Continuing to move northwards we set off for another 2hr drive towards Issoire. This puts us between two national parks; Parc des Volcans d’Auvergne and Parc Livradois-Forez. Naturally there are a lot of nice walks here. We settle on a walk around Lac Pavin that would also take us to the crater of an extinct volcano.
The drive there was interesting. Normally when I say that it means we broke down, however this time it was the scenery, a pleasing change. The previous night the temperatures went down to 7 degrees, not normally a problem in the van but as we weren’t really expecting this we had no duvet, just a sheet. Lee refused to the heating on ‘because we’re in the south of France’ so we ended up sleeping in all our clothes with a blanket and the sheet. It was still utterly freezing and the only way to keep warm was by spooning. This meant all night if one of you turned over, the other one needed to, to maintain contact!
The upsides of this is that the engine is no longer running too hot. In fact in is now often too cold as the fans are on all the time and I’ve removed the thermostat. This is probably fortunate as the road that runs north between the two parks gives hilly a new meaning. It’s a big sweeping motorway with ginormous hills. On a hot day there’s no way we would have made it. The final stretch is a downhill run of 11km where we just free wheeled the whole way. Here you can see one of two escape lanes that the hill has. After this rather grand road, we diverted off into the national park. We arrived in time for a late lunch with the only problem we encountered on the way being that the fridge door flew open on a bend, dumping its contents on the floor and breaking a beer bottle all over the rug. This is pretty tame really.
We drink some of the beer for safety reasons and then we head for the lake. This is quite busy, with a bar/restaurant on the waters edge. The lake itself is an amazing shade of blue highlighted by the dark green backdrop of the forest.
The walk starts to the right hand side, heading off on a wise shaded path between the trees. A well trodden route, some of the trees roots have become very exposed.
At a fork in the path, we take the right path and begin to climb away from the lake.
Still climbing we head up through the forest which soon gives way into more meadow like terrain and the views start to appear.
The path narrows and heads steeply up the side of the volcano. There is quite a nice cool breeze as we are at a very high altitude. Partly the reason for the noticeable temperature drop I think.
Views from the top of Puy de Montchal. As you can see, we are fairly high, the walk only climbs around 200m meaning the whole park itself is quite a way above sea level.
The route now heads down into the crater of the volcano. You can’t help stand there and try to picture what the scene would have been like when it was active.
The route now goes back into the forests with glimpses of mountains through the trees.
We then pass Creux de Soucy which is a chasm only identifiable by the very large fence that surrounds it. I looked at online and it looks beautiful inside but only accessible by abseiling through this small hole. It doesn’t look like anyone does this anymore, the fence you can see here doesn’t look like something you’d want to hang off in a large pit. There is a far larger, newer fence built further back where this photo was taken.
We head through the forest, eyeing up potential camp spots.
Passing past a group of hikers eating berries we decide to try a few. I think they’re myrtle berries, quite sharp to the taste. The path is now out of the forest and heads past a ski centre where you pick up the trail back to the lake with a fantastic view of it before you start.
Dropping back down, you now turn right to finish the circuit of the lake and return to the starting point.
A lovely walk with a bit of everything.
Next to find a spot for the night. We head back towards the ski centre where a few vans are interspersed between the trees. We decided to pitch up just down the road as there was a few less people and also a rather nice view.