By Greg Spencer.
Curiosity and a good eye for adventure always opens up possibilities… And we got a sense of what was to come when Paul Villecourt (Outdoor photographer, organizer of the Open Canoe Festival) followed his beloved Drôme river to the confluence with the Rhône, from where he was able to navigate UP the Gorges de l’Ardèche (june 2015).
After that trip, Paul started talking ever more of a great crossing of France, from Geneva in the Swiss Alps to Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast, and now he’s announced he’s teaming up with his friend Philippe Bouvat and they’ve even got a departure date!
Paul and Philippe will take their canoe down the Rhone from Geneva to Pont Saint Esprit (404 km). They then head up the Ardèche and Chassezac for some 75 Km before portaging 70 Km to Naussac dam, into the headwaters of the mighty Allier.
Many British canoeists revere the Allier. Guidebook author Peter Knowles famously described the stretch from Chapeauroux to Pont D’Alleyras as « The Jewel in the Crown » of the Massif Central. But before reaching this they will contend with some tremendous Class 3-4 stretches.
Following the Allier some 370 km will take Paul and Philippe to the Loire, which will offer them a stunning pathway to the Atlantic Ocean : a mere 540 km from the confluence.
This « Grande Traversée » is due to start on 6th September and all being well, Paul and Philippe should arrive in salty water on October 25th.
Their exploits will doubtless be easily followed via social media, and photographed / written up in fine style… but to catch everything please bookmark these sites: