A Blog by Dermot Dolan

A Blog by Dermot Dolan, all work is copyright of Dermot Dolan.

Sunday 17 August 2014

La Haute Provence par les Gorges du Verdon - Part of the GR 4 - Grande Traversée des Préalpes Summer 2014

After leaving my hike of the Alps in Modane I sought to get a train to Grasse in High Provence. The reason for this was that my original plan was to complete the gr 5 in Menton. I had read about the gr 4 and it would be a short train ride from Menton to Grasse and then I might walk to Pont-St Esprit. My reasons for leaving the Alps were a combination of factors. On day two of my hike I slide down the side of a high ridge, it did not break break my spirit but it did bring home to me the real and present dangers of walking a route like that in that time of the year alone. Another reason was the amount of snow I encountered. Too many thunderstorms. My lack of French in an area few people spoke English. Also when getting to small villages only to find the local "Sherpa Shop" did not open till July 1st.

Now after hitching the last 11 kms from Bramans to Modane I decide to get to Grasse in one day. The very nice lady in the information desk of French Rail SNCF after spending a lot of time with me sold me a ticket. The route was more than somewhat confusing to me. Modane to Lyon to Valence to Avignon to Toulon to Cannes to Grasse.I do understand that it was the French railway system and she was doing her job, I should have went to Italy and then came back to Grasse. A great Railway Journey indeed, all that was missing was Michael Portello's Camera crew. Modane to  Milan and back to Cannes would be the route I would insist on again. That good lady of SNCF probably possessed the navigation skills of "Wrong Way Corrigan". For French people reading this I will latter explain who Michael Portello and Wrong Way Corrigan are.

My logistic problems were only beginning. I depend on the French Topo Guides for navigation and information about Gíte d'etapes and general services on route. They are usually available for purchase in the Local Tourisst Office or any local Tabac or Bookshop. It was in fact in Moustiers - Ste Marie before I got the gr4 Topo Gide, you could buy guides for local routes but hat was of little use to me.

Another problem with my limited information and poor WiFi connections was the the lack of Gíte d'etapes. Therefore I decided to get a bus (which the French call a car)to Castellane. The beautiful journey was about to begin.

I will now post a detailed selection of the first part of this journey through High Provence. I must again STRESS that the large number of photographs are there to give you a sense of my journey. If I wanted to "Exhibit" my work then I would only include a handful but that is not what this is about. I will have an exhibition of my work in due course.

Enjoy the Journey. Remember that comment are very welcome there is a section at the bottom of every post to make your valuable remarks.


Treating myself to lunch in Grasse, good French food. 

A high Church in Castellane

On the way to Chasteuil

Near Chasteuil

Near Chasteuil
Near Chasteuil

Near Chasteuil

Wild Sweetpea

There must have been a hidden message here.

Coming in to land

Le Chemin

Run Run

Magic blue Butterflies





Erik Belenguer Mountain Guide Rougon Friendly, Helpful.

The View from bedroom window in the beautiful Gíte d'etape Le mur d'abeilles.

Gorge Verdon

Th e wall of Bees Notice the different hive designs this is the entrance to the Creperie and Gíte d'etape Le mur d'abeilles in Rougon

A nice man in Rougon chatting to Erik from his upstairs window. He is surprised by the camera.

Now smiles politely for the camera.

Horns on door in Rougon

Taken at Point Sublime

Taken at Point Sublime

Looking into Gorge du Verdon from Point Sublime

Man in Rougon watching a game of Pétanque, there are many shades of grey here.

The staircase in my Gíte in Rougan

I think this Mme Clair and Erik's son of the gite and Crepere in Rougan, great hosts.

Vultures circling overhead.

Evening light at the Gorge

The start of the Verdon Gorge

Verdon Gorge

The first of many steps in the Verdon Gorge

It takes almost six hours to walk from here to Chalet de la Maline.

The start of a tunnel there are a few tunnels it must take at 40 mins to walk through them

Best not to think too much about it, just do it.

There is always light at the end of the tunnel, yes but wait and see what is ahead of you!!!!

Great rock formation.

Yes that is a chain to hold on it. The sign there warns you of the dangers ahead. It tells you that a head torch is needed for the tunnels. Strong boots and a good supply of water, and that there is no exit for 6 hours. You are alone, you have no map to give you details(because you cant buy the topo guidebook). You as yet have meet no one. The legs wobble, grab the chain on you march.

 It was Sunday morning when I was walking through the Canyon, I now have to quote a line from a very famous Kris Kristofferson song, Sunday Morning coming down. 
"And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'.
And it echoed through the canyons
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday."
What a great line, Ah it would bring a tear to my eye,and memories.

Not to bad, but the sole of your boots are as bald as your head. You have seen some photographs of myself earlier.

Still no one around. It is now around 9 o clock on Sunday Morning 29th June 2014

There is a path there somewhere.

