I took a detour on my way from the Pyrenees to my home at St Paul sur Isere via the Verdon in the Haute Provence. I was keen to walk the Sentier Blanc-Martel, the classic footpath in the depths of the Verdon Gorge. The path is name after a geologist, Edouard-Alfred Martel and his guide Isidore Blanc a teacher from the village of Rougon who explored the Verdon in 1905.
I camped for the night at Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and got up early at 6.00 a.m. to enjoy the freshness of the morning. A drive along twisting roads took me to La Palud-sur-Verdon where I turned off to take the road to the Chalet de la Maline; the starting point of the Sentier Blanc-Martel. I took 3 litres of water with me as, apart from going down to the river itself, there’s no water available on the path.? The path left just next to the Chalet (a ?refuge? owned by the CAF – French Alpine Club). I followed descending zig-zags amongst box and scub oak. Having left so early I met no one ? great! The sun was just hitting the opposite side of the gorge. Soon I was down a short distance above the river and a path junction indicated the bridge of the L’Estellie.? The sound of birds in the trees and the sound of the river Verdon below me were the only sounds I could hear, apart from the crunch of my boots on the path. Soon I was at the L’Eboulis des Guegues, a large scree shoot. To avoid erosion stone steps led down to a stabilised path across the scree to more steps and an iron handrail to reassure the more nervous.
The next junction I encountered indicated La Mescla to the right and the Baume aux Boeufs and the Breche Imbert to the left. The path climbed and I came to a short section of metal steps that led to a view point at the top of the Breche Imbert. The Breche (gap) is the ?crux? of the walk. I stopped to take some photographs and drink some water and take a snack.? A long section of metal steps with handrails made getting down the far side easy with several intermediate ?landings?. Fortunately I had still met no one and the narrow ladders would make passing ?interesting? if the route was busy.
The path continued with shafts of sunlight filtering through the small oak trees. A tunnel now, the remains of an abandoned project to bring water to cities of Toulon and Marseille in the South of France. The first tunnel, 115m long, was straight and I didn’t need to get my headtorch out. The second tunnel, the Trescaire, was another matter as it is 650m long and curved. The headtorch was pretty much essential although towards the end several galleries gave glimpses of the Couloir Samson (a narrow gorge in the Verdon).? Finishing the tunnel by some more metal steps I walked just above the roaring river Verdon and crossed a bridge over the Le Bau, a small tributary. I met a parking place but crossed over and up a path amongst scrub that took me up to the Pointe Sublime. Here I sat down for more to drink and eat before hitching a lift back to my car with some Italian tourists. A great day out.