Completely satisfied, but also with a serious case of jello-legs, I got in the car to further our travels into France. Our time in the gorgeous Vercors Massif was over. Bummer! But no time -and reason- to sulk for long; new adventures awaited!
The next region that we wanted to explore was the Cevennes. From Pont-en-Royans, it was about a four-hour drive to our next destination and we deemed that perfectly do-able in half a day. We had had an active morning by cycling up Col de la Machine, so a chill afternoon in the car would be ideal to allow our muscles to relax for a while. Unfortunately we hadn’t taken into account the afternoon heat… By noon, temperatures were already crawling close to 30 degrees Celsius and soon our AC-less van would turn into a sauna. Uh-oh.
So no other option but a change of plans! We wouldn’t drive all the way to the Cevennes that day, but make an extra stop along the way. The Ardèche region and more importantly the Ardèche river seemed like the perfect place for an overnight stay.
Along the Ardèche river and in the area around Vallon-Pont-d’Arc there are many camping areas. So many in fact that we almost didn’t know which one to choose. We ended up randomly picking one and got settled on Camping de L’île. Nothing too fancy, but all we needed was available. And most importantly, it was right along the river. So clothes off, bathing suits on and time for a refreshing splash into the water. Aaaaaah, bliss! Unlike the day before, the water was the perfect temperature!
But as much as I like to swim, even in a beautiful environment, I also fairly quickly get tired of it. Since we didn’t complete the entire planned drive, it was only around 4:30pm by the time we were sunbathing on top of the rocks along the river. Neither of us are sunbathing-type of people either, so that as well didn’t last very long. And then I discovered my friend hadn’t seen the famous Pont d’Arc yet, nor knew what it looked like, while he’d been in this area many times before. Un-ac-ceptable!
And so we got the bikes out of the van again, and hit the touristic site of Pont d’Arc, the natural rock arch over the Ardeche river. It was only about 2,5 kilometers away, however it was not exactly flat as you would expect a road along the river to be. Sure, it wasn’t another col, but my aching muscles weren’t a big fan of our spur-of-the-moment idea.
But in the end it was worth it. I wouldn’t have made an enormous detour for this view, as I don’t find it that special, but it’d be a pity to miss out on it when you’re only a few kilometers away. It was also pretty swamped with tourists, which is another reason why we didn’t hang around too long.
The rest of the evening was spent lounging in our camping chairs, staring out over the river and at the beautiful starry sky. Good food and drink in hand. Life really doesn’t get better than that, right?
The next morning – fully relaxed -, it was time to hit the road again. But we weren’t going to leave the Ardèche region just yet. The evening before, we found out about another point of interest in the area that peaked our interest; the Bois de Paiolive. This forest of rocks along the Chassezac river and gorge seemed well worth our time. And we weren’t disappointed!
Especially the views from the rocks along the river on the gorge were breathtaking. If you follow the yellow walking route (departing from the second parking lot), you come along those views and also have a nice trail back through the often dense forest itself. The perfect mix of the best this place has to offer. That trail was about three kilometers long, and at times a bit technical (although it might have just felt that way since we were only wearing old sneakers), so the ideal morning hike for us.
I would have loved to spend some more time in the forest and the Ardèche region, but the Cevennes were calling out for us. It was time to head to our planned next destination. So much more to discover!