here it is a serious climb out of the valley up the side of the gorge to the cliff top again. Sheila, who thought that once we were on the Tarn it was a flat run (like the Lot), is a bit moanie. A stop at the top on a balcony opposite St Victor for great views,and more importantly a PaR to supplement our meagre breakfast, soon cures this. Then it’s steep downhill time again back to the riverside in the bottom of the valley and a repeat up and down climb before we re-cross the Tarn at a barrage. From here on it really is riverside cycling and we can relax in a middle gear and enjoy the scenery as we pass St Rome de Tarn on the other bank.
Our journey takes us on and under the Millau viaduct carrying the A75 motorway over our heads way up in the sky above. This is certainly an impressive, and almost slightly scary, piece of engineering well worth the two Michelin stars it has gained as a tourist attraction in its own right. We run into the large town of Millau itself and are unfortunate to run into some road works where the road has been newly tar sprayed with gravel chippings being thrown onto it. The trike tyres become coated with tar and chippings and look like a black version of a piece of fish coated in breadcrumbs. We grind into centre ville. While Sheila goes into a bar to seek cold water refills for our bottles, John settles to the task of scraping the tar and chipping coating from the tyres, not helped in the task by some drunken youths seeking to be a nuisance and indulge in pointless ATQs. Once sorted we head out of town.
The run out of town to Aguessac, although on a yellow D road, is horrible. It is busy and in part a dual carriageway, but with one lane closed making it difficult for traffic to overtake. Things improve after Aguessac but it is still quite busy. After a while we realise that we have made a mistake, because although we have followed the route we intended, for some reason we got this wrong when originally route planning. We should have crossed the Tarn in Millau and used the unclassified small roads on the other bank through cherry orchards to Le Rozier where that road crosses again to the north bank. Too late to retrace now, so we continue the next 15km to le Rozier on a road which is not perfect but becoming less busy. Half way along we take a break in Rivières sur Tarn for a picnic lunch on a shady bench. This is opposite a café so Sheila goes across the road to get two ‘takeaway’ SdM&C to have with lunch.
Once past Le Rozier we are in the gorges proper and the scenery ramps up from splendid to spectacular. The road remains gently undulating. We continue through les Vignes, beside Pas de Soucy, around the Cirque des Baumes and into les Detroits.
At the les Detroits belvedere we pause to peer down at the river far below.
On to La Malène, where we stop to contemplate a boat trip. The trike is parked out of harms way down beside the canoe hire location and we share a traditional La Malène flat bottomed punt with a French couple for the 8km trip down to Les Baumes through the deepest and most narrow sections of the gorge. Return is by minibus.
Back at La Malène we retrieve the trike and notice that there are six vintage Velox mopeds parked there. As we continue they overtake us and we overtake them in turn. They manage about 30kph, which is better than us uphill, but we can outrun them downhill. The riders are elderly gents with yellow tape measure braces and pudding basin helmets. Like us they have spare tyres lashed to the back of their machines. The whole entourage looks as though it should be taking part in a film. John decides that this is the machine he wants when he can no longer pedal a bicycle.
A few not too severe ups and downs bring us to St Chély du Tarn. St Chély village is an attractive huddle of old buildings in an impressive setting on the river but off the road, nestling below the gorge cliffs in the middle of the Cirque de St Chély. We turn down the small lane to St Chély and drop down to cross the bridge into the village. Much of the village belongs to the Logis hotel or is now Gite de France, but it is well restored, peaceful and with no sign of obtrusive tourism. Picturesque is the word. We are in an annex building beside the small stream that ends into a fountain into the Tarn.
After S&W we have a short walk to explore the village and riverside, before adjourning to the hotel restaurant for drinks followed by a relaxing dinner and early night.
Not too many, but some thing come up so often in the course of our cycle touring that it is not worth writing them out in full each time:
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