Thursday September 8; Stage 11
Escouloubre to Prades
Col de Garavel, 1245m
Col de Jau, 1509m
At 7.30 we take our bikes from the big dining hall where the farm hands have already eaten, and breakfast ourselves on giant pieces of bread, a slab of butter the size of a brick, and vast marmites of home made preserves together with an enormous Madeira cake. We feel as if we must have shrunk during the night as everything is so large. Vessels the size of cereal bowls are filled with coffee and milk from hefty jugs.
Following this, we find small roads that lead us to the Col de Garavel, where lovely open fields at the top give onto airy views. A stone cross of ancient origin stands guard at the col. The area seems to have many prehistoric remains, as soon after we come upon a menhir in a clearing with a view that we go down to look at. The road takes us low, and lower, down into gorges before starting up the Col de Jau. On the way up we stop at a small bridge, and watch cyclists whizzing down from the col in the opposite direction. They seem to all be on organized holidays and are having their gear carried for them and lunches set up under awnings at beauty spots along the way. Again the descent from the col is great, but this time the road is a poorer surface and quite bumpy. The landscape is changing, we see cacti and red tiled roofs, and smell herbs and the wind blows hot and dry, seemingly emptying the water bottles by sheer evaporation. We stop in the mid day heat to have a look at the small town of Mosset, one of the most beautiful villages in France, with its closely guarded narrow streets full of houses shuttered against the sun. the town of Molitg les Bains is a very swanky looking thermal spa town, where an array of large hotels with exciting swimming pools nestled down in the gorge. Following this was a lovely ride up a gorge valley, reminding me a bit of the Gorges de la Nesque, to finally bring us into Prades. We have to pitch on a patch of dried mud, and nobody likes camping on mud beside a chicken wire fence with views only of caravans and motorhomes and their dowdy plastic furniture and poodles, but for scenery we only need to walk 100 yards up the road to the lake, with mountain views, and a small bar, so everything seems much better once we have seen this facility.