Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sic transit gaudium mundi

I was looking for something else today, to go with a post about the Olympics. Sport is, of course, not my thing, but I couldn't resist the chance to skite about our golden hour last night, when New Zealand won two gold medals in the rowing, to go with the previous day's one (which, ahem, puts NZ at the TOP of the league table for medals per head of population - with the US and China at the bottom). Anyway, I came across this photo from 1983.

Apart from being a bit smug that I wore that Puffa jacket the other day (ok, so it's a smidge too snug around the hips when zipped, but still) I'm mainly astonished to remember that back then we were allowed to walk along the top of the Pont du Gard like this. Totally unsecured - I think we had to climb a ladder out of the water channel that runs along the top - and totally without waivers or disclaimers of any sort. To be honest, I was a bit astonished then, too. They stopped people doing it in 1995, I learned when I was back there in April; so I'm glad I got to do it. OSH and its various international permutations have a lot to answer for, in sucking the excitement out of life. It certainly was a thrill back then, which it wasn't when I revisited and had to peer through a wire barrier at the water conduit.

It's still impressive, though: built 2000 years ago to carry water 50kms to Nimes - they did think big, those Romans. It took only 15 years to build the whole aqueduct through the hills from the spring, of which a mere 5 years were spent building the Pont du Gard over the Gardon River. It's 48m high and 274m long, and it was mostly done without mortar, the stones cut and fitted together with almost Inca-like precision. It's a marvel. Go and see it if you get the chance. You won't be sorry - even if you can't walk along the top of it any more.

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