A Walk in the Vercors - 2000

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Wow, was it hot.  Temperatures of 30°C plus every day made this a real sweat (literally).  Our T-shirts were wringing wet most days - yuk.  But some wonderful days walking and a very friendly Lassie-type dog made this a holiday to remember.

Our fourth Inntravel walking holiday, we flew to Lyons airport, bussed to Grenoble, and taxi'd to Villard de Lans, checking in to Hotel Le Christiania.  The rest of the first day we lazed away in the centre of Villard, drinking in the atmosphere from pavement cafes.  This friendly hotel is excellent - a nice view of the mountains from our comfortable room, and really superb food.

A quick transfer up the road first thing in the morning to Corrençon-en-Vercors then led to a long day's walk.  Within half an hour we were nearly run over by two deer running down the wooded hillside across our path.

Christiania's excellent picnic lunch in an idyllic high valley (Darbounous) was made even more pleasant by the presence (and rapid absence) of a bottle of vin rouge thoughtfully purchased in Villard (a pattern established for the rest of the holiday).

The high valley at Darbounous (32k)

The remainder of the day was less pleasant - a very steep knee-crunching descent into the valley only led to yet another sweaty ascent up to the village of La Chapelle-en-Vercors and the very welcoming Hotel Bellier.  Christiania, like all the other hotels on this holiday didn't provide us with enough water for this exceptionally hot week, so on arrival at the hotel we downed a big bottle of mineral water in five minutes flat, plus a welcoming bière froide.  Lesson learned, we always bought extra water each day thereafter.  A nice evening strolling around the village and sitting at a pavement café as night fell.  Not much of a choice on the menu, but good food nonetheless.

Deer near Les Poudreaux (31k)

A leisurely start for a short day next to Les Barraques-en-Vercors and the Hotel des Grands Goulets.  Excellent view and some good video taken of a deer in the fields above Les Poudreaux.  Picture is a still captured from video at 15x zoom.

I don't make up these names, honestly....

The rather old-fashioned Hotel des Grands Goulets had the most basic room of all the hotels visited on this holiday.  It really needed a bit of a re-decorate, but was nevertheless comfortable.  Food good, choice limited.  Nice bar.  Dipper seen flying up and down the river alongside the hotel.

Hotel Les Grands Goulets (38k)

Good early start for a long day from Les Barracques to Choranche.  Within an hour, two alleged deer seen in a field had resolved into two hares, and the deer seen in the next field turned out to be a vixen with cub. 

The Pas de l'Allier (25k)

After a couple of hours we reached the spectacular high point at the Pas de l'Allier, where we were joined by a Park Ranger who told us about the Golden Eagles and ibex to be seen (though not by us).

John precariously perched above a sheer drop at the spectacular Pas de L'Allier.

John precariously perched above the spectacular Pas de L'Allier (34k)

This day really made us realise that most of this walk would be spent walking through woods, with spectacular views a rarity.  Trees are very nice, but once you've seen ten thousand, they tend to pall a bit.  Still, it made the occasional viewpoint such as the Pas de l'Allier even more welcome.  Long descent, with lunch taken on the path, and close views of two mice oblivious to our presence.  This day dragged a bit towards the end, since it was so hot, and the last few kilometres included some road walking.  While we were enjoying a welcoming bière on the patio at the Hotel Le Jorjane in Choranche, a Dutch couple with huge backpacks walked in, closely followed by a Lassie-type dog which flopped down in the shade to rest.  This was not their dog, they explained to the patron, it had been following them all day, and was probably as thirsty as they were.  The patron duly provided a bowl of water, which rapidly disappeared.

Nice modern redecorated room in this hotel, but madame was somewhat surly.  She slapped a clafite de cerises in front of us at dinner, blurting out that it was "le pudding français".  Our opinion of this hotel further reduced by the multitudinous cats which insanitarily walked, lay and goodness knows what else over the bar, the food serving area, and the breakfast and dinner tables.

Another early start the next morning for a mammoth slog up the Rochers de Presles to the Bellevue (spectacular views) at the top.  This was desperate stuff - slog ten metres, stop for a rest, slog another ten metres, rest, and so on until we reached the top - all in blistering heat. 

