This week we have spent our time in the tiny village of Asques on the banks of the Dordogne about 40 minutes east of Bordeaux. Two small torrents above the town of Mont-Dore come together to form this river — the Dore and the Dogne. Where we are located, it is a wide, muddy river which is in constant flux. Daily it rises and falls, flows west, then east and sometimes swirls in both directions at once. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, we had the opportunity to experience one of its rare unique features — the mascaret.
Known in English as a tidal bore, the mascaret is a phenomenon that is unique to only a few rivers around the world and it does not manifest itself every day of the year. We were only able to see it once during our stay. It occurs in areas where incoming tides are funneled into a shallow, narrowing river or lake via a broad bay, in this case, the Bay of Biscay whose waters we have been following all the way from the Spanish Basque country. The tidal flow runs against the river’s natural current creating large waves twice a day suitable for surfing especially during July and August.
Large numbers of people gather at its points of greatest manifestation waiting to take advantage of the opportunity to launch a surf board, kayak, or catamaran to enjoy this thrilling experience which produces 5-10 waves — sometimes 1 kilometer in distance and lasting up to 20 minutes. We were not quite here at the prime time nor are we so adventurous as to try out such an activity on a muddy, swirling river. Nevertheless, it has been fascinating to watch the river change daily from the windows of our gîte.
We have observed many a vessel traveling the Dordogne every day — sailboats, fishing boats, barges, skips pulling surfboarders… It is obvious to us that these sailors must be very familiar with the river in order to traverse it safely. Its changing directional flow and levels, the mascaret, and all the debris the unsettled muddy water carries with it must create a challenge for any seaman.
No challenge, however, for the local Labrador who likes to play in it at its lowest level when there is a mudflat along the edge making it easily accessible to him. Earlier this week he caught Norman’s attention, grabbed a long stick and begged him to toss it into the muddy waters so he could dash in and retrieve it over and over again — naturally finding it necessary to shake off his wet, muddy coat each time he deposited the stick at Norman’s feet. You can imagine the condition they were both in after a few relays. He was never satisfied that he had enough until his owner came to admonish his behavior and send him home as if he were a small child who had escaped from his mother’s watchful eye. Great fun for both participants at the moment though!
Now it’s time to move east along the river to our next destination on one of the Dordogne’s tributaries, the Vézère, along which many of the great prehistoric caves of Southwest France are located.
For some photos and a couple of great videos of the mascaret, you might like to check out this website: KayakDordogne.com.
Also… We invite you to take a look at the new link with photos from our week here in the Gironde.