Camping Rives D’Arc, Vallon Pont D’Arc, France

This campsite is in the Ardeche.  We last visited the Ardeche in 2002.  We said we would come back, and we finally did in August 2018.

In 2002 we were not staying in the right place to do a canoe trip, but we said we would come back one day and do the canoe trip down the river.  We even visited a couple of camp sites and picked out one that was a reasonable site and allowed us to pick up a canoe right from the door.  It took us 16 years to get back to do it.  In fact, we had said that if we did not do the canoe trip in 2018, then we would never do it.

On our visit the campsite was called Camping Mondial, but since then it has merged with the site next door, Camping Provencal, to become Camping Rives D’Arc.  Recent reviews say that they have spent quite a lot of money on it since our visit, and it gets good reviews.  On our visit the site was fine, but did need a little investment.  Sounds like now it has had it.  There are a lot of campsites nearby.  The one now next door to it is Camping Parc L’Ardechoise.  That one is more expensive, and when we visited two years ago had better basic facilities, but was very crowded and that may now have changed with the new investment.  Camping Rives D’Arc still had two separate entrances, but inside the site there is a road between the two parts.  The site has different types of pitches, from standard, electric and water pitches and full serviced pitches.  Pitches with a river view have a 10% supplement.  The site has two swimming pools, a bar and restaurant and all the other facilities you would expect.  Their website is [here]

We did the canoe trip.  If we did not do it now, we would definitely be too old!  It did not go quite to plan, and perhaps it was not meant to be as we had waited 16 years to return and do it, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. 

We set off at 10am, before it got too hot.  I had wanted to fix my GoPro action camera using its very strong suction mount on to the front of the canoe, but there was no flat surface big enough to take it, so initially, I put the camera inside the waterproof barrel with our other valuables at the back of the canoe.  Having gone through our first fast-flowing part, we gained confidence and stopped at the side and I got the GoPro out and used it as a hand-held device.  We set off again.  I kept putting the paddle down and picking up the camera and got some really good shots.  Some video, some stills.  Obviously, the best bits got missed, as I needed to paddle and could not hold the camera as well.

We went through a couple more fast-flowing places.  We were coming up towards the biggest set of rapids on the part we planned to do, but before that was another fast spot and then a slower stretch up to the start of the big one.  Too late, Frances, who was in the front shouted “rock”.  It had been hidden by a much bigger one, which we had successfully negotiated.  The only option was to put the paddle in hard to make a scoop turn to the right.  Unfortunately, there was a canoe overtaking us, quite close, and left us no choice.  We hit the rock.  It was quite a big one, sticking well up out of the water, so we got turned by the water so that we were sideways on to it.  We stayed like that for a few seconds and we then started to move off backwards pushed by the flowing water as there was little opportunity to use the paddles.  I am thinking that we will be going to go down backwards and need to get turned around very quickly, before we get to the big rapids.  Wrong – we capsized! 

We are now in the water, but are both OK, but we have to get out of the situation, and the last thing we want to do is get into the large rapids while still floating.  The woman who gave us instructions before we set off said, forget the canoe, don’t try to swim, just lay on your back in the life-jacket and let the water take you.  Frances did that and was OK, although she was not steering.  She had also grabbed a paddle and was holding on to it.  I shouted for her to get over to the right-hand side and she managed to do that with some help from Steve in their canoe.  I am floating, but then the canoe catches up with me, so I grab it, as our keys, wallet and those sort of things are in it.  Then one of Frances shoes comes floating past (don’t know how it came off), so I grabbed that too.  I slowly managed to get over towards the side where Frances was.  Sadly, the GoPro, and all the photos, plus Frances hat were lost and gone for ever.  Frances had kept hold of her paddle, but mine was gone, so now we had only one paddle.  The photo at the top of the page is Frances in the front of the canoe with a look of shock on her face, wearing her favourite sun hat, just seconds before we hit the rock (there are professional photographers everywhere taking photos, this is one of theirs).

We got back in the canoe and set off for the large rapids (actually two one after the other), and now had only one paddle, but we managed it with no problems at all, and went smoothly through it.  We did the same with a couple more smaller ones after that.  The only aftereffects were a few cuts and bruises and some very stiff leg muscles from steering the over-turned canoe towards the shore.  Frances was completely unharmed.  Despite getting very wet and losing my action camera, we had a great time.  Won’t do it again, but very pleased we have done it.  It is something ticked off our bucket list.

The photos and video below were taken mid-afternoon, when it is really crowded in August.  We started at 10am.  Much quieter and much more pleasant.  Actually, you can start at 8:30 and if you wanted the best experience, that it the time to go.

The Ardeche Gorge is a lovely area, with a lot of beautiful scenery.  One thing we had wanted to do was walk the footpath in the Gorge.  Unfortunately, it was washed away a couple of weeks before in a storm.  They hoped to have it back in use in a few days.

The town of Vallon Pont D’Arc is very much the tourist centre for this area.  It is a pleasant little town, although full of tourist shops.

We had a very nice Dutch family next to us on the site.  One evening they set off on their bikes, as the father had booked a flight in a microlight.  He came back exhilarated.  He had loved it.  It flew low over the area and he had had great views.  There are lot of activities of all kinds to do in the Ardeche, including rock climbing, canyoning and so on, and some great walks and scenery.

A great few days.

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