Left the campsite on foot at 7.40, and were picked up on the main road at the top of Mallefougasse. Our first stop of the day was just outside Digne to see some ammonite fossils. These were right beside the road in a layer of Jurassic mudrocks. You could see several layers, only one layer has these large ammonite fossils. The Rosso Ammonitico Veronese Formation was spectacular.
From here we drove up a spectacular valley with windy roads, steep valley sides. We were aiming to get to the start of the walk up to the abandoned village of Esclangon and beyond, to a view of the “Velodrome”. A few miles before we reached the point, there was a roadblock. Road workers were working on stabilising the cliffs. A discussion was held, and the road was going to be opened during their lunch break. Luckily this was not an issue, as we were also due to stop at the modern village of Esclangon, a couple of miles back.
Here we parked and walked to see some rock outcrops in the nearby woods. In the area, we found some special rock called Carngeules. These are originally are evaporites, which are very weak rocks, and are often exploited by thrusts. Also in the distance, we saw a row of pinnacles.
Back in the vans we were now able to head through the roadblock and stop at the bottom of the walk up to Esclangon. Before we started the walk up, we headed along the road to look at the formidable cliffs. Here we were at the base of the Tertiary, and some Jurassic limestone.
It was now a walk-up, first to the old village where we ate out packed lunch. There was a church here and a closed art exhibition. Also nearby was the original open washing area. We continued the walk up to a pinnacle where there is the viewpoint for the Velodrome. The viewpoint has a spectacular view of the valley and rock outcrops. The view shows an entire sedimentary sequence which is deformed by a very large recumbent syncline and is cut by a major thrust. Apparently it is one of the best exposed, easily accessible and largest tectonic folds to be seen anywhere in the world.
Now it was time to amble back down the path, and back into the vans. It was late enough for the road workers to have finished work and the road was open. Back at Les Mees, one van stayed there for drinks, while others headed back. We headed back as we had to move and I wanted to do it in the daylight.
At our campsite, we packed up, I showered. We were given some of our camping fees back. The French guides then escorted us to our new spot nearer to Cruis. We would be camping in the garden of a gite Mas des Grailles. This was owned by A french man and his English wife who was the translator for the group. The visitor part of the gite was not in use, so we could use the loos and shower. We were also plugged into their electricity.
The journey to supper and back was now a lot quicker, though still had to be done by van. Three course supper based around pasta and an aubergine accompaniment, and lots of wine.
Back at the gite we duly met the dog (a ridgeback) and the cat (black). These had a totally free range. It was disconcerting walking to the loo, you passed the dog in its bed. It totally ignored you.