Lassie the wonder dog (39k)

The morning was made bearable by Lassie, who gladly and uncomplainingly accompanied us to the top (and indeed ten miles all the way to the day's destination - the Hotel Perazzi at Rencurel {see note below}).  Lassie was a quiet, intelligent, uncomplaining dog, who didn't pester us for food, but was nonetheless grateful for food and water during this long, hot day.  When we stopped to catch our breath on the way to the top, he would stop instantly, watching us with patient concern.

He was one of those dogs which instantly put their entire trust in you. 

Linda fell deeply in love with Lassie. 

AnimatedDog.gif (13472 bytes)

Us with Lassie overlooking the spectacular gorge at the Bellevue viewpoint.

Us with Lassie overlooking the spectacular gorge at the Bellevue viewpoint. (35k)

He seemed to prefer being between us, and would sometimes lean against our legs when we stopped.  He clearly knew the route, bounding ahead as we approached a stone well by the side of the track, meaning he could have a cool drink of water.  The Hotel's picnic lunch contained no meat - unfortunately for the dog, which had to make do with boiled egg and bread.

NB: Since our visit the Hotel Perazzi at Rencurel (see paragraph below) is under new management, and has been re-named the Hotel le Marronnier.

Lovely hotel at Rencurel - perhaps the best after Christiania.  Wonderful location and view, well-decorated room, nice food (taken outdoors on the terrace).  Run by two eager-to-please Dutch couples who insisted on using their excellent English.  Nice food, pleasant ambience.  Their northern-European methods appealed after the strange French ways at previous hotels - for example, this was the only hotel where there was a shower curtain around the bath.   The French seemed to think it normal to spill water all over the bathroom floor.    During the evening, while we were showering, Lassie disappeared.  The hotel owners in Choranche and Rencurel had seen him before and believed he lived in nearby La Balme de Rencurel, and simply enjoyed walking over the plateau.  He was in beautiful condition, was not a stray, clearly having a caring owner.  He undoubtedly went home to his owner.  Linda was devastated.

Near Autrans (35k)

The next day's journey was a long, hot, horse-fly-infested slog over the Pas de Pertuson to Autrans and the Hotel le Vernay.  While the hotel was fine - nice room and good food, if a little slow in coming, we were amazed at the town - it was completely dead.  Despite walking around for an hour or so we weren't able to find a single bar open.  By the time we got back to the hotel at about 9:30pm, it too was deserted, with the bar in darkness.  Strange place.

We were dreading the following day, as it started with what looked like a monster slog up to the Pas de Bellecombe.  But it turned out to be bearable after all - lots of zig-zags making the incline much less daunting than it appeared.

Wonderful views upwards of 4,000m+ snow-clad peaks from the top, followed by a relaxing long wooded ridge walk down to the Hotel du Col de l'Arc in Lans-en-Vercors.  Good room, nice food, extremely rapidly served by a very efficient young waitress.

Pas de Bellecombe (30k)
Linda on the way down from the Pas de Bellecombe (37k)

Linda on the way down from the Pas de Bellecombe.

The final day was one of the best of the whole holiday, since the middle part was spent walking horizontally on good tracks along the side of a ridge, with airy, open hillside with VIEWS.

Open hillside at last! (33k)
Above Villard (32k)

This was much more pleasant than all the previous days, which had been "slog up to a col through woods with no views, then descend steeply through more woods".  It was also a bit cooler than the rest of the week - a welcome relief.

Linda checking out the views on the last day above Villard.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills ... (20k)

The day ended up back where we'd started just over a week earlier, at the Hotel Le Christiania in Villard de Lans, for another gourmet meal.

All in all, a nice walking holiday, the unpleasant aspects being the blistering humid weather, and the seemingly unending views of tree trunks.  The good aspects being the (mainly) good food, occasional spectacular views and Lassie the Wonder Dog.

Thanks to Inntravel for another very civilised walking holiday - they carry your bags round by road, which means all you have to carry is the picnic (including the aforementioned bouteille de vin rouge) and a waterproof (ours stayed unused all week).  Our boots arrived back in the UK cleaner than when they'd left.

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