After the Allier we’re eager to try to paddle the Orb. According to the weather forecast it is nice and warm near the coast, so it will be good weather to be on the water. Later we’ll find out that the weather near the coast really differs from the weather near the first hills along the Orb, though it’s only 30 km in distance. We arrive at Tarassac, which has a nice campsite, while it’s raining cats and dogs outside and thunderstorms are closing in. Mr Patron is not at the site anymore (Open from 9.00 – 12.00 and 15.00 – 18.00), so we call the phone number noted near the door. Voicemail. We try a few times without luck, start the engine again and drive to the campsite in Poujol-sur-Orb. We get a night of sleep and try again in Tarassac tomorrow.
It’s still rainy and cold that day. Ofcourse there’s always a chance to get wet on the water and when it’s nice and warm. Instead of paddling we decide to go for a walk. Contrary to the Allier area there are more footpaths and hiking routes here. We start at Gorges d’Héric and followed the PR route to col de Bortouyre. Now the footpath disappears and we start following painted blue dots.
The route of the painted blue dots descents at a staggering rate. We fly through a forrest full of ruins and old brick walls. What did these people do for a living and what did they eat? There’s nothing here except wild chestnuts. The descent is quite a challenge, slippery and in the rain trying to find our way down. In the end we arrive exactly at the point that our map said we would be. It’s only the day after that we see a nice footpath 100m after the blue dotted path we took.
The next day the sky is blue when we get out of bed and overcast after breakfast. Near the mountains the weather still looks bad, so we decide to go hiking this day as well. This time we opt for the longer route: Gorges d’Héric, GR7 to Douch, Refuge de Font Salesse and then back via Col de Bartouyre and the path we took yesterday. A nice hike and very quiet in the pre-season in these well-known valleys. Today we wear our rainsuits again.
After two days the weather remains instable. We ask the patron of the campsite if he knows the weather forecast when he laughs and says: “le soleil aujourd’hui”. We leave with packrafts on our backs. From the village we take a dirtroad and then the D160 to the campsite of Poujol-sur-Orb. We put in at the bridge near the campsite. Especially at the start we have to get out of the boat a lot because of all the weirs in this river. At one of the weirs a glisière has been constructed. According to the local (drunk) fisherman, it is “very good”. We are still very careful with our boats and don’t dare to scrape them on the concrete built glisière.
The nice part of the Orb is the last part. We enjoy ourselves big time at a part of the river with a sign that says: “tres difficile”. In an open canoe this might be very difficult, with our agile packrafts it’s a tough job and great fun! At the campsite we get out of the water in front of our mini-camper.
Looking back there were some fun parts in the river, but most of times it was (as it was written in our guidebook): rocky, dodgy and scrapy. That might not be a problem for a hard and plastic (rental) canoe, but with our own inflatable packrafts we try to avoid this kind of rivers. Anyway, we’ve enjoyed ourselves this day.
Oh, by the way, what would those Frenchmen want to say with all these signs near the bridge?
Peter Knowles – White Water Massif Central
Rivers Publishing U.K.
IGN Carte de Randonnées, 1:25 000, No 2543OT: Lamalou-les-Bains