Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lot valley


We had a surprise on our drive from the Millau bridge to Bordeaux. Very stupidly I did not take my Zumo (Garmin GPS for motorcycles =sat nav in UK). I believe the European maps are already in it when you get it and we have to buy the expensive South African map as an extra; possibly I would have had to do something to activate the map. We bought the Michelin road map for the whole of France. There are four different classes of roads marked and we wanted to keep to the smaller ones which are marked either yellow or white (actually two thin black lines without a colour between them). The bigger red roads are much faster but those national routes (like our N roads) are not nearly as picturesque and relaxing as the smaller roads which tend to have little traffic on them. Very occasionally Michelin puts a green stripe next to a road; this indicates a ‘scenic route’. We noticed there was a green road at Cahors which would be on our way to Bordeaux so we went there.

It is the road alongside the Lot river. Here is the Google terrain map of the area. The road goes from Cajarc in the east to Cahors in the west. We also did a side trip and went up towards Cabrerets as there is a famous cave there which Antonia wanted to visit.

Cajarc where we joined the Lot with the mist still around.

In Cajarc there is this suspension bridge over the river Lot. (Photo also used in my post about bridges).

It was misty down in the valley but we could at least see some of our side but not the river or the view to the far side.

Note the house built into the cliff.


This I also used in the Bridges post. It is my favourite bridge we saw in France.

We went through lots of short tunnels like this.

Then the mist began to lift and we started to see the other side of the valley. Look at those rows of perfect mielies (maize).

Antonia saw a signboard to ‘Grotte de Pech Merle’. These are famous in the archaeological world as they have prehistoric cave paintings from about 25 000 years ago. There are several such caves in Europe but this is one of the very few that are open to the public (in limited numbers). Antonia just had to see them as she is an archaeologist. This is on the road up to the caves. On the map this is on the side valley up to Cabrerets where the caves are.

An artist lives in that house. Notice the ‘woman’ hanging by her neck from the cliff. I don’t know what the story behind that is. You can see some of his steel sculpture at the gate and the sign saying no photos – Antonia had spoken to him & he agreed to the photo.

We had a short wait before the next party went into the caves which are big – only slightly smaller than Cango (though it is a long time since I was in the Cango caves, not as high as Cango but just as long). Not allowed to take pictures. That is the most famous of the pictures. A spotted horse and the artist’s hand outlined by holding it against the rock and blowing paint from his mouth.

This one is the first you see and it is the one I liked most. Unfortunately I cannot find a good copy on the internet. It is in a fairly narrow place so the pictures don’t show it all. I liked the bisons which were shown with just a few charcoal lines but the shapes are so good. That is a mammoth towards the bottom. They must have had surprisingly good oil lamps or something to be able to see what they were doing and also appreciate the art afterwards but there was no visible smoke deposit on the walls of the cave. Remember that this was done 25 000 years ago.

The cave tour takes a little over an hour so the mist had cleared quite a lot when we came out. This is driving back down the side valley to rejoin the main road to Cahors and Bordeaux.

More tunnels.

More houses built into the cliff

More houses and a bridge over the river.

Two more tunnels and a house again.

There is also this railway running next to the road. The date above the tunnel is 1882-1883 (from another photo). Trains can’t turn as sharply as a horse & cart or car so there are much longer tunnels for the railway.

Here we are getting out of the scenic portion of the Lot valley.

This is quite a bit later but it interests me. That weir was built across the river to make it deeper so that barges can use it. On the left is the old lock for the barges. The lock gates are missing but there would have been two. Close the downstream one and let water fill the lock then you can open the upstream one and let a barge float in. Then close the upstream gate again and let the water out, open the downstream gate and the barge can float out. Going the other way just reverse the process. The river is too shallow now downstream of the weir, I don’t know if the downstream weir is broken or the river has filled up. Canals & rivers with barges were a wonderful way of transporting goods in Europe. Later the railways supplanted them but barges are still in use as can be seen from my photo of the bridge in Avignon. I will post about locomotives towards the end of this thread.


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