At some point during our 6 ½ hour walk we contemplated such words. We had started out above Le Rozier, the village adjacent to Peyreleau where we were staying. They are separated only by a small stream and a one arch mediaeval stone bridge.
We had climbed for about 20 minutes to get to the base of Capluc, whose name comes from Cap Luuis, the Latin for “peak of light”. In the 19th century they were going to erect a statue of the Virgin Mary up there but apparently the local priest entrusted with the funds, a buxom young lady, and the funds themselves, all disappeared. So, in 1973 they erected a simple cross instead.
From the base, reached by steep uneven steps, you then have to climb three open ladders (this would not be allowed in Australia!) to reach the very top (Rocher de Capluc) where there’s a small area fenced in.
I’ve travelled a bit but can honestly say I’ve never seen a 360 degree view to match it; for below, where the Jonte and Tarn Rivers converge, heading in three different directions are some of the deepest gorges in Europe. Dotted by ancient villages and scarred here and there by the few roads in the area it truly is spectacular.
There’s also the remnants of a stone building here and there beside us, lorded over by domineering rock formations, their roofs long gone, their history unknown, but you know someone could handle the steep incline to one of the better views in France, the abandoned hamlet of Capluc.
Even more breathtaking are the rock formations, and that was our next goal. For just over an hour we trod an uneven path, ascending through sparse forest to a saddle between two of the giant rock formations. Lorraine was suffering but soldiered on and when we reached the upper part of the walk things were a lot easier across the Causse Mejean.
Every 50 metres beheld new panoramas over sheer drops and beneath were towering ramparts of massive rock walls. It was like our Blue Mountains on steroids only there’s a lot more of it. Occasionally we passed other hikers or they overtook us as we branched out on the loop that would ultimately return us, via even more dramatic formations, something we’d not thought possible a couple of hours before.
By the time we reached the sheep’s gate, a now disused affair, Lorraine wasn’t really in need of what lay below. For 50 precarious metres beyond the old metal gate, put there to stop sheep from going over the cliff and falling to their death, one had to descend a rock strewn slope with few grips and, it was very steep. Lorraine, somewhat acrophobic, was not amused! However, with some gentle cajoling, some physical help and a reminder that the alternative was over 4 hours to return the way we’d come, she bravely made it to the bottom only to be confronted by other situations along the rim where, without any protection, the abyss awaited you beside the narrow track. I’m certain it was only the thought of a possible long walk back the way we’d come that pushed her onwards.
However, the rock formations here were beyond anything we’d ever seen and were right in your face and often towering immediately above you. It was epic, unforgettable and awe inspiring all at the same time. Lammergeyers rose majestically on the uplifting currents and skinks scuttled from the path as we trod onwards. Way below the roads wound like discarded shoelaces beside the river.
From time to time we came across rock climbers, for here, with over 600 sites to choose from, they have found heaven. Nirvana on a rock face is not something either of us aspire to though we could but gasp at what they were trying to achieve. There were also flowers, odd stuff we’d not seen before.
Reaching the end of the loop and starting down again, our knees weren’t keen at all but, when you do incredible walks like this, somehow the thoughts of achievement blot out the physical hardship and then, there are all those photographs you’ll have to show your friends!