Day Twenty-one – Puy de Dome/lightning storm

We woke to the idyllic views of the surrounding national forest.

Our spot was pretty high up the mountain, although the whole national forest is quite high above sea level, which meant the temperatures dropped pretty low again after the sun went down. This time, there was no repeat of the previous night’s stubbornness, and we had a delightfully warm sleep with thanks to the Wallas.

Today, we would be completing a second volcano walk. Our next destination was about an hour’s drive through the national forest towards Clermont Ferrand. The drive was once again delightful, and we were both enjoying working our way back home slowly, via the scenic route. During the first couple of days of our visit, we were determined to get to the southern regions as quickly as possible, which meant a lot of the first couple of days were very driving intensive. Now it felt as though the drive was as rewarding as the walks.

The walking site where we picked the route, once again described it as heavily trafficked, and as we pulled up to the foot of the volcano, we were once again greeted by roads lined with cars for almost a 1/4 of a mile out of the car park. Lucky, Ruby’s high ground clearance meant we were able to park in a spot which other cars couldn’t, which was fairly close to the start of the walk.

This walk, was a straight ascent up the mountain. As before, we quickly burst through the crowds of families, struggling to carry their small children up with them. Today was another warm day, and so we were happy to enjoy the viewpoints, not only for the sights, but to catch our breathe and have a quick drink.

Whilst we climbed the mountain, some people at the top had started to paraglide.

Watching them glide through the air was mesmerising, and I was jealous that I was not able to join them. I am serious contemplating taking paragliding up as a hobby, as it seems a great way of enjoying the peaks of the mountains that we regularly climb.

The peak of this volcano is very different to the natural woodland growing on top of Puy de Montchal. Firstly, this one had a science facility built in the late 1950’s to research changes in air pressure.

Secondly, this walk almost catered more for the casual tourist and so had a train that took people straight to the top, where they could buy food at a restaurant. Not quite sure where the fun is catching a train to the top?

The views at the top were once again fantastic, and we had picked the best day for it, as we pretty much had clear skies around us.

Today’s peak was slightly taller than yesterday’s climb. Measuring in at 1415m above sea level.

The crater is also home to a ruined temple which was built for locals to worship the God of Mercury.

With the circuit of the peak completed, we made our way back down past the hearts of people still arriving. (At least they hadn’t taken the boring option)

With the walk compete, we drove down to road and round a place to have some lunch. We had skipped breakfast to complete the walk and by this point we were both feeling rather peckish.

We decided that we would try and find a spot to sleep that wasn’t too far from the region, as we still wanted the nice views, so headed slightly further north.

We stopped off on the way at a viewpoint from Clermont Ferrand.

The cathedral was supposedly built using volcanic rock from the region.

We were desperately low on supplies and so head for the local supermarket to stock up. What we didn’t consider until we arrived there, was that it was Sunday afternoon and so all of the shops were shut. At that moment in time fear struck. We may actually have to spend the night without and wine or beer.

Begrudgingly, we set off to look at some spots I had identified on the parking app. We looked at two sites that were unsuitable, the first one we had to arrive to via a dirt track, and it was a pretty miserable looking field in an orchard. The second spot, although offering fantastic views, was about 50m from a house with dogs. Not exactly what we were looking. Someone had commented on the app that this was also a popular spot for the local youths. We couldn’t see how that could be a problem? Fortunately, as we continued about 100m up the road we found a car park for the town’s spot facility. The spot was away from any houses, offered us views of the volcano, and had a height restriction of 2.2m, ensuring that were would not be plagued by any large motorhomes.

Clearly Willow’s resolve is weaker than mine, and after sharing our lone bottle of beer, she had found a small shop in the local village that was apparently still open. As you can imagine, we walked with quite a brisk pace to the shop, just to ensure that we didn’t get there too late.

With supplies for the night secured, we headed back to Ruby relieved. It’s not a holiday in France if you don’t have anything to drink in the evening.

After we had ate, we walked back down to the other parking spot we checked out, to look at views of the city as a lightning storm was approaching. Funnily, there was a gang of kids sat at the spot, playing with neon lights. Nice to know the comments on the app are accurate.

During the night, we were awoken by three enormous lightning storms, surrounding our car park. I managed to get a few recordings, but they really don’t capture how brilliant the storm was.

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