July 11, 2008
So the plan was to head out and then take a detour on a side canal to Vermenton. From there we would grab a cab and then head off to see some prehistoric caves. Then it was back to the boat, back to the main canal (Nivernais) and then on to Vincelles. Busy day ahead.
Today was one of the few rainy days we had. It started out ok, but I think C must have pissed off the swans and their associated gods because it got gradually worse. We steered from inside for a while, although I did brave the rain for a bit after we turned down the Canal d’Accolay to Vermenton. It was a pretty leg, with lots of interesting things to see.
The rain really started after we turned down the side canal. Vermenton is where France Afloat has their base. I really like their big steel boats but they were always just a bit pricey for my stingy ass. But if you are ever shopping for a canal boat holiday, they are well worth considering. Friendly too. After we tied at the dock we popped into their office and they helped arrange a cab so we could visit les Grottes d’Arcy-sur-Cure.
The caves were another tidbit I had turned up in my research. These caves had paintings in them 4 or 5 hundred metres in dating back around 28,000 years. And apparently these massive limestone caves had been used by man for at least 200,000 years. At 28,000 years old, these are the second oldest cave paintings in the world; over 140 separate units. One of the truly sad thing about them is that they estimate that over 80% of them were destroyed in the 70s when the walls were cleaned of soot by a high pressure solution of hydrochloric acid. Apparently no one imagined that there were paintings hidden by centuries of carbon produced by torches. Pictures were forbidden so of course I took some hidden video of the caves. All I got were a few blurry stills of the caverns themselves.
An image stolen from their website
Apparently the archeologist posit that the paintings were part of a spiritual journey into the darkness. That’s why they are always hundreds of metres into the caverns where no light seeps in. The tour was in English, but I recall there was a lot of French too. Cool beyond measure though. We exited after the tour and lazed around waiting for our return ride.
Back at the boat the rain had let up, so we tootled off back to the Canal du Nivernais and downstream a few more clicks to Vincelles. There we continued past the town and tied up right on the outskirts across from a campground. We unshipped the bikes and headed off for supplies and more wine. Back at the boat, Carmen cooked us up some vittles and later in the evening we were entertained by some sort of party or celebration in the park. The music was pretty damn good.