Gouffre de Padirac: Our magical visit within the abyss of darkness !!!

No Lights !! Inky black darkness lay before us as we joined others to celebrate 130 years of the Gouffre de Padirace.  As we stepped onto the punt that gently rocked from side to side in its mooring,  we were given one lantern between two  & once seated we placed ours on the shelve in the front of our boat, not that it lit anything up that well, it was so, so dark !  Our guide spoke, “Please keep your hands inside the boat”,  we were told, as he pushed off with 12 of us, all of whom were about to experience an underground adventure in the pitch black & all that it may, or may not, hide within. An experience similar to that of Edouard-Alfred Martel, the man who discovered this amazing underground phenomenon 130 years ago.  Leaving all form of lighting behind we gently floated along the underground river into an the erry mass of ebony black darkness.  We left the sounds of beautiful relaxing music behind us as we gently glided along in the dark, all that could be heard was the gentle sounds of moving water, the loud  splosh sounds as large teardrops of water descended from above dropping into the icy cold water below & the hushed whispers of others on the boat. As cold, damp globules of water dripped onto our heads & bodies, we looked deeply into a dark blanket of nothingness, trying to see something in nothing,  as we slowly moved towards our destination;  I did wonder if I would see a spiritual presence, but sadly they were hiding really well last night !  The only feeling deep down below the ground was one of slight chilliness and dampness.  Shame really,  because having seen the beauty of this underground cave lit up, it was hard to imagine how Edouard must have felt, as during his moment of discovery he would not really have seen anything clearly,  where he actualy was, where he was going or where he was going to end up.  He must have been filled with excitement and intrepidation all rolled into one. I would love to read his very first experience down there written by him in his own words I am sure that they would be quite impressive.   When we reached as far as the boat could go, we then walked within the  depths of darkness deep into  the heart of the cave, there were small lights on the steps to help guide us, but you could not see much, instead you walked by feeling the steps and making sure your heel was up close to the fall of one step to the next as you went down, and up you ensured your toes guided you up the height of the step and onto the next, holding on tightly to the cold damp rails as you explored in the darkness.  Edouard would not have had these luxuries !!!!   As we walked around in the dim light I could just see people hiding in the darkness as we came around the corner, I was expecting something eery to happen, that is my imagination for you !!!!  In actual fact we were treated to a talk on the 130 year history, as others members of staff hidden below lit small hot air balloons that were supposed to rise up &  light up the cave, but sadly there were a few issues, and it did not quite go according to plan !! But nothing was spoilt.  We slowly made our way back to the boat through the darkness, our trip this time was lit, enabling us all to experience the beauty of the magical kingdom that lay hidden beneath our feet. After our underground adventure we made our way outside and down into the gardens, greeted by soft warm sultry air, a perfect evening to finish of the day, complimented by  the soft sounds of the jazz band, their music floating within the air, and the soft sounds of the Sax, my favourite instrument, meandering around the gardens.  Amongst the beauty of the garden lights, we enjoyed drinks,  delicious finger food, a very genourous slice of celebration cake, simply heaven.  We were treated to an amazing firework display to celebrate this very special occasion a vision of beauty for the eyes.  What an incredible change it made for Stuart and I to be out together during July, it really was a lovely evening which we enjoyed  with friends, amazing time with lovely memories made.  M’mmm,  could quite get used to having some free time together during the summer !! Sadly, bit like Cinderella, time passed by too quickly, as we glanced at the time it was already 00.15 am, so we needed to get some sleep before our alarms went of at 6 am.  The party was still in full swing when we said our goodbyes and left for home.  Thank you very much to Laetitia de Ménibus-Gravier for our invitation, and to everyone involved in creating such a very special evening, we loved it.  Merci Beaucoup à tous et félicitations !  Bonne Anniversaire to:-   www.gouffre-de-padirac.com

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