What is so amazing about going deep into a cave on the side of a mountain? For us it is to imagine just how long it took to form.
At La Grotte de Clamouse one part of the cave is over a million years old; while some mineral formations are 100,000 years old for a single icicle shaped creation hanging above head. These secondary formations are caused by the acidic rainwater travelling through the cracks and creases in the land above.
These formations called Speleothums grow one cm every hundred years. Above the cave is the river that carved these haunting holes in the limestone. Although now dried up in the heat of the French summer, in the winter, and through the spring, the river flows creating a large waterfall that roars down the side of the mountain.
In Hungary they call this type of cave formations, ‘water drop stone’ caves, since the speleothums form from a single water drop accumulating in the same spot, over time. It then releases carbon on the stone and grows a mineral structure. These come in many shapes and grow depending on the wind, and the amount of carbon in the rain. The shape depends upon the mineral itself. We saw some crazy looking structures throughout the cave, from miniature thorny sea anemone to masses of giant melted candle looking forms a story high.
Daniel and Angelina talked about snow white and the seven dwarfs while winding our way around the innards of the cave. Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful and Doc. We always miss one, and being in the cave did not help us remember.
We followed the railing and path on our tour. Our guide explained the names of the different rock formations created from the carbon in the water. We even watched a film on how this natural erosion occurs. In this particular cave is a very rare and valuable crystal formation, which only occurs in a handful of cave throughout the world.
It takes 100,000 years for a river to cut through limestone through faults and fracture points in rock under the water table, large opening for a human to pass through. Imagine how long it took this river to form the enormous Clamouse cave.
The hour and half tour took us along winding passageways to see deep gorges, through natural masterpiece rock formations and eventually back out a different opening. The area fills with different mineral deposits caused by carbon dioxide seeping through the rock from the river above. As the water level lowers as rock erodes, above the rock dries above head and only running water will shape the ceiling of the cave. Slow seeping rainwater mold and shape the mineral deposits over thousands of years. It is a stunning natural wonder.
They stopped our tour midway and showed us a laser light show at the biggest opening of the cave. Each section we entered during out tour, our guide turned the lights on. When we left she turned they off to preserve the natural spectacle. No flash allowed when taking photos and the lights consequently dimmed. Most pictures I took did not turn out. I had to play around with my camera to get the lighting just right.
The cave is damp and the stairs are a hike. On the way out Angelina slipped in her flip-flops on the slippery rock corridor as we exited the Clamouse Caves.
Happy! The last dwarf is happy, exactly how we felt while we enjoyed a quick snack at the Clamouse Cave Restaurant. The terrace has a great view of the viaduct below.
There is a little playground on the ridge for the kids to play while the parents take a moment for themselves. The gift shop is full of tourists. Our tour at noon was quiet, as the French are very serious about their lunch break. In fact, our tour guide went back to cleaning the toilets after our tour. I assume she is the last on the totem pole, as the rest sat together at a staff picnic table for lunch. Nevertheless, do not let that detour you, cause she was informative, spoke two languages and was even funny at times.
The tour just before and just after were crammed packed full of people with double our numbers. We were lucky to squeeze our way to the front of the line where the kids had the best view.
Inside the cave, it is quite cool. It was a nice treat to feel cold after weeks of hot weather. Angelina however had a tough time with is. Other parents came prepared and brought sweaters. We did too, but left in the car.
The price of our day off was 30€ for entrance tickets, 9.50€ for adults and 5.50€ for kids 4-15, children under four are free. Coffee and sandwiches at the cave were a mere 14€, cheap for France.
After we headed down river where it cuts the mountain into a sharp gorge with deep waters below.
We totally recommend La Grotte de Clamouse, just one hour from Capestang, near Montpellier to anyone visiting the Languedoc.