Explorer Belt Day 4 – Beaufort to Saou

Photo 2 - Eglise Square

 

In 1984 as a 15 year old Venture Scout I embarked on a 10 day Explorer Belt hike around the alpine region of South France. In this series of blog posts I revisit my diaries and retrace those footsteps…
My diary entry

Thursday 16th August 1984

Got up at 7am. Washed feet in river. Ate ryvita with paste and drank orange juice. Hung out tent to dry on some football posts. Said goodbye to our hosts and when all was packed we left and walked to Aoust at a steady pace. Get there at approximately 11:10. Sat in café writing log. Played on a pool table.

Continued our walk through scorching heat and a large valley to a campsite near Saou. Camped in windy area. Good facilities (toilets and showers). Had very good food. Savoury risotto, liquid mousse and tea. Wrote log. Took things easy. Got to bed at 10:11.

On this day:

  • Car designer John De Lorean is acquitted of drug related charges
  • NASA launches Ampte space probe
  • Top Of The Pops is presented by Steve Wright and features Tears For Fears & Howard Jones

Looking back…

My diary says that we washed in the river – it would have been mountain fresh not to mention mountain cold. Brrr! As for drying the tent that was the dew that greeted us each morning. The rising sun soon dried things out.

After yesterday’s blister enforced break it was good to be back on the road again. Our early start meant that we could cover a fair distance before the searing heat made the business of hiking uncomfortable from late morning to mid afternoon. This stretch was a pleasure as we followed the scenic valley south through farming and orchard land. If I ever go back I want to try the wine!

The attractive valley road from Beaufort to Aoust

All of these years later I would like to belatedly apologise to the residents of Aoust for the despicable crime that I committed while caught short. With nowhere to go I utilised a dilapidated hut by the side of the road. Only upon exiting this disused shack did I notice the bus timetable on the wall… Merde!

Looking at google maps the route from Aouste to Saou followed a rocky mountain ridge that must have been spectacular, especially during the descent into the valley east of Aoust. It is typical that I would fail to mention this while proclaiming the food. Perhaps that is the French way.

Approaches to Saou…

Photo 1 - Saou mountain outcrop
Photo 1 – Saou mountain outcrop
The same view today on google street view
Modern re-creation in street view

It seems that much of our walking was along roads. This would have put more stress upon us than path walking but is unsurprising given that the mountainous terrain would be unlikely to offer many choices of passage.

My photo of the church square in Saou clearly illustrates the mountainous setting. This is one of many stop-offs that I would love to visit again.

Photo 2 - Eglise Square
Photo 2 – Eglise Square
They have cleared the ivy but nothing else has changed
Modern re-creation in street view

Where did we camp in Saou? It’s not clear but there are a couple of nearby camp sites and one thing’s for sure – the views would have been incredible. Here’s the vista from Camping La Graville near to Saou…

The great outdoors!

I’m glad I have photos to refer to because my nonchalant diary entry might as well have me tramping through Milton Keynes.

Map
In the absence of our original maps I have deduced the following route…

Distance walked: 15.0 miles (24.0 km)

 Key:
Start Beaufort sur-Gervanne
Via Aoust-sur-Sye
End Saou
Photo 1 Street view of Photo 1 – Saou mountain outcrop
Photo 2 Street view of Photo 2 – Eglise Square

Explorer Belt Day 3 – Beaufort

Photo 1 - Our guests yard

 

In 1984 as a 15 year old Venture Scout I embarked on a 10 day Explorer Belt hike around the alpine region of South France. In this series of blog posts I revisit my diaries and retrace those footsteps…
My diary entry

Wednesday 15th August 1984

Got up late at 9:30. Washed feet in brook. Wore sandals for first time in France. We left rucksacks at house and took ant filled tent down (we found loads of ants crawling around tent). Killed scores of ants. Family went out for the day so we sat down and wrote log, drew maps, drank and shoed flies away.

This continued until 2:30 when pangs of hunger drove us to Beaufort where we found only the restaurant (too expensive) and newsagent open. We saw many people playing boules and took photo before very hot sun (approx 80 degrees fahrenheit) drove us back to the shade of the newsagents. We bought 1 pack of biscuits, 3 postcards and 2 stamps.

Went back to house where we wrote 2 postcards. Walked back and posted them in Beaufort and we also filled up water bottles and larger water container. Returned and attempted to make goulash. Andy spilled half a pint of it on the stone floor, but no loss because it was horrible anyway and the dog ate it. Frantically cleared up mess and then attempted mash which was OK except that there was too much.

Washed the mash container out in the river and surplus mash flew all over the place. Trees were white with mash. The stream bed had mash on it. I discarded the rest under a large stone whose inhabitant (a spider) was most surprised, distressed and soon drowned in mash. After washing up we made rice pudding which was actually edible and NICE! The meal ended well with delicious orange juice.

We left the rucksacks and wreckage from dinner but took just the tent to the most antless part of the field we could find. It pitched easily and for once correctly. I sellotaped every visible entrance which might allow an ant to enter and this done we settled down for the night. Will now sleep as soon as I’ve sellotaped up the door for the tent. Got to bed at 9:22

On this day:

  • Ray Parker Jr in US charts with Ghostbusters
  • IBM releases the PC-AT – (286 processor, 20MB hard drive & 256k of RAM – feel the power!)
  • Soviet Union opens its alternative games having boycotted the Olympics

Looking back…

With blistered feet in need of rest today became an unanticipated recovery day, which at least meant a lie-in. The ants really were a pest. I was rather freaked out when we first encountered them in the tent but with the modern Force 10 Mk IV having a sealed groundsheet there were only a limited number of entrances and these could be taped up.

