From the belvedere, the northwards landscape is completely different from what it was on the other side. In this direction, erosion has carved a deep valley, with steep sides. The belvedere is overlooking the Dourbie gorges and the Causses.
This picture shows the southwards view from the belvedere. In this direction, all the rocks have been deeply carved by erosion and offer the most typical aspect of the chaos with a labyrinth of dry rocks with rich vegetation growing in each crack.
The top belvedere offers a general view on the whole chaos. The path is slippery when wet, which was the case on our visit ! The Causse (the plateau) in the background is barren while the chaos has a very rich vegetation : when it rains on the Causse, water infiltrates very fast and waters the chaos. However, when hiking, you should not rely on springs. There are none, so bring your water with you. Soil water is for plants, not for you !
The inventor of the site, speleologist Albert Alfred Martel, has named each of these gigantic figures. This allowed him to remember more easily, which was which and note it on a map. We have seen the Porte de Mycènes. Other names in the chaos are "Arc de triomphe", the Sphinx and many others.
If you enlarge the picture, you will see a hole in a rock on top of the cliff. It has been bored by the combined action of water and of physical erosion (icing of the wet limestone especially). After several millions of year, it should give another archway. Don't forget to come back to check !
The archway is quite impressive. It is more than 15 m high. It has been called "la Porte de Mycènes" (Mycene Doorway) by Martel himself and has kept this name. Actually, if you think of the arches of "Arches National Park", the Porte de Mycènes will only look impressive following European standards !
This picture is a close up on the prehistoric shelters. Digging has revealed that our ancestors have lived in these shelters, possibly temporarily. They have left a few artifacts. They might have been shepherds looking after their flock, or hunters that needed a temporary shelter.
For the modern geologist, Montpellier-le-Vieux is a megalapiaz, which the names given by specialists to the structure that has been formed along the time, very slowly, by the combined action of gullying and corrosion of limestone by rain water
In some places, erosion has made shelters at the bottom of the cliff (bottom left of the picture). Some of them have been inhabited in the prehistoric times.
Erosion has carved fabulous figures in the karstic rocks. This chaos was discovered at the end of XIXth century by the famous speleologist Edouard Alfred Martel who thought it had been undermined by powerful torrents coming from the north which whirlpools would have carved the surface of the "Causse noir" (the plateau). Martel had given names of fabulous figures to every rock, which can still be seen on maps !
Around the chaos Montpellier-le-Vieux stand white cliffs. It is the border of the plateau. The chaos is a huge part of the former plateau that for millions of years has been submitted to water erosion. But how ?
Montpellier-le-Vieux by JLBG
The chaos of Montpellier-le-Vieux is a dozen kilometers from Millau. It can be visited, hiking on the numerous trails that have been drawn. There is also a little train that brings to the most interesting places. On the day of our visit, the weather was very bad, with occasional showers. We choose the little train as it had one carriage with a cover ! Due to these conditions, the pictures are not of very good quality. We will go back another day (hopefully sunny day) and better walk the chaos.
On the route D 907bis, the village of La Malene.
From there you can rent a boat to see the "Detroits" such as the narrowest part of the canyon of Tarn.
On the route D 986, stop at the small viewpoint to see the meander of the river Tarn called Cirque of St Chely du Tarn.