I’ve been promising myself a visit to see Rocamadour for some time, but we were unable to go when my mother and family came over last year as my sister needs a wheelchair to get around, and Rocamadour isn’t the place for that as you’ll see later from the pics. Also, the weather wasn’t kind enough to make it worthwhile going when my son and his girlfriend were here a week or two ago. I’ve been watching the weather for several days in the hope that the visibility would improve but we’ve been stuck in a kind of murky-bright phase that doesn’t look like changing very soon. There hasn’t been too much wind – far from it, André came chugging over my house quite happily yesterday evening in his Balerit before the sun finally went down – it’s just that there’s a horrible haze wherever you look and if you’re also under a lump of thick cumulus cloud, even though the sun is shining all around elsewhere, what you’re looking at (or taking a picture of) at the time looks very dingy. And it’s even worse, of course, if you happen to be looking towards the sun, which for some reason lately, whenever I’m taking any photographs or a video, I always seem to be.
So I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer and today would be the day. Rocamadour is to the south-east of where I live, in the Lot and here’s a pic showing the route I planned to fly.
I also planned to take in St Julien, of which I knew nothing before the flight, and Souillac, which I flew past and took a picture of when I first started flying 56NE and exploring the area surrounding Galinat. Today wasn’t the hottest July day that we’ve had by far, but at 28 degrees Celsius with patchy lumps of cumulus cloud, there was still plenty of potential for lots of bumpy thermals, so I put off taking off until later in the day. After checking 56NE over and fuelling up, I actually got airborne just after 5.05 pm and the air seemed less turbulent than I’d expected. I turned left and climbed almost over the field to take up my heading for St Julien and too late, I realised that I should have used the opportunity to take an overhead shot of Galinat.
The leg to St Julien was quite smooth and pretty uneventful and the village came up at just under 14 minutes after take off. It’s in a very pretty location as the following pics show.
I then turned slightly left and continued on for Rocamadour over some quite spectacular dry, rocky scenery.
I was approaching Rocamadour itself in the last shot, above, and I arrived there about 13 minutes after leaving St Julien behind. The view I had was spectacular and the photos I took would only have been possible, I think, from an ULM/ultralight aircraft or, perhaps, a helicopter. I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Rocamadour was built over the centuries on the side of a steep, rocky gorge and as I flew past, I found that the air over the gorge was extremely turbulent. Luckily despite this, I managed to fire off quite a few shots because as I found out afterwards, several of them turned out to be very blurred because of the extent to which I was being thrown about. I did just the one pass by Rocamadour and then turned to head back on a north-westerly heading towards Souillac. On the way, I passed the very picturesque Chateau de Belcastel, which is situated high on a rock overlooking the spot where the small river Ouysse joins the Dordogne.
Then Souillac, which I arrived at some 10 minutes or so after leaving Rocamadour behind me. Without doing Souillac a disservice, I think that it has little to commend it beyond being known as the place where you join the E9 ‘payage’ to head north for Brive and beyond or south towards Toulouse and Spain, or can catch the train on the main line north or south. Anyway, here are the pics I took as I flew past.
I hadn’t been paying too much attention to my flying while I was taking the above shots and in doing so, allowed myself to descend to around 1200 feet. When I turned back to concentrate on the next leg heading back towards Thonac, I realised that not only was the ground ahead totally tree-covered but that it was also rising quite sharply. So I had to immediately begin climbing, which I had to continue doing for a couple of minutes or so. Although the Dordogne has a reputation for being a huge expanse of tree-covered hills with few areas to land in should your aircraft develop some kind of engine problem, as soon as you start flying here, you realise that actually there are usually lots of places where you could put it down should the necessity arise. This is not true, though, for the area to the north-west of Souillac, unless you follow the course of the little river heading in that direction up the valley, which I chose not to do, so I found myself flying over dense woodland for more or less the next 10 minutes. On the way, I flew past a lovely little mini-chateau that I guess is privately owned by some lucky person.
20 minutes or so after leaving Souillac, I eventually turned final to land back at Galinat. The whole flight took 1 hour and 5 minutes and I think that I can look back upon it as being one of the most spectacular that I’ve made since I came to live and fly here in the Dordogne.