Engravings and lakes of the Fontanalbe Valley
Mugho pine (pinus mugo)
This is one of the first stations where the Mugho pine managed to sustain a population. On screes nourished by the distressed ledges of dolomitic limestone, the Mugho pine, a dwarf tree which is frugal and resilient, acts as a “pioneer”. It has an original aspect, with its trunk split into several branches and this tree is a cousin of the Mountain pine. You can tell them apart with certainty by looking at their cones: those of the Mugho pine are asymmetrical.Indigenous the Mercantour mountains, the Mugho pine is an ancient tree which dates back prior to the glacial periods of the quaternary era, which it survived by clinging stubbornly onto the cliffs.
Swiss pine (Pinus cembra)
Held in place by its roots which have been petrified by freezing weather, whose colour has faded due to water and which allow it to grow on bare rock, the Swiss pine bends towards the waters of the lakeComing from the Carpathians thanks to the glacial periods of the quaternary era, the Swiss pine reaches the southern and western limits of its domain in the Mercantour. It is stock and has adapted to the excesses of the Alpine climate, surviving its temperatures of under -40°C, while the acidic and cold ground is good for the Swiss pine’s seeds to germinate in. Its biological rhythm is slow: it flowers for the first time when it is 60/70 years old and then every 6/10 years. It can reach 1000 years of age.
The writing tables
The Sacred Path of Fontanalbe
The Sacred Path is bordered by more than 280 engravings, the most well-known of which depict a pair of oxen pulling a scratch plough, guided by a peasant.In the area reserved for guided visits, close to the green lake, you can see the “Roche des Peaux”, covered in full geometrical figures engraved in circular fashion. On the “rocher des Guerriers”, you will see a unique scene: there are two people bearing arms, one of whom is an archer firing an arrow.
The hike begins on foot – at marker 391 – on a non-driveable track. Head towards “Lac Vert”. When you reach the halfway point, you will be in the heart of the National Parc (marker 390).
Take the path towards “Refuge de Fontanalbe”. If it takes your fancy, you can make a detour to the Lac des Grenouilles (Lake of Frogs). To do so, take the other path.
At the refuge, marker 389 indicates the direction of “Lac Vert”. At marker 387, follow the sign for “Lacs Jumeaux”. The path comes to a bridge, still heading towards “Lacs Jumeaux”. Continue along the paths until you reach the lakes.
This is also where you enter the archaeological zone: a discovery course provides free access to the protohistoric carvings of the Sacred Way and of the Cathedral. Just before the “Gias des Pasteurs”, a sign indicates two possible directions; one directly to Lacs Jumeaux and the other towards the Sacred Way (via a loop which ends with an orientation table followed by Lacs Jumeaux).
For the return journey, follow the path which runs alongside Lacs Jumeaux, with a peat bog down below, until you reach a sign showing two directions; one towards Lac Vert and the other towards the end of the discovery course. In either case, take the path you used for the upwards journey and head downhill to return to Castérino.
A guided visit with one of the National Park’s guides will allow you to view the most interesting engraved rocks and to obtain accurate information about their meaning. You will also receive a presentation of the Park’s exceptional fauna, flora and geology.
For more information about visits: http://www.vallee-merveilles.com/
From Nice or Italy, take the Train des Merveilles to St Dalmas de Tende, then a bus to Castérino (No. 923)
For more information: : http://www.tendemerveilles.com/component/content/article/2-non-categorise/111-acces.html
Tel.: 00 33 (0) 4 93 04 73 71
Access and parking
At Saint-Dalmas de Tende, take the fork (RD91) to the hamlet of Castérino.Park your vehicle as you come into Castérino.
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