All along our walk I was struck by the prevalence of boules (petanque as the people of the Rhone valley called it). Every village had a sandy boules area and older gents would spend hours playing or watching beneath the shade of trees. One sensed lifelong friendships were played out in these arenas at a suitably sedate pace. Here is that photo I took…

Photo 2 - Boules in the square
Photo 2 – Boules in the square
I’m pleased to see that little has changed in 30 years.
Modern re-creation in street view

The house and yard at Beaufort are burnt into my memory. I don’t recall the mash episode but I do remember feeling extremely awkward about spilling goulash in the yard and hoping our kindly hosts would not be offended. In retrospect they would probably have been more offended by the fact we were eating shoddily cooked goulash, mash and rice pudding.

My diary reveals that I was instead preoccupied with food – something true to this day. We spilled the goulash in this yard…

Photo 1 - Our hosts yard
Photo 1 – Our hosts yard
I have been trying to work out exactly where we stayed using google maps based on the photo of the house. We were obviously staying at a property with land adjoining the river Gervanne so I think I can narrow it down to one of 2 properties. I have a hunch that it is this one – it assumes a degree of modernisation…
Modern re-creation in street view

We grabbed an early night and hoped the walk could continue in the morning without the hinderance of blisters.

Map
No walk today but a few locations are referenced

 Key:
Photo 1 Street View of Photo 1 – Hosts yard
Photo 2 Street View of Photo 2 – Boules in the square
Overnight Suspected camping location

Explorer Belt Day 2 – Marignac to Beaufort

Photo 1 - View from Col de Marignac
In 1984 as a 15 year old Venture Scout I embarked on a 10 day Explorer Belt hike around the alpine region of South France. In this series of blog posts I revisit my diaries and retrace those footsteps…
My diary entry

Tuesday 14th August 1984

What a day! Got up at 7:45am, had ryvita, coffee and packed everything by 9:40. Filled water bottles and left. Kept up a good pace and reached St Julien after walking through much picturesque countryside. Stopped there 11:55 to 12:20 and had expensive cake. Walked in hot sun to a footpath that was hard to find. Eventually joined up with road again and walked for many many miles through very hot open landscape on long twisting roads until we got to l’Escoulin. After a short rest we pushed on at record pace to Beaufort. Had lemonade there. Took photo of restaurant and we bought orange juice and water.

Very nice family let us camp in their field. The aided Andy’s sore feet and let us cook on their land. Were very friendly and kind. Four adults and 2 girls (12 and 16) a boy and a girl (about 4 and 5 respectively). Andy’s foot is bad so we are spending tomorrow here as well. Got to bed at 10:42 after girls helped us to put tent up.

On this day:

  • IBM releases PC DOS v3.0
  • Indian cricket team complete 5-0 test whitewash against England

…well, some things don’t change.

Looking back…

A regular feature of our walk was to be filling our water bottles from fountains in villages and towns on the way. The mountain spring water was refreshingly cool and arguably superior to anything you could buy.

The views were getting better and better. Back then I was an idiot in charge of a camera but for once I pointed it at worthy subject matter, even if the composure was poor.

Photo 1 - View from Col de Marignac
Photo 1 – View from Col de Marignac
And that same view today…
Modern re-creation in street view

On reflection this was our first “proper” day of walking, fully laden in the heat over 16 miles. Andy’s feet were in a bad way with some serious blisters. Mine were faring a little better and I had to use one or two plasters to reduce friction.

We were taken in by such a friendly family. They provided medication for Andy’s feet and may even have persuaded us to take a day off for recovery. Neither of us wanted to fail any aspect of our walk but blisters can stop the most accomplished walker dead in their tracks.

Our boots were traditional leather beasts – hot and heavy compared to modern lightweight breathable ones. Were they properly worn in? Also consider that we were walking mostly on surfaced roads and that’s always harder on the body than walking off-road.

Here is the photo of that restaurant as mentioned in my diary…

Photo 2 - Beaufort Cafe
Photo 2 – Beaufort Cafe
The scene hasn’t changed much and what I described as a restaurant is now a bar.
Modern re-creation in street view

It says a lot about the mindset of a 15 year old that I hardly ever commented on the dramatic scenery and when I did the adjective “picturesque” was hardly a worthy metaphor for this stretch of the Massif Central.

The sort of scenery I was describing as picturesque (© Ton Peters)

Also my obsession with timings is increasingly evident. I knew I always used to note the time I went to bed each night but my diaries reveal an even more obsessive streak with time keeping throughout the day. Around this age I was a night owl, often awake until 1 or 2 in the morning so in this context getting to bed before 11pm suggests we were feeling the strain.

Map
In the absence of our original maps I have deduced the following route…

Distance walked: 16.6 miles (26.5 km)

 Key:
Start Marignac en-Diois
Via Saint-Julien-en-Quint
Via L’Escoulin
End Beaufort sur-Gervanne
Photo 1 Street view of Photo 1 at Col de Marignac
Photo 2 Street view of Photo 2 of Beaufort Cafe
Overnight Suspected camping location