Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fort Buoux (and the rest of the valley)

A crisp, sunny day greeted us in the morning, the perfect temperature, in Alan’s opinion, for the planed itinerary of a hike first to Fout Buoux, perched high on its mountain plateau, followed by a loop walk up the valley below.  The fort’s location provides a natural defense system that has been used by Ligurians, Romans, Catholics, and Protestants, with neolithic people occupying the area before any of them. Louis XIV ordered its destruction in 1660, stopping the succession of persecuted people (like the Waldensians) from using the stronghold.

Watchtower at Fort Buoux

Looking across the valley from the fort
We parked the car in a little lot across from a wonderful rock wall already dotted with rock climbers, their voices echoing across the gorge and the sun glinting off their equipment as they prepared their next move. Our trail started in the opposite direction, going first under a huge overhanging rock (the largest in Provence) that has been used since prehistoric times (there are beam holes for roofs and water channels carved into it). We reached the entrance to Fort Buoux only to be told that the actual fort was under renovations. Most of the plateau was open, and we wondered close to very step edges, ruins of watchtowers, homes, silos, and cisterns. The church was open, but with a pile of rocks next to it suggesting renovations will be going on there sometime soon. Alan and I opted to take the hidden staircase down while Mom and Dad went back the gentler route we had come. After descending a short way, our path snaked along the edge of the plateau, leading us past the fort above before the trail suddenly came to a drop-off that housed the real stairs. They were carved out of the rock, going steeply down—but what bothered me was when the outside edge lost its ancient handrail leaving nothing between me and the drop below! We made it down without incident, meeting my parents and heading on to the actual hike (now that we had been walking around for almost 2 hours).

The hidden staircase
Between my book (with written directions) and Mom’s map (with a marked trail) we made and missed turns but ended up where we wanted to go for the most part. We were high on one side of the gorge just before lunch when Dad asked me if I had seen the house built into the rock on the other side. I was looking for the house when suddenly I though I saw a deer stuck on the side of the cliff! Binoculars and cameras proved it to be one of a herd of goats, tripping along paths I couldn’t see nibbling on bits of leaves that I hope were tasty enough to warrant the risk!

We think it was just a herd of domestic goats
We ate lunch on an old, old bridge—if that’s what it was. We were now walking on the old salt trail that was favored for its lack of bandits, and this “bridge” from one side of the gorge to the other seemed to be an old wall of rocks with no hole for water (that we could see) rising straight up for at least 100 feet. It was about 15 feet wide at the top and ran about 100 feet from one side of the gorge to the other. It wasn’t mentioned in the guidebook, and we only went down the little path that led to it because we were looking for somewhere to sit and eat! Trees blocked it from view, and there was no good way even to take a photo of it, but it made for a good topic of discussion as we sat down in the middle of it for lunch, eating sandwiches and wondering why it was built in the first place.

The (very) small church
 The town of Sivergues lay next in our path, a very cute little town with a small church cared for by the two remaining Catholic families in town – the other 18 are Protestants, converted when the Waldensians sough refuge here from 1490 to 1520. From the town we descended to the valley floor, following the Aiguebrun river (the name comes from “murmuring water” in the Provencal dialect). The guidebook said the water was so clear you could hardly tell it was there and yes, jokes were made at the dry riverbed we came to first. But the guidebook was absolved when we came to a pool full of some of the clearest water I have ever seen. We were supposed to cross the river somewhere and climb the cliffs up the other side of the gorge; however, we missed the turn and decided to keep following the river, which murmured its way ahead of us till we reached the car. There we left it behind to rest our weary legs at home.

Clear water of the Aigueburn

No comments:

Post a Comment