Susan found this photo from our 1995 trip … of me standing on top of the Pont du Gard.
You can’t tell from this photo … but I’m kind of scared. And maybe even shaking a little bit in my bike shorts. Hey, it was super high and narrow up there, and really windy. You weren’t supposed to be up there because, well, you could fall over the edge and plunge to your death. Which isn’t good for tourism.
And yes, I’m wearing a fanny pack. Hey, it was 1995, and they were cool back then. OK, fanny packs were never cool. But they were sort of practical on a bike trip. Back then. And yes, I was wearing a T-shirt, and not a bike jersey. I don’t think I made the transition until 2000.
So, here’s the story…
We were in the midst of a French bike trip, and cycled over from Avignon to see the Pont du Gard. This aqueduct is considered one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, for good reason. It’s amazing. The Pont du Gard was built around 19 BC and carried water from Uzes to Nimes, a distance of 31 miles. Not much of the aqueduct remains. This section rises majestically 160 feet over and across the Gard River. Hence the name.
Back in 1995, you could climb up and into the top level of the Pont du Gard. You weren’t actually allowed to, and there were signs saying not to, but there wasn’t anyone there to stop you. Tourism was much more casual back then.
And so, lots of people climbed up to the top level. Maybe not lots, but several. Many. OK, a few. We could see them from down below.
“Come on Susan, we have to do it,” I insisted.
You climbed into the top level, the top tier, and were inside the “tunnel” where the water once flowed. It was dark and spooky, with some shafts of light coming in from the holes up above.
“Come on Susan, we have to climb up through one of these holes to the top.”
“Are you crazy?”
“Other people are doing it.”
Here’s the link to my Biking Provence eBook
According to my memory, I don’t think Susan actually climbed up and out of the hole and walked along the top of the Pont du Gard. I did, and tried to coax her up. She was way too smart to give in to my peer pressure. But she did pop up just long enough to take this photo.
Although you can’t see them, there were other people up there. They must have been hanging out in the other direction. At least that’s how I remember it.
I walked around a bit, although walking isn’t exactly the right description. I sort of scurried along, low and slow, like a crab, clinging to the center of the way-too-narrow top of the post. Some maniacs sat at the edge, dangling their feet over.
I don’t remember posing for this photo. It was probably the only time I stood up.
Here’s what Susan remembers: “I immediately had to get down on my knees because it was so high. I did climb up there, but I couldn’t stay up there. It was too high and windy and wasn’t very wide. I felt like I was gonna fall. Taking this picture, putting a camera in front of my face, was about as much balance as I could handle. There were other people up there, but there weren’t very many. Don’t give people the idea there were a lot of people up there.”
We hung out a little bit, and then climbed down. Went for a dip in the Gard River, dried off in the sun, and started riding back to Avignon.
You can no longer climb up into and on top of the Pont du Gard. It’s probably for the best, but sure I do miss that view. It certainly got my adrenaline flowing.
Here’s the link to my Biking France books (Provence, Bordeaux, Normandy, the Loire and the Dordogne). I recently took all five off Amazon, iBooks and all the other eBook platforms because they took about 60 percent of the revenue. Now, thanks to even more tech advances, I can make them available as PDFs.
4 thoughts on “It’s Scary On Top of the Pont du Gard”
I cycled with a friend from Marseille to Menton in 1985 and one of our overnight stops was Pont du Gard. We slept in the “tunnel “. I still mention it to friends today as that is no longer possible like you mentioned in your article. I preferred it back then as now too touristy and busy.
sleeping there must have been pretty amazing and a little spooky!
I was really happy to find your post. I’ve been to the Pont du Gard a couple of times, the first time being in 1991 or ’92. A friend and I – we both lived in France at the time – were bee-bopping around Provence and happened upon the Pont du Gard. Someone must have told us to go there. I was completely awestruck. We were young and unafraid and somehow scrambled to the top. I don’t remember how – we must have crawled up through one of the holes that you described. We stood up and took a few steps, and that’s all it took for me to realize that this was crazy dangerous. It was windy, and it occurred to me that a little gust could… I quickly dropped to my knees and crawled just a little bit more before we turned around. I never got off my knees. I had no idea until we were actually up there what it would be like. Reminds me of the time (same time period) when I walked onto a glacier in Chamonix wearing my Tretorn tennis sneakers. (story for another blog entry).
When I returned it wasn’t possible to go to the top anymore. I remember telling people that I did, although I received such astonished reactions that over time I started to wonder if I had dreamt it. I see current pics of people walking through the tunnel area lower down thinking “that wasn’t what we did!”. Now, reading your post, I am completely reassured that I didn’t imagine it, and that I was one of those lucky ones who made it to the very top of the Pont du Gard while one could.
Thanks for the great post. I just passed on your books link to a friend who loves to take long bike trips, but hasn’t yet done so in France.
Thank you Nina, and yes, sometimes it does all seem seem like a dream … but we really were at the top. And it was incredible …