I think it was around now that I meet a few people.

You could have a picnic there, if you had an appetite. 

It is a very beautiful place.

It is an amazing spot.

 The Bréche Imbert. Ignorance is bliss. I had no idea this existed in the gorge.

It felt much steeper than it looked there.

It is so narrow in place the sides of my backpack were hitting against the rails.

Nice view down, but looking through the camera lens can distort your view and is a bit unbalancing.

Now that is the ladder/stairs over with.

Please read this it explains what the ladders are about.

Nearly there.

Looking back at the Gorge.

Looking back at the Gorge.

Looking back at the Gorge.

Looking for a woman with a limp, actually any woman would do.

One last view of that great Gorge. Yes it was worth the effort and would be one of the highlights of my Summer Journey in France

Monday 30th June looking back at La Palud-sur Verdon.

A flower.

Misty blue mountains, one of my favorite sights.

I'm running out of captions.

Yes they do overtake on roads like that.

Just look at the wings on that.

I spend hours in the mountains chasing butterflies with my camera. They are incredibly difficult to photograph but worth it.

My first glimpse of the lavender field.

Wild Sweetpea.

I will later identify the butterflies.

The different colors.

Beautiful so delicate.

The flowers look good also.

I will label this HP 1 someone might name it for me.

HP 2

Thistle in Wheat field.

Poppy in Wheat field


Breakfast at the Gíte de Venascle, I could easily take to this life.

Moustiers Ste Marie, the spec you see between the two rocks is actually a star, there is a chain between the two rocks with a star in the middle. It is in fact the Chaine de L'Etoile, the chain is 220 meters long. The origins dates back to the 12th Century when it was placed here by the Blacas family, one of them was imprisoned during the Crusades he vowed to make an offering to Notre-Dame de Beauvoir if he was released. The star on the chain was originally made of Silver, but was supposedly stolen during the Wars of Religion. 
 It is here I eventually am able to buy the gr4 topo guide.

Lavender Honey 

I always liked photographs of lavender fields.

A mountain and lavender

Close up of Lavender

I for the next few photograps think it silly to title lavender fields, just enjoy them.

Riez typical house front in Provence

A very late lunch in Riez, it is some class of a fruit tart and cost me 2 euro. tasty.

Housefront Riez

 I can now throw away the map I had been using. This will strike terror in the heart of dedicated hikers and navigators. Because I could not buy topo guide this was the only map I used to navigate through high Provence for 4 days.  Also I found the gr 4 marking to be poor and non existent in places. I did have a compass in my pocket (but it kept sticking into my leg).

Fresh local produce in Gréoux-les-Bains.

Fresh local produce in Gréoux-les-Bains.

Fresh local produce in Gréoux-les-Bains.

I like the "sweep" of this wheat field.

Just picking a little lavender for the house.

Feeding time.

So much to see out there, just slow down.

Walking over a bridge on my way to Manosque on July 2nd 2014 I was  invited by these lovely people to have lunch with them. I did and spent well over an hour eating and chatting to them. Thank you.

Meet this friendly man in Manosque.

Still Provence but have now left the high route. 

Some class of a Thistle looking well.

I just like this one.

Taken in Provence near Apt. Please identify it for me. I picked a piece the most amazing scent, might be a form of lavender. Heaven scent.

Amazing blue.

Between Apt and Maubec. It is a small snail but they cling to everything. Millions of them I imagine they are a problem. More information please, anyone?

No matter how many I see, I still have to stop and look.

The village 6 km before Maubec. I don't think Declan the roofer will be needed for a few years.

A lovely night in the friendly campsite and gíte in Maubec. It was Italian night great food, good company. This was the singer/entertainer called Jirka. He reminds me so much of a friend, the actor Des Braiden, his mannerisms were identical to those of Des.

Sunday morning market Maubec.

Sunday morning market Maubec.

Sunday morning market Maubec.

Fresh food I bought at Maubec market for a salad for Sunday lunch, I fried the exact same and had with rice for dinner, excellent.

Maubec, Provence.

Probably making lavender honey.

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1 comment:

  1. Just seen the pictures posted yesterday Dermot. Amazing stuff. The narrative is great, and adds a lot to one's overall enjoyment of the scenes. You invited people to "enjoy the journey". I certainly did! The sheer scale of the mountains is awesome, especially to one who is used to trekking in what we call mountains in Ireland, but what are in fact glorified high hills. Some lovely shots of Rougon. The portraits add a lot to the enjoyment of the post. That's a great picture of the man enjoying game of Petanque. I even got nervous looking at the shot of Point Sublime. My vertigo would prevent me from going within 100 metres of the cliff, even with the protective rails. I saw loads of lavender fields when in Le Puy en Valey last year. It was great being able to view the shots of the Verdon Gorge following the chat we had the other evening. Thanks for sharing the experience. Jim