THE GRAND TOUR: FRANCE 20/21/22nd AUGUST 

3 Days of Hiking the Auvergne Volcanos.  32/ 21/ 16 km

We’d parked the Tranny outside the camper site with a little note saying we were walking the GR30 for three days and headed off hoping not to return to a parking ticket.

We had a vague circle in mind but with a multitude of trails crisscrossing the countryside we had options. Which was just as well because it didn’t take long to realise that we had bitten off more than we could chew.

Their was something indescribably French about the landscape and little details in it.

The way was littered with crosses, a lot ancient looking ones, and we realised we were on yet another Camino route. Or maybe the same one we were on in the Valle di Susa in Italy.

We were traveling up and around and down steep sided volcanic cones and the dogs were already looking to cool down.

This was also granite country and there was a big dolmen that seemed to be incorporated into a little village football pitch.

At the quiet hamlet of Olloix about 12km into the journey we were already heating up. The initial cool of France had gone and we welcomed a sign for the first Gite D’ Etape of the route.

 These places did food and drink and beds and were geared for the walkers. We had thought about using them as an alternative to carrying tent , mat, bag , cooking and eating stuff etc etc but didn’t know if the dogs would be welcome and anyway we like to carry heavy loads up steep sided mountains in very hot and humid conditions.

So we just had a cold coca cola.

A couple more hamlets and then a fairly big spa town ,St Nectaire ,was in view with the day’s goal of Murol in the background below the hill top chateau.

 Back into oak woods after all the beech of the last couple of months, and down into town where we passed bains or baths that had seen better days.

With over 20km and a lot of sweating done it was a bit of a slog back up into the menhir and troglodyte cave rich hills for the final push. We passed, bizarrely, a kangaroo and emu zoo where the fencing needed to be high.

 And then the Chateau de Murol which was heaving tourist bait.

 We had to get round the hill ,down into town where the pharmacy thermometer said it was 33*( this was 6 pm),pick up water and supplies, get out of town a couple of Km and hope we could find a lake side camp spot.

Unfortunately the place was more of a resort than we had realised and the lakeside trail was a running, cycling, family strolling kind of amenity path where camping was strictly interdit. 

But we found a little patch unseen to call home for the night and after an aborted nudey swim in water up to our knees, we’re happy enough to call it a day.

Next day dawned fair to the sound of a hot air balloon’s gas burner.

We were going to do a lot of climbing,up to 1700m , and do a long ridge walk across the spine of the Auvergne so we headed off as soon as we could down the boardwalk around the lac. 

 Passing through deeply rural villages with some lovely traditional buildings we slowly climbed higher onto the hills.

 

 Overjoyed to find a restored mountain hut operating as a Gite but disappointed to discover they were booked out.

 Still they had plenty of reviving water and cake and yogurt.

 Water was a crucial element in this hike. We were sweating loads so needed loads but couldn’t carry loads. And we were never sure where we could get it. And the dogs needed loads too. Scruff did a stirling job of carrying theirs but it got too much for him and I’d ended up carrying his rucksack too.

Anyway suitably revived we’d carried on to a saddle at Coll de la Croix St Robert were we erected some shade and rested up before the big climb up Puy de l’Angle at 1738m.

And on up and down along the ridge with beautiful views all around towards the next drop to Coll de la Croix Morand.

Salvation at the Coll. Another funky hostelry revived us with beers and replenished our water supplies so we carried on happy another couple of km and made camp beside the path where I spent the night in my bivvy bag gazing at the Milky Way in the crystal sky at 1440m and it was cold enough for Toby to wear his silks.

In the clear blue sky of the morning we crossed a broad flattish plateau and then started to descend passed many old summer grazing both us, to the lower ground.

The least exciting 10km section finished it and us off as the heat sapped us of strength and enthusiasm and we were relived to arrive back at Tranny to find him/her unmolested and without tickets. We snuck into the camp for showers and clothes washing and hung everything up on the railings around the football pitch to dry like proper travellers and as things cooled off joined the motorway madness of the return to the north for the thousands whose holidays were over this weekend, before quickly pulling off to park up in a lovely free camper spot next to a fine looking inn.

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2 comments

  1. Wonderful stuff! I do love France! I could almost smell the herbage there and hear the cowbells! Just as I was wondering what you two look like after almost 3 months away, you came up with a thumbsup selfie! Lokks like you’re heading north now, but if you are back there again, the area around the Puy Mary is very beautiful. Too beautiful to miss in my eyes and I’m sorry I didn’t say that earlier! You’ve presented a truly wonderful oddysey altogether, so I’m very grateful. Thanks and Bon Voyage home. I did appreciate the last bike picture but I will leave it for Salvador Dali to pick up. Thanks for all these great adventures.

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