Day 14: Les Martys to Clermont l'Heuralt, France

Leaving Aude, entering Tarn, at the high point on the way to Mazamet

This area is known as the Black Forest
It does look like the Black Forest area of Germany

Mazamet from D118 on a hazy morning

For the last two days, I have taken the high road. Today I took the low road. Instead of continuing up onto the next ridge in the Massif Central, I took the roads that follow the valleys. I still climbed over 2000 feet, but I descended a lot more than I climbed, and it took about six hours of riding to get to my planed destination, Clermont l'Heuralt. If I had taken the high road, I'm sure it would have taken several hours more.

After a good breakfast, and a stop at the store in Les Martys for bread and fruit, I rode D 118 to Mazamet. It was ten miles, but only the first mile or two had any climbing. Then D 118 entered the Tarn Department and became a fast downhill ride to Mazamet. Mazamet is a big town with lots of services, and it was busy on Sunday morning, but I didn't need the services, or the traffic, so I rode out of town on N 112 heading east/northeast.

Despite being a major road, N 112 is very pretty

And it has a Col on it

N 112 was flat to gently rolling at first, but then it developed some pretty good climbs. Almost at the top of one of them, I had my first bad riding experience in this part of France. There was a bit shoulder, and I was on it, so I wasn't paying much attention to the traffic. Then a car came by so fast and so close that it felt like my shirt was jerked as it passed. I'd guess it missed my bags by less than a foot at 100 kph or better. I yelled US obscenities by reflex, but I suspect the driver didn't even notice I was there. This behaviour is MUCH less common in France than in the US, almost every driver is very careful about bicycles here. Part of this is civility - which is definitely lacking in the States, part of it is training - US drivers training is a joke compared European driver training, and part is liability - if a car his a cyclist here, the car is at fault unless it can prove otherwise.

One of the climbs on N 112 turned out to be to a Col, Col Femille, but I suspect that was because of the climb in the other direction which is much longer. It is strange how D 118 climbing over a 800+ m high ridge doesn't have a Col, but N 112, climbing less than half that height even on the hard side, has a Col. There were several other places today where the road climbed more than N 112 does at Col Femille, but no other Cols.

I rode N 122 down to Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, a distance of about 25 miles, then I took D 908 from there to Clermont-l'Hérault. N 122 is nice, D 908 is spectacular. Both follow deep mountain valleys. D 908 follows the river Orb for more than 25 miles. The scenery is stunning, and on much too grand a scale to photography well. Wow.

The medieval village of Olargues

The setting of Olargues

The river Orb valley from D 908

The river Orb

At Bédarieux, D 908, after some confusing routing through town, leaves the river and climbs up onto the ridge. It was a hot climb where I stopped twice to cool off when shade was available. Once I got to the top, riding was pretty easy, and quite pretty, the rest of the way - about 15 miles - to Clermont-l'Hérault. The road stays on top of the ridge for at least ten miles, then does a spectacular descent into the Hérault valley. Then there are a few miles of rolling hills.

Climbing out of Bédarieux

Riding the ridge - there are lot of motorcycles on these roads

Later on the ridge

And descending on an 8% grade

Once in Clermont-l'Hérault, I rode around town for a while, enjoying the place. Then I rode back to a two star hotel I had seen coming in. When I checked in, I had two choices, A room at the front of the hotel or at the back of the hotel. It cost a couple of E more for a room at the back, overlooking the garden, and it was worth it. The front is noisy and smelly from the road. The back overlooks a garden and the steep valley wall. Peaceful. Unfortunately, it is also hot, but, by 11 PM when I went to bed, it had cooled down enough for comfortable sleeping. The hotel proprietor, in French, expressed sympathy for me riding in the heat. I don't think this area is normally as hot as it has been since I have been riding here thus summer. I rode just 20 miles north of here last summer and it was much cooler.

The view out my window

Last Page Next Page