Monday, April 18, 2011

Hiking in the Mont-Dore region

I believe we have learned a lesson; the Michelin green guides are wonderful for sightseeing and driving, but not the most accurate resource for hiking! Saturday we had two goals in mind, the first to try out our new baby backpack, and the second to see two waterfalls in the Le Mont-Dore area. The backpack turns out to be a wonderful investment, we finally settled on the LittleLife Freedom child carrier from REI, but with one hitch – Roberts had to bring it back from his business trip to the US. As I neglected to consider dimensions for the return trip home, Roberts was forced to wear it as carry-on and so received many an inquiring glance and even a “did you forget your baby? WHERE is your BABY!?” from well-meaning passengers. But the carrier after one hike is working well, with plenty of room for baby paraphanelia - and it can handle Lauris up to 40 lbs.

On Saturday morning we packed up and drove southwest, stopping once at a scenic viewpoint overlooking the roches Tuilière et Sanadoire. Tuilière was once the chimney of a ruined volcano, and Sanadoire is all that remains of a volcanic cone. We continued past Lac de Guéry (to which we must return) through Le Mont-Dore until we reached La Bourboule. Both are spa towns with skiing nearby in the winter. At this point the Dordogne river is still a stream, and the Cliergue, our destination, a creek. We may have had a hint that we were in for an interesting hike when we could not locate the starting point, nor the landmarks that were supposedly near that point. Using the Cliergue as our guide, we headed upstream on a narrow access road with Lauris in the backpack and the gurgle of the stream in our right ears.
According to our guide, after a 15 minute hike we were supposed to take a path to the right that cuts downhill to see the first waterfall, the Cascade de la Vernière. Supposedly a 3 km round-trip, but at about 3 km we had not yet passed a path that could reasonably lead us to the stream. We did encounter a map, and sure enough, we had passed both waterfalls about 1.5 km back! Thus, we backtracked along the stream until the topography proved too difficult, and then cut uphill. This way we at least caught a glimpse of the second waterfall, the Cascade du Plat à Barbe (owes its name of “shaving dish” to the dip worn in the rock by its waters). On our way back to the car we noticed a trail leading downhill towards the creek that we had dismissed on our way up due to the barbed wire fence across it. And another one a bit further. And several trees felled across the path.  Noticing a little worn footpath leading around it we ignored the Deliverance banjo music and followed the minimal path downhill. After climbing over and skirting around five additional felled trees, we ducked through one more barbed wire fence to finally reach the waterfall, which turned out to be impressive at 6-8 meters high, and beautiful! Note: we obeyed every single PRIVE (“no trespassing, private”) sign we saw, it was only the barbed wire fences that we detoured around… with very much respect to the landowners of course, but also trusting that the Michelin guide’s invitation to seek the waterfall as a permission slip.

In Bourboule we explored Parc Fenestre with its planted sequoias and beautiful gardens. There were many activities for children such as bumper cars, a mini rollercoaster, even a high-C.O.P.E type of activity. We settled for a quick slide down the giant slide, because the cable-car that links the park with the Charlannes plateau was not yet running. An interesting little factoid about Bourboule is that the catalyst for the spa reputation was the discovery of arsenic in the waters by chemist Thénard in 1854. When the news spread, every home-owner in the town began exploring his property in hopes of finding his own spring, and each person did his best to excavate faster and pump more than his neighbor. There are actually two springs in Bourboule – a hot spring that is 140° F and a cold spring that is 66° F. Their waters contain metalloid arsenic and are used to treat respiratory diseases and dermatoses.

The boys relaxing Parc Fenestre, with the slide visible in the background
From this point we headed north to la Banne d’Oranche, a basal outcrop rising from a grassy hillock which are the remains of the central chimney of an old volcano. Although we did not hike the last km to the viewing platform on top, there was quite a view of the Dordogne valley with Puy de Sancy, Puy de l’Angle and the Dômes mountain range off in the distance. On our way home we paused at Lac Chambon and the Chateau de Murol, both beautiful, but left to explore for another day. We had to get back in time after all, for a too-rare girls night out!

1 comment:

  1. Paga, paga - gribu dzirdēt vairāk par šo girls' night out! Vai tu to atstāji kā cliff-hanger?

    Oh, un pārējais rakstītais arī bija ļoti interesanti ;) Labi, ka tikiet mājās!


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