Daily commutes vary from person to person all around the world. Some people take advantage of public transportation, transferring from bus to train and sometimes back again, while some people have to fight morning rush hours on overcrowded freeways. Nonetheless, could you imagine if the main way in and out of your neighborhood could only be accessed for a short window of time, just twice a day? Amazingly enough, the folks trying to make it across the Gulf of Burnёf to Nourmoutier in western France have to deal with this daily.
This passage is called the Passage du Gois, and it is completely natural which is why the water comes in and floods out this road. You would think that a bridge would help this hazardous situation, but it is actually a source of pride in this area and has been distinguished as a national monument of France.
When the ocean tide is low, the road is quite picturesque. It is around 2.58 miles long and connects from the island of Nourmoutier to the mainland, but it is anything but reliable.
Twice a day the ocean tide gets so high that it completely submerges the road, making it impossible or extremely dangerous to cross. Technically speaking, motorists are generally safe to make the trip 1.5 hours before the lowest tide and 1.5 hours after. This is definitely a place where you will want to keep your tide calendar handy!
So, what is considered to be high, high tide, exactly? The answer, of course, is a bit complicated. Tides vary depending on season and the Moon’s gravitational pull, but people familiar with passing the Passage du Gois know to expect high tides ranging anywhere from 4.3 feet to 13.1 feet. How’s that for variety?
Even when the tide dissipates, it is still a dangerous road to navigate. Slippery seaweed and sea creatures are usually left on the road once the tide lowers again. Drivers must use extreme caution when encountering slick conditions like this.
Some visitors and residents also cross the road on foot because they have a bit more leeway in terms of crossing time, though they can’t be afraid of getting their feet wet!
The Passage du Gois is also used to host the unique racing event called Foulées du Gois. Since 1987, athletes have come to this area in hopes of outrunning (or outswimming!) the rising tide. 30 contestants start out on the island and try their best to reach the mainland as the tide swells higher and higher. Most contestants end up running in ankle-deep water, but there have been some instances where they have to swim through the crossing line!