Monday, 24 June 2019

Saint Crepin and Lac de Serre-Poncon


Monday 24 June 2019

Nido’s wild camping overlooking Lac de Serre-Poncon, a very long and beautiful turquoise reservoir, with tree covered mountains all around.  It’s been a very hot day and the thermometer is only set to rise this week, forecast to peak at about 40’C on Thursday.  Today it’s said it’s 30’C, but it’s felt a lot hotter, hence a couple of long and cooling swims in the lake.

Yesterday morning we were both awake very early and watched the sun rise over the mountains at Col du Lautaret.  Showered and a breakfast of bacon and eggs (it was Sunday!), we were on the road by 0830 to an aire about 15km away to empty the black and grey tanks and top up with fresh water.  It was then a short hop to Briancon, the nearest place to top up with LPG.  The plan was to park in the Briancon aire and walk to the old town, but the aire was run down with a few vans that looked like they’d been there for several months, plus a large group of travellers and caravans in a car park across the way, so we decided not to stay.

We tried a couple of the wild swimming spots mentioned in the book, but they weren’t really wild in our view - small swimming lakes next to a busy road.  So instead we decided to stay on the aire in Saint Crepin.  It’s run by the municipal campsite across the road and was a lovely spot, with large grass pitches.  We were the only ones there and bagged a shady pitch under a pine tree.  We were the only ones here until the evening and spent the day just chilling out, watching the gliders being towed aloft from the next door aerodrome and then soar over the mountains for several hours.  There was also a hoopoe nest in a hole in a tree close to our pitch, with both parents flying to and fro all day to feed what we think were two chicks.  So it was a bit of a lazy Sunday, but it meant we avoided the crowds of cars and motorcycles and just relaxed  reading, surrounding by nature and a farmer turning the cut hay.

We slept really well and enjoyed a breakfast of beans on toast (!) sat outside, watching the hoopoes again going through the tiring motions of feeding their chicks - it’s about time they fledged and gave their poor parents a break!  I drove over the river bridge to the service point between the fast flowing river (the snows are still melting) and the aerodrome, topping up fresh and emptying the loo - in this heat a task best done daily!

The journey here was only about an hour, along easy roads. I’d plugged co-ordinates into the sat-nav for a wild swimming spot, but there was a height barrier so Plan B came into force, which actually was the better option.  A couple of vans were already parked up here, but we managed to manoeuvre into a nice spot overlooking the lake, with some hawthorn bushes and pine trees alongside us, to provide some shade later in the day.  As soon as we were parked up, we were changed and legging it down the track to the lake side.  The water was on the warm side of cool and very, very refreshing.  After twenty minutes cooling off and drip-dry in the sun, we wandered back up to the van.The awning came out to give us (and the fridge vents) some well-needed shade and we enjoyed a small lunch, before moving into a shaded area under the pine trees, with a gentle and very welcome breeze working its way up the hillside from the lake.  

Cathy prepped part of our supper before we went down for another swim at about 1800.  Our post-swim showers were most welcome, as was the salad nicoise Cathy made, with some garlic croutons I fried with the last of the large loaf I bought a few days ago.  Sat outside in the warm evening, enjoying our supper with a bottle of local rose, we watched the sun set and the lake turn into a glassy reflection of the hills opposite.  Flies are a bit of a problem in this heat; we have fly-grilles on all the skylights and windows, but not the cab and sliding doors, so of course they still get into the van.  A fly swat and a citronella candle seem to do the trick and later in the evening they disappear to roost for the night.  Now sat outside with a cup of tea in the darkening evening, the air warm, still and perfumed by the pine trees, listening to the birdsong and crickets, it’s a lovely end to the day.  

Tomorrow we continue south into Provence, searching out more wild swimming spots, quite a nice way to plan our trip.  I’m now using the Wild Swimming France book as a guide; once we’re in the area it’s easy to follow our noses and find somewhere good to park and take a dip.  I did a bit more research this afternoon, so our route will take us west towards Mt Ventoux (another famous TdF climb), then south-east back into Provence, before heading for the Mediterranean coast and the Camargue, then up into Languedoc, Corbieres and Rousillon followed by the Cevennes region, before starting to make our way slowly north again.  That’s the rough plan, but of course it will probably change as we move along and discover new sights and places.   I have a few apps on my phone to help find interesting places to stay, the best being Search for Sites and Park4Night.  Campercontact is OK, with Camperstop coming in a poor fourth, although I also have their book, which is good.

Saint-Crepin aire - all to ourselves


Hoopoe chick waiting for more food

And here comes the food!

Finding shade wherever we can


Lac de Serre-Poncon


This was so refreshing!

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