Dolmen hunters

We’ve spent the last week or so meandering through the rocky river gorges and stony plateaus of the southern, Mediterranean fringe of the Cevennes region. This area is a hotspot for what we’ve taken to lumping together as ‘stone age secrets and megalithic mysteries’ – I confess we’ve given the phrase its own cheesy theme-tune, and have gone as far as wondering whether we could blag ourselves a gig presenting a TV programme of the same name, whereby we explore Europe on the hunt for said secrets and mysteries in our ‘ancient knowledge bus’ (aka Moksha).  I’ve caught Chris looking somewhat dreamy-eyed whilst reciting the theme tune a few times , and I suspect in his mind he’s already receiving his award for best TV newcomer…

Anyway, our hunt has borne fruit.  There are hundreds of dolmens around here (a dolmen is a megalithic burial chamber), but they are usually unmapped and hard to find. But, luckily, Chris seems to possess an in-built dolmen radar, and we’ve stumbled across quite a few. They always seem to be in beautiful places with stunning views of the surrounding landscape – those ancient folk knew what they were doing.  We also came across a large stone circle, just lying casually next to a small, country road, again with no signposting.  I don’t know whether the French just aren’t that into megalithic mysteries or whether they have so many they are blasé, but at least it makes the hunt more exciting.  Perhaps the best find was a sacrificial area of large, strangely shaped rocks – one was said to be a platform for sacrificing large animals – its drain (for the blood) is aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice – creepy! There were also a couple of stones carved into primitive armchairs, one carved out to collect rainwater into a basin and another that was intriguingly called the ‘fertility stone’ – I’ve no idea how people come up with these elaborate theories (although the sacrificial slab was convincing), but I had a sit on the fertility stone anyway, just in case… 😉

So, sated with stone age secrets, we’ve since headed blindly onwards on our steady travels, sans guidebook – as we never intended to be in France, except in transit, we came completely unprepared as tourist. However, I highly recommend this approach and think I may well be a convert to unguided travel, at least in ‘easy’ destinations like France. Sure, we must miss tourist hotspots all the time, but when you happen across something, the wow factor is tenfold, just due to sheer surprise – like when we happened across what vaguely called itself the biggest gorge in Europe, the absolutely stunning Cirque de Navacelles! Plus, when sites enter the guidebook with a fanfare, they often end up becoming sad caricatures of themselves for that very reason. Anyway, this unguided approach seems to have mellowed me out a lot – no longer am I slavishly following the route I think we ought to be taking. Instead I am appreciating the gifts that wherever we randomly end up can offer – and I think that engenders a positive, curious travelling outlook that I am taking to very happily indeed.

So, all is well with us – we’re currently in the car park of Mr Bricollage so Chris can indulge himself in its DIY heaven whilst I cadge the free Mcdonalds wifi from next door – it’s high glamour, this road life…!

Moksha update – she literally had a wobble today and we ground to a tentative halt to see what all the noise and vibration was about.  Luckily, nothing that tightening up the wheel bolts couldn’t sort out.  We’ve had an abortive trip to the king of scrap yards in southern France to pick up a new engine part (the alternator) but to no avail, so instead tomorrow we’re off to Nimes to another Mercedes dealer – as I said, high glamour… 😉

Stone age circles and megalithic mysteries photos (clockwise): the spooky sacrificial slab with solstice aligned drain visible at rear; an unusual above-ground dolmen (apparently the biggest in France); bog-standard dolmen (NB we made the mistake of entering the burial chamber of this one – creepy doesn’t cover it – never again!); hippy and menhir at sunset; evening shadows in the middle of an awesome stone circle.



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