him into Superman for five minutes. Then we set off again.
Rock shelters on the road to Pech Merle, just out of Cabrerets
The road to Pech Merle has about 500m of flatness, past more limestone cliffs that ended in a beautiful flat area, facing south. I could easily imagine that stone age tribes would happily have camped there, it was a lovely spot. Nice little brook, now with a mill house over it.

Then it was 3km of hill, straight up. Hard going. Luke was pushing it due to his illness. I did a lot of standing on pedals but still ended up pushing my bike. When we finally got there we were very sweaty and tired but rather exhilerated.

The cave tourist complex was fairly deserted though people had begun to arrive for the post-lunch sessions. We went in with the 2pm tour, the first for the afternoon. Unfortunately it had the full complement of 25 people (perhaps more) and the tour guide only spoke in French so I don't think we had the best experience; it certainly can't compare with our amazing Font De Gaume experience of 2008.
The famous Pech Merle horses. This painting is thought to be 25,000 years old.
The cave is extensive with lots of amazing stalactites and limestone formations. There's also several very old cave paintings including "The Black Frieze" which has about 40 different overlaid animals, hard to discern all of them. There was a carving of a bear's face which I really enjoyed and human footprints in mud, preserved. Impressive. Obviously the best painting was the spotted horses, huge and well done. I wanted more time to just look at them, to stand in silence and admire the antiquity and the workmanship but of course the tour group had to move on.

It was still wonderful to see and I'm glad we did it.

The cave was only 12 degrees and after being hot and sweaty at the start we emerged very chilled, I couldn't wait to stand in the sun. I thawed out as we rode down the hill... I should have been hurtling but I found I didn't trust the brakes on my crappy old hire bike... the back one didn't do much and seemed ready to fail. Then the ride back was easy... I swore it must have been downhill all the way.
Bouzies bridge with the "English castle" built into the rock behind it
After returning to Bouzies we hightailed it back to St Gery as we didn't have any milk for breakfast. Drank beer as we drove, like you do. No police breath checks on the river Lot. Tried to make the supermarket at 7pm, arrived as the bell was tolling... and the roller door had just started to close. Damn. At least I got some bread. Then settled in for a lovely minestrone for dinner. And too much wine.

Sunrise in Saint Gery at the mooring spot

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