Saturday 11th of June la Vacherie to Bouvante-le-Bas

Really good walk today despite a navigational cock-up and cloudy cold weather.

Was really cold in the night and multiple blankets didn't seem to make much difference. Looking south out of the bedroom window the weather was perfect, completely blue sky and fresh. Leaving the Gite the first thing you noticed was a bitter cold wind and the second was the cloud hanging over the tops of the mountain in the northerly direction I was heading. Wasn't long before I had to surrender and put a fleece on as well as gloves and two t-shirts, a thing I have only had to do a couple of times on the whole walk.

The cloud also spoilt the view. la Vacherie is set in a wide valley, with limestone ridges on either side which narrows as you approach Leoncel the next village along the route. The valley was full of long grass waiting for hay making.

Wind swept grassy plain north of la Vacherie

As the valley got narrower, turned into a gorge, trees dominated and provided some welcome protection from the wind. Was following an obvious forest trail, listening to music too embarrassing to name, and didn't notice that the red and white markers had disappeared. Decided that going back would have meant a lot of step retracing and assumed that the real track just went down to the road at the bottom when in fact it crossed the valley and went high up the other side. When I eventually got down to the road I decided that I somehow needed to get on the right trail as I might be missing something. I found a path up the other side, hit the GR 9 and walked back to the top of the trail to check for hidden gems. Although the path got much higher it stayed mainly in the trees and as it happened I could have saved myself the climb.

Along the valley north of Leoncel

It was on the way down that the views started to open up and would have been spectacular on a really fine day. Huge limestone cliffs in the distance with meadows and trees in the foreground.

From the Rocher de l'Aiguelle looking north east

Looking down from the Rocher de l'Aiguelle

The real surprise was the stunning gorge at the bottom of the valley, not mentioned in the Topoguide but something which in most places would qualify as a 5 star beauty spot, be the destination for coach journeys from the other side of the country, and be full of people taking pictures. Given that it's a Saturday, a bank holiday weekend, I can only conclude that the French haven't found it yet, or inexplicably don't like long trips on coaches.

My pictures don't do it justice. It was in fact two gorges merging with the divide formed by a narrow curtain of limestone. In the first picture below the limestone in the middle ground is the curtain with the limestone behind the wall of the second gorge. The route took you along the edge and then right down to the meadow at the base of the gorge. There was supposed to be an echo but despite shouting several times I couldn't make it work.

Pas de l'Echo

Looking down

At the bottom

After the gorge bonus it really was a steady climb up to Bouvante-le-Bas, although on the way had to go through the tiny village of Les Sables, which should have been called Les Kennels because it had at least thirty dogs in it and they were all barking at me, felt very welcome.


  1. Hello John,

    Hope you find the hotel at Bouvant-le-Bas more welcoming than we did! recall that we couldn't find anywhere to buy food there but we were able to get good sandwiches and coffee for lunch at the hotel at Col de la Machine (superb view) on your way to Pont-en-Royans.

    Bon chance!

  2. Amazing, exactly my experience. Was going to ask them to make me a sandwich but the bread for breakfast was just so stale I didn't have the nerve. Walked all the way to Pont en Royan fueled by that stale bread breakfast, hoping for a good dinner tonight.