Camp and Cows in the Cevennes

Around November 2014, during the week-long All Saints holiday, me and some of my friends decided to have a three-day hike in the south of France. I was with Deni, Thea, and Retta, three people I met from different ‘background stories’ who all have interest in outdoor activities. This idea was actually introduced by another friend, Inda, an outdoor lover too. “You need to visit this place and share me the pictures!” and the place she was talking about was Gorges du Tarn, which is a part of the Cevennes National Park. Thanks to this walk, I have finally found a good reason to buy a tent: a good one! I bought this tent, it’s really good quality (I sold it to a friend and she still use it ’till now) and although it is designed for three people, all four of us fit, probably because we are all Asians lol.

None of us own a car so we needed to improvise a bit. We planned to follow this route (it’s in French) but instead of starting in Florac, we needed to start from Le Rozier. In order to get to Le Rozier we needed to take a bus from Montpellier (we stayed one night in Thea’s apartment to discuss and stuff) to Le Vigan early morning, then continued by taking a minibus to Lanuejols where we would start walking. The path from Lanuejols is not actually a hiking path. It’s a road designed for cars. We calculated that we would not be able to reach Le Rozier before sundown so we estimated a place near one intersection where we could camp. Oh, by French law, it is possible to camp in national parks as long as it is about 5 km away from a city/village and if it is after dark. Thanks again, France!

Out of expectation, Le Vigan was beautiful. Me and Retta were there first as Thea needed to go to the uni in the morning, so she went with Deni in the afternoon. As we were there super early, we witnessed the change from dusk to morning light. The fading fog, the dramatic change of clouds, we even found a small cute place with rivers, an arched bridge, and playing ducks!

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We spent the morning to stroll around and looked for the place to book the minibus. As people who were currently living in the northern part of France, we started to get the southern-France feel from the architecture of the small buildings there. Especially the arched bridges! There were also this small yet beautiful waterfall where we could not resist to not take a selfie in.

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Long story short, Thea and Deny arrived. We took the minibus to Lanuejols, which was quite a bumpy ride, but the view was worth it. It was fall, so the trees were changing the colors of their leafs. As we arrived to Lanuejols, we looked for the main road that we will be walking on: D28. This will lead to D29 and branched to the right side of the road if we wanted to go to Le Rozier.

Lanuejols was also a cute village. We went inside a small church, had our packed lunch, got lost a bit, but finally found D28. We walked and talked all the way, but unfortunately we could not reach our target destination before sundown. We continued anyway because it was not that dark. Deni brought a torchlight so it was ok for us to walk. But thanks to this, we had a chance to admire the clear starry, starry skies one intersection before our destination point! We were tired, wanted to just lay down a bit……. and the sky was just amazing. We could even see the milky way clearly!

After an hour or even less from that ‘laying down’ intersection, we finally reached our destination! We looked for a place to camp, cooked diner, and had a good night sleep.

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The route is pretty easy. It is well signed and basically designed to follow the river. Of course there were some interesting inclinations, but it was not that hard of a hike I suppose. One interesting thing about this route is the pretty villages we found along the way! Some villages are already ‘dead’ without people living in it, some are still inhabited. From our discussions, the inhabitants are probably pensioners, the people who have ‘done’ with their life and decided to have a more relaxed vibe.

We had some chances to take a look around the villages, went for toilets (yes it was funny that we could actually found toilets in a hike!), and filled up our water bottles. And I mean, come on, look at how pretty the village is!

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If you take a look at the map of the route which link I gave in the first paragraph of this post, you will say “meh, this looks easy.” Well, as I said, yes it was pretty easy. But we kind of underestimated the road so we almost always ended up camping after sundown. Along the road there were times when we were really close to the clear blue-greeny waters.

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There were times when we felt like we were in a beach. Well, hilly beach, lol.

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And there were times when we were far in the upper part of the river, where the most beautiful view of the meandering river could be captured! We spent our second night in this type of terrain, we did not have as many stars as we’ve had the day before, but the morning in the highlands are always mystical.

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Our third night, a.k.a our last night, we had a bit of an incident. We arrived at Quezac just before sundown and had two choices: to camp nearby or to continue our way to Florac and camp somewhere near there ’till morning comes. We chose number two. And then, there were also two choices: to go by the asphalt road (for cars) or by the walking path. After some risk assessment, we decided to go by the walking path and will camp somewhere in a little village called Monteils…… Bad decision.

Only about 30 minutes after sundown…. we encountered some animals. What kind of animals? Well, cows.

What? Only cows? Well if you were in our position, it was dark and the cows were enormous, bigger than our body! And it was not only like, 2-3 cows or so, it was like 20 cows or something. We were cool at the beginning as there were fence around these cows but in the middle of our ways, these cows went mad! There was this giant, biggest cow (which we thought as the ‘leader of the gang’) which would not stop mooing and got even closer to us! We turned off any source of light we’ve had, stopped our movements, and thought about what we should do. We freezed there for about five minutes or so until we could slowly walk back (yes, facing the front towards the back), one by one, until we were reunited at some point quite away from these cows, relieved! We finally decided to find a place to camp, as it was not a good idea to walk through the road with speeding cars we would not know coming from which direction, it was really dark.

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We had a good laugh and good dinner in our last night, walked to Florac in the morning, had another incident (apparently we needed to book for places on the bus to Ales) so we finally split for a cab. From Ales, we head back by train to Montpellier and it was our time to say “It’s a wrap!”

So basically the route is: Montpellier – bus to Le Vigan – minibus to Lanuejols – walk on the highway to Le Rozier – follow the “Gorges du Tarn” walk ’till Florac (took about 2 nights for us) – cab to Ales – train to Montpellier. You should check if you needed to book a place for the buses and/or the minibus. Oh, and the cool thing about the rout that I linked in the beginning of this post is that there are estimations of time there. But again, it also depends on your fitness level. Have a nice walk!

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