Apart from a few flashes in the distance and some quiet rumbles, the storms we were promised didn’t materialise last night. Much as we’d been hoping for a lightning show, at least this meant a decent night’s sleep. We woke to cooler, cloudier weather, but it’s still warm enough for shorts. On the advice of the lady in the bike shop, we cancelled the bike hire yesterday and planned a visit to some nearby caves instead. I’m not feeling too well anyway, so it proved to be a good move, despite the weather being better than forecast.
We had a lazy morning, and John pottered around while I edited some photos for the blog. Then, at about 11.30 we set off for the Grottes de Choranche, back down the Gorges de la Bourne, which we visited yesterday. They were up a steep road but Bertie is coping well with the hills and hairpins. John parked him in a large parking space and we booked tickets for the next tour, and took a leaflet with an English translation. They aren’t geared up for British visitors here, not that we mind… we can generally get by in French.
The guide opened the gate and let us into the first chamber. The Vercors is a limestone massif and the caves have formed by rainwater washing through cracks in the limestone, dissolving it and gradually making the cracks bigger and forming caves over many years. The underground rivers running through the caves were a lovely colour.
As well as forming caves, the mineralised water forms stalactites and stalagmites. In the Grottes de Choranche there are unusual fistulous stalactites or ‘soda straws’. The water drips through these hollow tubes and deposits a new tiny ring of calcite on the end and the straws gradually get longer… about 5cm in the last 100 years!
Inside the caves there are some proteus in tanks. These are depigmented amphibians with undeveloped eyes that have adapted to cave life. They are fed bloodworms twice a month. Yuk!
We then walked through the Serpentine Gallery, which had lots of pools and larger stalactites and stalagmites, up about 100 steps to the Cathedral. In this huge space, there was a son et lumiere (sound and light) performance. The French seem to like these but John and I were happy to return to the entrance cave, with it’s lovely clear waters and soda straws.
Back outside, it was now rather warm and sunny. We’d seen some signposts to a waterfall and a subterranean cave about 20 mins away, and decided to go for a walk. We could see the small waterfall in the distance, and crossed the stream above it, then turned off to visit the outer subterranean cave. We could see boats tied up which must be used to go further inside. The water was a beautiful colour.
We then went to find the waterfall, ignoring the signs not to go near it because of the danger. It was very dry and even I felt safe, but we still felt naughty crossing the fence.
Back at the centre, we were disappointed to find the restaurant had closed but I still have tummy ache so maybe it’s not a bad thing. On the way back to the campsite in St Jean en Royans, we stopped at the supermarket for some supplies instead. When we came out of the Intermarche, it had started raining, and its been raining on and off since, sometimes accompanied by rather loud thunder. We feel sorry for the cyclist in the tiny tent next door, but he declined our offer to join us.
I’m not sure what we’ll do tomorrow. The forecast looks rubbish, but maybe it’ll be wrong again. We may stay here for another night or we may move on. There are a couple of big hikes we’d like to do.
Wow! That looks so different to the other limestone caves I’ve seen. Those ‘straws’ look so delicate and pretty, and that water colour is amazing!
I’ve never seen the straws before either. They were very pretty. Some were behind Perspex, I assume to stop visitors touching them.
What a wonderful article, thank you very much. We are happy that you had a great time !
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