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France 2023 Tarn Day 2 – Castelbouc Montbrun to La Malène (24km) grade 1-2 by Ian

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France 2023 Tarn Day 2 – Castelbouc Montbrun to La Malène (24km) grade 1-2 by Ian

After having explored the hilltop village of Castelbouc the night before we were then to paddle below the high walls and buildings as the river wound its way in the gorge below. It had rained a little overnight and the river was now a little brown with runoff compared to the day before but at least it would push us along on our way down to La Malène.

After passing under the submersible bridge [a low bridge designed to be on the bottom of the river in times of flood] we drifted down underneath the historic town. This gave us some fantastic views of the hidden town above. We were so glad we had gone through the whole village hidden in a tributary valley behind the craggy outcrop.

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The historic hilltop village of Castelbouc maintained by public donations

After leaving the historic village of Castelbouc we paddle on through the deepening gorge with a few rapids and one natural weir. Graham lined his boat down while we paddle down the deepest part. Ian hit a rock during his descent but we all quickly bailed out and Spongy came into his own. The Gorge walls then towered up with near-vertical rock faces. Before long Nikki found a rope swing hanging from a tree. It just had to be tested out so out went the cry of “Cliff”. This was the now not-so-secret code word for all to jump overboard for a quick swim.

After several attempts at launching ourselves into the water from the swing, we paddled on as it was time for another elevenses’.

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Nikki and the swing

Before long we arrived at the beautiful town of Sainte Enimie and pulled over onto the beach just before the main bridge. There were waterfalls running through the town and even through some of the buildings. We visited a shop with a cold stream (spring) running through the building. It had been made into a bit of an attraction but when Andy asked if it flooded, the owner replied: “Yes – all the time”.

Sainte-Enimie (French pronunciation: [sɛ̃t enimi]; Occitan: Santa Enimia) is a former commune in the Lozère department in southern France. It was founded in the 7th century by Énimie, who started a convent there after being cured of leprosy in the surrounding waters. It was the site of several monasteries, some of which still remain.

After exploring for a bit we kept returning to the restaurant in the centre of the village. It looked like thunder so we decided to see if we could get a table. We all ordered omelettes and sat in wet clothing getting a little chill from the over-enthusiastic air conditioning. When we left the very warm humid air hit us but we needed to get down the river so had to return to the beach and our canoes.

Spongy was nearly left on the beach as he had been sunning himself between thunderstorms. Fortunately, he shouted out “Wait for me” and one of the group paddled back to pick him up. He would be very useful after the play session in the waterfall at Castelbouc.

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It was time to explore the waterfall. Niikki sped off towards the water and was the first to paddle under it. Others followed often choosing to pass under the drips rather than the heavier flows. I put my waterproof hood up in an attempt to keep dry, it helped a bit. Andy had a go and ventured into the cave and undercut at the back. Keith helped him out but may have just got in the way causing Andy to be under the main flow for quite a few seconds. Andy emerged from the waterfall with a boat half-full of water. He was less than impressed and had to paddle to the edge to empty.

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Nikki under the waterfall at Sainte-Enimie

After 100s of photographs, we regrouped to paddle off downstream. A diagonal weir across the river slowed our progress a little but Martin found a line down on river left. Graham with his beloved cedar strip canoe lined down on the river right. After another five km, we reached La Malène. Keith got out at the impressive stone bridge in the town to ask the canoe hire company where the campsite was. Before he got the answer the others had drifted down to the small bridge just below the campsite.

Mike on the final weir of Day 2

That evening we walked into the town to enjoy a meal at a local establishment. The town was largely empty but it was clear that in a month’s time at the height of the summer season, there was capacity for many tourists. This further confirmed that we had chosen the right time of year to explore this region.

Paddlers: Keith, Ian, Mike, Ruth, Martin, Nikki, Andy, Graham & Spongy

Click for more photos………….