Thursday, 11 October 2012

Built to last...and then some.

A not completely unexpected benefit of our location is the proximity to the Pont du Gard. The Pont du what, you say?

OK, Roman historial ruin 101: It's a (still significantly intact) giant aqueduct bridge that carried water over the Gardon River. The aqueduct ran from the source (Uzès!) to the buzzing metropolis of Nimes - a distance similar to driving from Victoria to Cobble Hill.

Here's a snap of a map (in giant 4' x 5' sandstone!) in the park behind our apartment which shows the actual start of the aqueduct and the direction that water ended up taking):

And just a few steps away is the actual start of the spring. It pumped quite a bit in its day - over four million gallons of water flowed from tiny little Uzés to big ol' Nimes each day. It is still producing water, but it now flows directly into the nearby Alzon River.

And all that's left of the start of the system that would carry the water to the big smoke: the regulation basin - which allowed the Romans to divert water away from the aqueduct if needed (ie., water was overflowing downstream or repairs were needed somewhere along the way):

Those Romans eh? - they liked to make it hard: "Our fountains and baths could use MORE water, let's pipe it in!", "The source is 50km away?....through valleys and hills?....let's DO this thing!". Which is really the feel you get from the visitor's centre/museum - they built the Pont du Gard both because of need and to show their engineering ability. Because it's not like this thing took the 'as the crow flies' route - it really had to meander through valleys and over chasms.

There were actually several bridges as part of the Nime Aqueduct, but with the fall of Roman empire and those nice square stones just sitting there....well, the recycling bug kicked in and much was 'repurposed' into houses and walls. The Pont du Gard, being dual purpose (a bridge AND a water-pipe!) stayed mostly intact.

The only admission you have to pay is for parking - so we had a nice free hike as it's a short bike ride to the site. And plenty of rocks to picnic on.

And here's a better shot of it without those pesky tourists in the camera shot.

As you walk up to the aqueduct, you pass by three huge, gnarled olive trees. They look like something out of Lord of the Rings.

The nearby stone is inscribed with their story of how they came to be there:
"I was born in the year 908.
I measure 5 metres in trunk circumference and 15 metres in stump circumference.
I lived my past until 1985 in Spain in an arid and cold valley.
The General Council of the Gard was fascinated by my age and my story.
I was adopted with two others. I was planted on 23 September 1988.
I am proud to be a part of the prestigious decor and nature of the Pont du Gard"

So we've picnic'd where Romans walked and touched a tree that experienced the original Y1K.

1 comment:

  1. The teacher may have left Victoria to pretend to be a tourist, but it is impossible to refrain from learning and sharing the lesson. Thanks Mr. Niessen