Le Bouchet to Pradelles and then Langogne. Second day of the hike. I awoke by 6 AM feeling surprisingly refreshed. I expected to be much more fatigued and sore. After an excellent breakfast I said my farewell to the owner [Jean-Pierre and Chantelle were clearly sleeping in and I did not get a chance to say my farewell to them] and proceeded on my way. The hike today would be approximately 25 km with a start elevation of 1218 m and a final elevation of 920 m. There was much less elevation gain today. The walking would be fairly flat on a high plateau to start. I would be walking between the Margeride and Mezzenc mountain ranges to the west and east respectively. I would be passing several pretty villages that have been affected badly by the rural exodus that commenced just before World War I and has continued to present day. I felt fantastic! Starting much earlier as the temperature was a much more reasonable 22°C and there was a nice wind was a great idea. I was able to stretch my legs and the kilometers just melted away. I quickly got to Landos where I purchased my lunch for the day. Usually, you could find a Boulanger open to provide freshly made snacks/baguette for lunch and a small supermarket to get fresh fruit and vegetables/cheese/meat for self made sandwiches. The food was of very high quality. Surprisingly, on the trail I saw very few fellow hikers but would see more when I stopped in the small villages. Clearly, most of the hikers were not doing the Robert Louis Stevenson trek. There were many other shorter hiking loops that they were likely doing as day hikes. As I found out from the innkeeper the night previous, the peak times for doing the Robert Louis Stevenson trek was May/June and September. The temperatures during these times were much more reasonable.
About halfway through the hike I had a lovely descent through the village of Arquejol and was presented with a lovely surprise of an aqueduct-a real work of industrial architecture- but, sadly no longer in use. The rest of the way was exceedingly pleasant and I must say the 2 km descent from the high point to Pradelles was heavenly. I walked through the fields of brilliant purple flowers and farmers fields and then descended without effort into the lovely, historic village of Pradelles. This ancient “castrum” or fortified market town is mentioned in records dating back to 1043. Its strategic location at the crossroads of ancient trading routes helped spur its growth. Pradelles lies on the path of the Saint-Gilles Way [Regordane]-Christendom’s fourth most important pilgrimage route in the early Middle Pages. It later became a small mountain capital in Viverais of both administrative/legal and ecclesiastical importance. In the town is located Notre-Dame Chapel, dating from 1623, with the retirement home next door, the former hospice from the Middle Ages.
I was thrilled that I had arrived at approximately 1:30 PM. I thought my day was done. When I looked at the name of the hotel that I was staying in for this evening I was shocked to discover it was in Langogne. This town is located an additional 7 km from Pradelles! The temperature was starting to get up to 32°C. I should have more closely reviewed my itinerary before I left. Most of the route descriptions are broken down per day and I had only packed the Le Bouchet to Pradelles notes. Therefore, I did not have a route description to get to Langogne on the GR 70, this meant I would have to walk on the hot tarmac!
I grudgingly started walking towards Langogne on the road. Thankfully, the route was a steady descent. About 1 km down I saw a side trail which appeared to be going in the general direction that I was heading. I decided to take it in order to get off the tarmac. Initially, it was a good choice. However, as I continued I started to notice it was heading off in a direction not matching the highway. I really didn’t know where it would go and there were so many trails in the area I thought I would probably just get lost. I simply hopped off the trail and did some bushwhacking to get back to the highway [I had to jump a couple of barbed wire fences so I think I was actually trespassing on farmer’s property].
I would just have to accept that the tarmac was the most direct route to get to where I needed to go. Of course, halfway down I ran out of water. I simply put the afterburners on and thankfully arrived at my destination at about 3:30 PM. The only glitch was that I had developed a blister on the bottom of the right forefoot. I was wearing hiking socks thinking this would provide additional cushioning in my trainers but I would have to switch to my trusty black running socks which thankfully I brought along.
I found my hotel quite easily and had a nice leisurely walk around this historic town. Langogne was a large market town. It was formally a fortified and walled town and has approximately 1000 years of history behind it. It was continually attacked by the English during the 100 years war of the 14th century, and in 1568 during the Wars of Religion it was ransacked by a Huguenot army of 9000 from Ales. The ramparts no longer exist and the town was rebuilt around 1600 with the Roman architecture being replaced by a more flamboyant Gothic style. Langogne is located at the junction of three departments- Lozere, Haute-Loire and Ardeche-and three regions: Languedob-Roussillon, Auvergne and Rhone-Alps. It lies in the Eastern Lozere a department that has two points of repute: the highest average altitude in France and the smallest population at just under 74,500 people or 15 people per square mile.
I had a nice walk around town before enjoying my meal and then settling down to catch up on some blogging and processing of pictures. I was going to have a relatively leisurely start the next morning as I had to catch a train from Langogne to La Bastide at 10:24 AM [yes, you read that right 10:24 AM, not 10:25 AM] in order to start my hike the next day in La Bastide. It was only going to be 15 km. It was nice to have a shorter distance. This time I bought extra water to supplement my 2L water reservoir that I carry in my backpack. Hard lesson learned twice!