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France 2023 Tarn Day 3- La Malène to Pas Du Souci (10km) grade 1 by Keith

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France 2023 Tarn Day 3- La Malène to Pas Du Souci (10km) grade 1

After eating out in La Malène the previous night we were up early to inspect the river which had risen a little

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following the thunderstorm the previous evening. We had carried the canoes down to the edge of the beach when some local guides started to prepare the punts (lightweight aluminium skiffs with a small petrol motor on the back).

The guidebook describes these craft as “Les Bateliers du Malene”. For over a hundred and thirty years these small boats have been taking tourists down the most beautiful part of the “Gorges Du Tarn”. The boatmen (and women) have poled their way down shallow rapids in the area. Nowadays, they use a small outboard to motor the deeps to get as many trips in as possible. There are crane hosts to lift the boats out at the end and transport them back to the start. Well, if they could drift down the shallows with 6 or 7 people on board then we should be ok.

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Les Bateliers du Malene

Overnight, there had been a bit of shenanigans and payback from the waterfall adventures the day before. A number of stones being carried from the river and placed under people’s tents. One of the group felt things had been taken a step too far when Spongy had gone missing and could not be found anywhere. Well, a hostage situation was just not fair on a leisure trip. After a grumpy start we were assured that nobody had been taken hostage, honest!

We drifted down through some fantastic scenery. After a few kilometres, the valley narrows and both sides tower up high all around us. The guide calls this the heart of the gorge – “Les Detroit’s” or narrows.

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The gorge narrows with towering cliffs which are now ovehanging

It was here that some mentioned the code word “cliff”. Probably a mistake as we were gazing up at all the steepness all around. Nikki, Keith and Ian were playing “the game”, and all proceeded to jump in. We then found a rope hanging on the side of a cliff – woops this was another chance to cool down a little. Ian swamped his canoe trying to get back in and had to paddle to a nearby beach to empty.

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Ian`s swamped boat

We had several elevenses stops on the many white limestone beaches in the gorge and enjoyed the sun and views in a very quiet and special place. Spongy was eventually found, he had been playing hind and seek under some of the kit in the boat, so everyone was happy again. 😊

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Spongy was eventually found, he had been playing hind and seek under some of the kit in the boat,

Before too long we approached the get out at Pas Du Souci. There were numerous canoe company get outs but eventually we found the sign which said STOP – Danger of Death. This was the portage around the impossible syphons and massive boulder chokes. This section has never been successfully paddled and probably never will.

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Impossible syphons and massive boulder chokes at Pas Du Souci.

We collected the cars and trailer and loaded up for the 1 km shuttle to the 3-star campsite at Les Vignes (Called Huttopia)

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

Click for more photos………….