One of the things that suck about solo travel, though it still remains my favourite way to travel, is the fact that things like car rentals are not friendly to one’s budget. And having a car is pretty much the best way to go off the beaten path, something I love doing. As such, sometimes I change things up and actually travel with someone. A few years ago, when I was studying French in France, my dad came to visit me and we decided to check out the Gorges du Tarn area. Neither of us knew much about the area but that’s what the internet is for! I looked up a few tours, took note of what they all had on their itineraries and bam – instant “Travel To Do” list. We took the train along the Toulouse-Rodez line and upon reaching Rodez, rented a car, and off we went.
Gorges du Tarn, in northern Langudoc-Roussillon, follows the Tarn River for about 50km. The gorges are one of the deepest in Europe and a supremely scenic part of France.
One of the benefits of driving ourselves during our three-day road trip was that we were able to see places I’d have missed if I’d been doing my usual bus/train/plane method of travelling. One of these places was a hamlet called Hauterives. This place is located near the western end of the Gorges du Tarn. What makes it so unique is that while you can see it from the road, you can’t access the actual hamlet by car!
Hauterives lies between the little towns of La Malene and Sainte-Enimie, along a two-lane windy road. There is a little lookout spot at which you can pull over and admire the stone houses perched amongst the trees in defiant isolation. From the road, it looks deserted…until you notice some cabling going across the river into the hamlet – this is how goods and mail get there! So in other words, some lucky people still live in Hauterives. Residents get home either by canoe or walk the hiking trails from either La Malene or Sainte-Enimie.
We decided that we’d hike over to check this place out. When we parked, we figured it would be about a 20-30 minute walk so I bought the little bit of water I had in the car as the mid-afternoon sun was still warm. We also figured that we’d commune with nature, wander around the stone hamlet, and then continue on to dinner our almost empty stomachs were wanting. Let’s just say that lessons were learned this day.
Don’t get me wrong – it was a gorgeous walk, the trail meandering through the hills, curving around mountains, providing fantastic views… but we were unprepared for how long it was. It probably took us an hour to get to Hauterives but it felt like forever as I felt like I was about to die from hunger. It’s amazing the risk one takes when it comes to the stomach – near Hauterives, I came across a bush with berries. Yep, I ate them. I hear the gasps of horror from here… Trust me – I was fully aware that I knew no first aid, my dad knew no first aid, Hauterives barely had any signs of life, and we were an hour away from the car…but I was hungry. And I’m also aware this makes me sound like I won’t last two minutes in a post-Apocalyptic world…
Despite spending the next 30 minutes wondering if I was now about to die from berries, wandering around Hauterives was really neat. It’s a fantastic little historical stone hamlet with a ruined castle up a hill. Anyone who is a loner at heart and loves history/architecture/nature would think this place is absolutely heaven. While the berries did give me a new lease on life (not death, thank goodness), we knew we had to conserve energy to get back to the car – so we didn’t attempt looking for a way up to the castle. It is one of the travel related things I still regret because seriously, who wouldn’t want to examine a 12th century castle that has been a ruin since the early 17th century?? Ah well. At least we made it back safely to the car and dinner felt like the best meal I’d ever eaten…