We’re on a Summer tour of Eastern France, and have just arrived at the location for tomorrow’s fascinating walk – The Himalayan Bridges.
Located at Savel and spanning the incredible blue waters of Lac de Monteynard, this dramatic sight is found about an hour’s drive from Grenoble.
It’s an area of watersports, fishing, camping and yes – those amazing looking walking routes of The Himalayan Bridges.
Luckily we’re here just out of peak season, in mid-September, so we’ve managed to park overnight in the day parking area. This is after leaving Les Sources des Gillardes and Lac du Sautet behind ready for this next location to explore.
Having said that, although this is tolerated in quiet times, there are signs on the entrance stating “no overnight parking”. In other words, perhaps pre-book the campsite located just up the road during high season.
After parking up the van, next we take a look around to try and find some extra information on what to expect. Soon, we realise that we need to book a boat. That’s because the walking route of The Himalayan Bridges actually starts across the lake from Savel at Treffort.
A quick and easy online reservation follows, at just 6 Euro each for the one-way boat crossing. Then, a bar code is e-mailed to us ready for boarding the boat on the 9am crossing.
Now, we want to do a circular walk, which means catching the boat to the start. This way, they’ll be no rush in having to do the walk in time to catch the last boat back to Savel – if you understand what I mean?!
Boarding the 9am boat crossing on this fine sunny morning is a pleasure. We take a seat on the open upper deck, which brings a relaxing tone to crossing the Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet.
We’re about to do the 12.5km Passerelles route which will take us on a voyage of discovery around the lake. Most significantly, we’ll be crossing the massive swing-type bridges of L’Ebron and du Drac.
The boat is busy and the lake serene. It’s as if we’re gliding across, skimming the blue waters of the lake without a care in the world. To put it simply – this is breathtaking.
By the time we disembark, we can’t wait to get started. It’s that type of walk that brings and extra bit of excitement and challenge – this is going to be good!
Stepping off the boat onto the lakeside, first we need to check the signs of this well-marked walking trail.
We pass a brilliant Aire – fee paying but an enviable position beside the shores of the lake. It’s full by the looks of things, everyone busy outside, enjoying breakfast overlooking the views of the water.
There’s also some rather lovely campsites here, again the position alongside the water is superb. There’s lush green pitches and beachside locations, we can see this being a popular area for families in Summer.
Soon, we’re following a forest path, leading us away from the lakeside on an uphill trail, away from the shore. Now, we’re grateful for some shade, because this late Summer sun is hot and the heat is beginning to get to us.
Then, as a clearing ahead brings an open viewpoint, before us lies an incredible gorge type formation. However, the best bit and the most dramatic, has to be the awesome image of the first Himalayan Bridge – The 180m long bridge of L’Ebron.
It’s a magnificent structure of metal, spanning the turquoise blue water below. At a height of between 45m and 85m, depending on the water levels of the lake, there’s no mistaking the impressive stance of this structure.
Well, we just have to hold our breath and go for it – stepping out onto the metal expanse above this dramatic gorge.
Then, a shimmering image of orange flashes before us, this is a handglider, moving through the sky in front of us. Before we know it, the wings dip, quickly gliding below our feet. Under the bridge it flies before emerging like a bird on the other side.
Thankfully, there aren’t too many other people sharing the narrow expanse with us. This means, we can take our time to cross and just enjoy the views and the experience.
It’s just brilliant, although we’ve crossed many swing bridges in other parts of the world, this has to be one of the best yet.
As our feet touch the dirt track on the other side, we take a moment to look back at this remarkable structure. Wow! To be honest, this is one very special place.
Next, we’re following the track onwards, heading through forest trails, where occassional open spaces bring fabulous views of the lake.
We’re able to stop and take in the views, luckily the paths are still fairly quiet, so there’s no need to feel rushed.
It’s not long before we’re on a downhill track, where suddenly more people begin to appear. That’s because we’re nearing the second bridge – The Drac. This is popular for walking the shorter route, to see one of the Himalayan Bridges.
By the time we reach it, there’s rather a lot of people taking in the views. Perched high up on the longer, 220m span of this second metal bridge.
This bridge looks steeper too, nonetheless, we take our first steps out onto the open metal treads. Goodness me! The French really do know their engineering and no more so than here.
This is not for the faint-hearted though. As we put all our faith into their engineering skills, we tentatively cross the vast expanse towards the opposite side of the cliff.
Once again, we stop to pause for a few photographs, although, there’s more people to navigate this time. There’s plenty of scenery to take in – from the stunning, narrow chasm of this second gorge-type location.
Then, there’s the colour of the lake – it’s a gorgeous tone of blue against the rock of the cliff. Equally impressive is the way in which we’re suspended above the lake, feeling as if we’re walking on air!
We look back from the walking path as we leave the Himalayan Bridges behind. It’s not far now from the van at Savel and it’s here that the bridge of Drac looks absolutely incredible. Probably seeing it from a distance, brings a more impressive feel, as it’s suspended in mid air above the water.
After nearly 4 hours, we arrive back at the van, ready for lunch. Then, we’re driving off through some tiny villages along the D529, a route that takes us above the lake.
Next, we find ourselves driving across another bridge, where the lake narrows at St.Georges de Commiers. This leads us back to Treffort, where we’d arrived on the boat earlier in the day. Here we take advantage of the excellent Aire that we’d passed on foot this morning. So, we pay the 13 Euro fee for the night and settle down beside the lake for the remainder of the day.
Some days we feel a little less active than others, and today is one of them! Hold on though – fear not, because we’re still up for a dose of daily exercise, which involves a stroll up into the village of Treffort itself.
Unfortunately, our efforts to find somewhere selling a Baguette are not successful. Even more frustrating, I think we’d walked to one of the only villages in France without a Boulangerie!
Oh well, this is a pretty but unremarkable village, so we don’t hang around for long. Instead, we return to the van and in true itchy feet style, we choose to move on.
As it happens, it turns out to be a good move, because soon enough, we find ourselves on the most fabulous mountain pass of the Col de Grimone.
First, we give the village of Clelles-en-Triéves a try. I can’t say it’s anything special, although there isn’t anything wrong with it either! Having said that, it’s surrounded by incredible mountains and serene countryside. This is including a giant pinnacle that can be seen for miles around, called Mont Aiguille.
Next, things get really exciting, as we enter the Gorges des Gats. Here, we drive passed the most neatly cut privot hedges and verges, all rather unusual for a public road. It’s almost as if we’re driving through a garden! Best though, are the narrow, craggy tunnels that we find ourselves driving through, heading towards the ancient village of Chatillon-en-Diois.
This is the Drome region and it looks beautiful.
For tonight, we find a parking place below the village, just us and another campervan at an Aire beside a small river. This perfect overnight resting place is where we’ll leave you for today. Join us next time when we explore the village before finding some interesting historic villages from World War II.