What a day, very difficult and yet still very rewarding. We left Sarlat-la-Canéda early and made plans to visit the prehistoric cave painting of Lascaux. Our French cell package had expired the previous night so we decided to use the car’s GPS in lieu of renewing the service. I had forgotten to get the exact address of site so set the GPS for Lascaux city center. Two hours later, along extremely narrow and winding roads, we arrived in what the tiny signpost announced was Lascaux.
We quickly realized this tiny hamlet, with no sizable village in site, was not where we were supposed to be. A moment of panic seized us as we stopped at the next crossroads and to our relief, found an older gentleman working in his garden. He kindly tried to help us set our GPS for the correct coordinates but his spelling was bad and the communication barrier was proving to be far too great a challenge.
A few minutes later, a farm tractor drove by and the kind man called him over to aid us. He was able to give us the correct spelling of the town we needed to be in, but when we tried to plug it into our GPS, it declared we were 14 hours away.
Unfortunately the GPS was trying to send us to the wrong Montignac. We weren’t quite sure what to do now. As we continued to fight with the car’s guidance system, the gardener, seeing we weren’t leaving yet, knocked on our window and told us to wait a few minutes. We weren’t quite sure why but then, to our delight, the tractor driver returned with a map! I thank the kindness of strangers and will pay this effort forward at the first chance I can.
We ended up back tracking the winding roads to the site of the duplicate cave. An hour later, we finally arrived at our intended destination, Lascaux II. We remained in good cheer since the drive was through the beautiful French countryside. I had stopped numerous times along the way to take more photographs.
The original site was discovered in 1940 and closed to the public in 1965 due to the damage being unknowingly done by visitors. They brought in pollen and algae which attached it self to the walls and CO2 which began to discolor the images.The entire cave was duplicated so that visitors could enjoy these specular images. Even Picasso, when he viewed the originals in 1950, declared he had met his master. The new installment, 200 meters from the original site, opened in 1983. Lascaux II is an exact replication of the original site within a 5mm tolerance. The cave is as close to every curve and surface of the original cave as possible.
The 17000 year old paintings were meticulously reproduced using the same techniques and materials used so long ago. I am so delighted we had found our way back to our intended destination instead skipping it because of time retraints.
Our evening’s lodgings were to be 4.5 hours away at the Kadampa Meditation Center-France in the town of Saint-Mars-d’Outillé. I was eagerly looking forward to visiting this sister center to my own World Peace Temple in Glen Spey. We had booked two dorm rooms and would spend the next day roaming the large estate before returning to Paris.
Without a working phone, I tried to email the center to let them know we were going to be very late, six hours to be exact. As we drove the long journey, with the help or hindrance of our GPS, we encountered a completely closed off portion of the highway. There was no indication of how we were to navigate the unexpected detour. Thankfully, Jared worked it out and we were once again we were back on track.
As the drove along the back roads waiting to find the next major highway, our gas tank continued to make its way to empty. We must have driven 100 miles without ever seeing a single gas station and I was beginning to get a little more than nervous. The first gas station the GPS said we would encounter woefully never appeared. I was not feeling too confident the second was going to be where it was supposed to be either and our tank was now reading 1/8 full. To our relief, the second station was where it was supposed to be and not a minute too soon.
Once we made it onto the toll road, upon exiting, we couldn’t get the toll machine to accept our only credit card. We scraped every last Euro to pay the first toll. At the second toll station, after the machine rejected our card again, it spit out the ticket so forcefully it popped out of the machine. It began to blow away so I quickly jumped out of the car and chased it down, much to the dismay of the driver behind me.
By the time we finally reached the center, it was already 9pm. Lucky for us, the sun doesn’t set here till 9:30! Maneuvering in the dark would have been a lot more unnerving. Upon our arrival, the place looked all locked up. As we walked to the side and peered through the fence we saw a single young women dashing to another building. Our unexpected greeting momentarily startled her but thankfully she understood English. Sophie was her name and I gave her the biggest hug when she opened the door. She retrieved someone in charge and helped us to our rooms. I was never so thankful as then for my worldwide Kadampa family, so eager to make us feel at home.