Millau is a small town of around 20,000 inhabitants in the South of France, and is locally known as the ‘toilet bowl’ as it sits in between Causses (flat mountains). The Tarn and Dourbie River meet in town, with the Tarn continuing its journey west, passing under the famous viaduct just a few kilometres downstream. Millau is considered the regional capital of outdoor sports, and it’s no wonder why; it is a beautiful place for kayakers, climbers, paragliders, slackliners, mountain bikers and many others to train and chill.
The Tarn Water Race (TaWaRa)
The first week of June; the temperatures were high, approaching forty degrees, and the land was dry. Without much time to get acclimated, I took part in the Tarn Water Race, a 80 km long race down the Tarn river starting deep into the Tarn Valley and finishing 20 km downstream of Millau. The TaWaRa was originally a SUP race, but kayakers can also take part, either solo or relay. Despite the low water levels and the sun hitting us hard, it was a great way to enjoy the local landscape. The first hours were spent in the gorge, with vultures flying above us, admiring the cliff faces, the old houses and stone bridges along the way. The last hours were spent pushing against more flat water, closer to the vineyards, hoping to eventually reach the finish line: a troglodyte village.
The next week was more chill with daily freestyle sessions at the whitewater course, a few river swims, many ice creams and strolls at the local farmers market. Millau is an incredible place to both train hard and relax, with the best food for recovery (cheese, that is). The freestyle feature was still retentive despite the low water levels, and the eddy was empty with everyone being at the World Championships. It was a good time to practice new tricks and put a ride together for the last event of my trip: the Natural Games.
The Natural Games are a four-day festival packed with outdoor sports and music. Kayakers first face each other in a boater cross on the Friday; with tight eddies to make and DJs playing in the background, it puts everyone in the mood for the rest of the weekend. The freestyle competition is run in one day on the Saturday, giving no time to recover between prelims, semis and finals to the athletes that partied all night. The Sunday offers paddlers another chance to challenge each other with a SUP race down the course. The weather was not the most clement that week, but it gave us a deep and powerful freestyle feature, and the opportunity to dance all night under the rain.
Even for a beginner, Natural Games should be on your bucket list. There is plenty of time between competitions to have fun on the whitewater course and appreciate all the other sports. Competing gives you access to the VIP area, where you’ll find hot tubs with a view on the main stage, and food offered by local producers. With the event being more and more green each year, it is a great festival to attend and support.
I hope I gave you some motivation to fly to Millau and discover the area. The TaWaRa was a wonderful way to discover and appreciate the local landscapes before jumping into the festivities. I would recommend doing it as a relay with a few friends. I already wrote a destination guide on Millau, but feel free to contact me with any questions!