With my beast of Gevaudan book coming out next year (add it on Goodreads here!), it was time to get myself to south-central France, the former location of Gevaudan itself. I planned a 10-day hike, with five of those days on the Camino de Santiago (specifically the Chemin Saint Jacques, starting in Le Puy).
It was beautiful and difficult and way colder than any of the pilgrims I met had anticipated. If you’re thinking about taking on the camino, here’s what it looked like, what distances I covered, etc. (Details below photos.)
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Want to experience the hike for yourself? Here are some relevant details:
Directions & hiking times
The trail starts at the cathedral in Le Puy, but be careful. There’s more than one trail that starts here! I managed to get on the wrong track and spend an additional 2+ hours hiking on day one. Once you are on the right track, the signs are pretty easy to follow. Keep on the GR65/Chemin St. Jacques and follow the red and white signs.
Signs appear regularly, so if you haven’t seen one in awhile, I’d check the map to make sure you haven’t gone off course (there were very occasionally spots where signs were harder to follow).
Pilgrims stop at a variety of places, so you can choose your own pace, but here’s what I tackled:
Day one: Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Privat-d’Allier // distance: 24 kilometers
Day two: Saint-Privat-d’Allier to Sauges // distance: 21 kilometers
Day three: Sauges to Chanaleilles // distance: 15 kilometers
Day four: Chanaleilles to Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole // distance: 16 kilometers
Day five: Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole to Peyre-en-Aubrac // distance: 15 kilometers
Dogs on trails
I was told there are some sections where dogs have to go on an alternate route (due to cows grazing in those areas), but we didn’t encounter any of those portions and Luna was welcome and loved everywhere we went. Finding accommodations was a bit trickier, but we did eventually book something in each of the villages we wanted to stay in.
Is the trail crowded?
Yes. The caminos are very popular. I walked it in May, so I had plenty of stretches to myself, but it was also very clear that it’s a well-trodden trail and I passed people at least every hour.
What to bring
As always with hiking, wear good shoes (I like Salomon’s trail running shoes) and weather-appropriate clothing (which is a range of cold and warm-weather gear in this region). Bring plenty of water (there are water stations and restaurants along the way but they aren’t always super close together and restos/bars may be closed). For the dog, I took a dog-carrier backpack (jury’s still out on whether I will use it again, so I won’t mention the brand here).