Making a visit to the Caves at Niaux is not suitable for those of a nervous disposition! It is however perfect for pretending you are in a film with Indiana Jones in the title.
It is however a once in a lifetime experience if you are interested in seeing the actual paintings, not reconstructions, in some relatively recently discovered caves . What you will see is just a fraction of what is there, but after a half hour walk over uneven ground, sometimes slippery, clambering up high steps and crouching to get through narrow passages at the same time as holding a touch, I was happy not to have to go any further. Looking at the plan the area is huge but some of the tunnels are only accessible to those who like being in the dark, with a torch on their head, getting cold and wet in narrow rocky spaces.
Some of the paintings are as much as 14,000 years old , a fact I found rather difficultto grasp. There in front of me, little more than a metre away were some very well executed paintings featuring bison, ibex, horses and rather strangely a weasel.
The images were well observed, some with a three dimensional quality, some on top of each other and some placed over curves in the rocks to further enhance their appearance. I also admired the colours and the strata in the rock. Bringing again to mind, Petra in Jordan and the Ochre Mines at Roussillon. How fabulous it would have been to put on a bright light and see it all in it’s glory
For us it was a two and half hour drive from Quarante, but was easy driving taking us through some beautiful scenery, bright yellow fields of rape. Dusky cattle with bells around their necks, sheep with their lambs and pretty little alpine villages. On arrival at Niaux it was then a drive up a very steep and narrow road to the entrance where a magnificent iron sculpture, like the prow on a ship, reached out into the air and guarded the entrance.
Visits inside are limited and the air quality is being closely monitored, but I can imagine that it will eventually no longer possible to go in, as at Lascaux. So get there while you can.