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Deeper into the Massif Central

Mont-dore, Auvergne

I have always been fascinated by the Massif Central ever since reading about it in the book ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind. The main character Grenouille spends 7 years living wild on the Pic du Cantal . Although we did not make it there on this trip, our next destination was Mont-Dore, in the Auvergne part of Massif area. The area is surrounded by peaks and cinder cones formed from volcanic rock. We stayed for 3 nights at the Camper stop in the centre of Mont-dore.

We spent the first day on the Via Ferrata, and then walked and ran to the top of all the peaks of the area (about 7) in one afternoon. This outing was longer than expected and having first completed the Via Ferrata, we ran very low on water, causing that panicky feeling of being thirsty without access to water. It was very hot. Swarms of flying ants and a smaller insect were carried in their thousands up the cols, hitting our skin and getting in eyes and mouths. Despite this the trek around the 7 peaks looking at the vantage points and into the valley below was well worth it. As we descended towards the town we found a beautiful high cascade, and here we filled our water bottles.

A day later we went rock climbing at Valley Chaudefour (literal translation; hot oven) and climbed the easy route up the Cret de La Coq. I had the (usual) wobble of terror about half way up. Once on the crest, we had an incredible view of the top of the neighbouring tooth shaped rock - La Dent de La Rancune, a high spike of rock. We were climbing the ridge of the Cret de La Coq at the same time as another couple ascended La Dent de La Rancune. They spotted us on the top and we all cheered our ascents and waved.

It was a scorching day. The climb down was very steep through rocks and grassland, and met up with the couple who had climbed La Dent, and stopped to chat. They were also travelling through Europe in a camper van.

The shape of La Dent is quite awe inspiring and so you will find drawings of two of the faces, so different does it look from each angle. One face being covered with incredible lava swirls. Both Dent and Cret de La Coq are volcanic dykes, formed from spouts of rising lava.

After this long day we spent the night in the car park. John had left his maps at the foot of the mountain and so ran back to find them. It delayed us a little, but without a strict schedule it didn't matter.

Mont-dore was a pretty spa town with some spectacularly ornate spa buildings, but it felt a little down on it’s luck, with some quieter streets of unoccupied shop units. I have not yet broken the empty spaces habit.

At Mont-Dore we found a solution to the heat. We dive into the villages for food and water and then head back out to the top of the hills for the cool air, the high hills being prone to night time storms and a little welcome rain. We always find an isolated car park to stay in. We are usually accompanied by another van or two.

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