alps de haute provence – day 4

Saturday 11 July 2009
Today we are going to travel through ‘La Drome Provencale’ We rise at 5 and leave as soon as we can, to avoid the heat of noon. The Pas de Lauzens is the easiest pass on the entire trip. It is cold as we ride through the wooded valleys, and descend to the famous village of Saou – the epicentre of Picodon cheesemaking, and the centre of controversy as some feel that agrotourism is harming its production.

The day is starting to get very hot. We reckon around 30 – 33 centigrade.As we descend to the valleys the most striking thing is the cacophony of the cicadas, or cigales. We could not hear each other shouting sometimes, as it seemed as if there were 10,000 ringing voices echoing over the entire valley.

Male cicadas have loud noisemakers called “timbals” on the sides of the abdominal base. Contracting the internal timbal muscles produces a clicking sound as the timbals buckle inwards. As these muscles relax, the timbals return to their original position producing another click. The interior of the male abdomen is substantially hollow to amplify the resonance of the sound. A cicada rapidly vibrates these membranes, and enlarged chambers derived from the tracheae make its body serve as a resonance chamber, greatly amplifying the sound. They modulate their noise by wiggling their abdomens toward and away from the tree that they are on. Additionally, each species has its own distinctive song.

The bike having a well earned rest on the way up to the Pas de Lauzens

Arriving at the Col de la Sausse at 790 metres

As cicadas generally only start to perform at temperatures of over 29 degrees, it is a feature of every descent from higher colder ground, that you cross quite suddenly their sound barrier

Col de la Croix Rouge, 513 metres

Village fountain at Mirabelle aux Baronnies

Vaison la Romaine, the day’s destination

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