From Le Vigan to Carcassonne, walking on the languedoc garrigues
272 KM 11 days
There are places in the Languedoc area where water is a real treasure. Water is rare where the garrigue, produced by sheep flocks that have been grazing in those lands for thousands of years, covers the chalky uplands with their sparse and spiny mantles, rich in Mediterranean odours, and where the only audible noise is the blowing of the wind. The southern edges of the Massif Central fade into gentle mountains and vast karstic uplands, interrupted only by deep gorges engraved by rivers. This area is crossed by routes of transhumance, pilgrimages and enclosures for the unattended cattle grazing on an ungenerous, difficult land. At the end of the XVIII century a young, 10-year-old boy was seen completely naked on these wide and unpopulated mountains. The historical fact was remarkably told by François Truffaut in The Wild Child (1969). The “savage of Aveyron” could not speak and lived on the Monts de Lacaune, eating berries and walking on all fours. He was caught in 1797, he run away after one week and was caught again in 1800. He was exhibited as a museum curiosity and was considered an irretrievable idiot. It was Dr. Jean Itard, from the Parisian Institut des sourds-mouet, who believed that the young boy Victor could be retrieved through socialization. Still nowadays the Monts de Lacaune preserve nature that has never been altered by humans. In this stunning natural area, some historical and artistic jewels can be found along the rural roads and forest tracks: the Templar fort of La Couvertoirade and the abbey of Sylvanès, the fortified hamlet of Minerve and the Cité of Carcassonne. All these places date back to the Middle Ages, when this region lived an epoch of excitement and vitality. The Minervois and Carcassonne preserve memories of the crusade against the Catharist heretics who used to find culture, liberalism and tolerance in the noble courts of the Languedoc area. The dove carved in the rocks of Minerve is a topical place where that epoch can be remembered.