There is a road that runs along the Doubs between Pontalier and Morteau. One memorable section of this road is known as “Du Defile d’entre Roches” (The Parade between the Rocks). We saw it the last time we took a local adventure and vowed to return to see the cave and the church. It was all part of our Sunday plan of action.
The kids were totally excited for this stop – they were hoping we would find real treasure we could take home with us. We had brought along our flashlights in preparation for some spelunking.
Now there are caves, and there are caves. By now, we’ve seen quite a few – Thoraise, Grotte d’Oselle, St. Leonard, Alpine Ice Caves, one at Baume Les Messiurs, The Source of the Lison, The Malrochers, train tunnels, catacombs, dungeons, etc…. but this one took my breath away. The mouth of it was absolutely immense – 45x13 meters (that would be 150x40 feet) and it went back another 600 feet or so for exploration. These photos attempt to give you a sense of scale.
We went in eagerly enough. Despite days of nearly constant drizzle, the interior of the cave was bone dry. I entered a small niche almost immediately and, shining my light on the ceiling, got an idea of why this is called the cave of treasure. There were crystals embedded in the ceiling of the cave in many places, and, in others, the refraction of light off water droplets gave a similar effect; we tried to take photos, but it was a bit of a challenge!
When I did the research, however, I found out that this cave has been on the historic registry since 1913. You might be confused, at first, since there is another (more famous) Grotte du Tresor on the coast of the Mediterranean in Spain (that’s the one Wikipedia lists) but the Doubs grotte is not the same! The legend of this cave is that, after the destruction of Morteau many many hundreds of years ago by band of mercenaries from Weimer, they hid their treasure in the underground river that runs through this cave and set it to be guarded by a Vouivre. It seems Vouivre’s are popular mythological figures in this region. I ran into one at the Source of the Doubs last year…. These powerful aquatic dragonesque women are truly awesome – thanks to Hannah Taylor for this modern day rendering….
It seems the belief in the Vouivre was quite strong since, for hundreds of years, the cave would intermittently emit a high pitch whistling scream, attributed to the beast. In recent years it was found that there was a point where the river ran past a thin calcified wall. When the flow of the water was right, the whistle would be heard.
No one knows if the treasure was ever discovered, but, to this day, cave divers come to this Grotte to dive in the underground river and take a look. Hope they don’t meet the Vouivre!
Of course, we had to explore as much of the cave as possible. The opening became very narrow and we had to crawl for about a hundred feet or so before we could again walk bent over. It was pitch black, and the floor, limestone layered with thick river clay, continued to get wetter and slipperier.
Eventually we came to the place where we could see the river flowing into the cavern. It was awesome.
The kids started to get freaked out so we headed back to the light. Callie, who has the most fear of caves, is getting better with every adventure we have. We played around with some fun shadow pictures at the cave openings. First two are the kids. and the second two are some amazing yoga moves done by yours truly.
We headed out of the cave and spent about another hour clambering around in the boulders of the dry stream bed.
Then we walked through the culvert to check out the Doubs. Callie took the photo of André and I together. Once again, we were amazed by the snails – I even got a photo of a black one!
It is now about 5pm and we are coming to our last stop, less than 10 minutes down the road, a church cave….