This is the trail in which the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson travelled with his Donkey, Modestine in 1879.
He recorded his journey and later wrote his first successful book called, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. I too will record my journey, so come along and I hope you enjoy the adventure .

I will be travelling with my friend Deb, and before setting out on our adventure in July 2019, we spent 2 days playing tourists in the beautiful city of Le Puy-en-Velay.

This is Section 1, of 3, of this fantastic walk they call the GR 70 – It is a linear long distance walk through the Velay, Gevaudan and Cevennes regions of Southern France.

Day 1 – Le Puy-en-Velay to Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille

We will be following a well marked trail called The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail GR70, covering 252 kilometres. Travelling from Le Puy-en-Velay, Le Monastier in the Haute Loire to St Jean du Gard in the Cevennes.
Unlike RLS, I will not need a Donkey, but will enjoy the friendship of a companion while walking in the footsteps of those who have walked before me.

With excitement we finish our modest breakfast of pastries and coffee. Our packs are full, and we walk out of Le Puy-en-Velay early in the morning into Section 1, of our walk, The Velay. The cobbled streets were bare except for a few early pigeons cooing from the rooftops, and catching the early streams of sunlight.

Unlike Robert Louis Stevenson who’s Donkey carried for him a very heavy assortment of kit and an enormous weight of provisions and equipment, and who rough camped nightly, and followed an unknown trail from town to town. We had a light pack of about 8 Kilos, filled with our clothes, toiletries and a small assortment of food for our daily requirement. We will stay nightly in comfortable gites and monasteries, and follow a well marked trail.

The church bells were announcing our departure from the Town and as they faded into the distance they were soon replaced by the loud rolling sound of thunder, echoing around the hills. The trail was leading us up, and after leaving the outskirts of the town we soon reached farmland, it was exciting to see two Donkeys peer at us through the trees.

Were they descendants of Modestine? Robert Louise Stevenson’s donkey.

I like to think so!

Are they descendants of Modestine

We were enjoying the trail and the surrounding views were amazing. Walking and talking, looking at the views, smelling the flowers and not ready to watch out for markers as yet, oops, we missed a route marker on a tree.

We could see a man standing at the top of the hilly path waving to us, when we approached him he was speaking to us in French. We could guess what he was saying, as he was pointing for us to go the other direction. I don’t think he thought we knew what he was saying, so he very kindly walked us back about 200 metres, pointed to the right direction and wished us a good journey.

We heard later that others had missed the turn off which added another 2 kilometres to their journey. We were lucky to find a trail angel on our first day. Lesson learnt, or was it ?

The rain which had been threatening all morning was now a reality, and did it come down. Thankfully we weren’t that far out of the beautiful village of Coubon. We thought we would take refuge in the beautiful church but upon arriving at the big heavy door, we sudden realized there was a funeral taking place. So we walked across the street and took refuge in a bar alongside the Loire river. All the while listening to the thunder clapping very loudly around us. Two coffees later, we decided to set off in the rain.

Deb and French Lavender
The Path
Our Frenchman who walked us back to the trail
Waiting out the rain

Although it was raining, the weather was still quite warm. I was wearing a skirt and a shower proof jacket, also I had picked up the wrong size backpack cover from home, so it wasn’t long before I was drenched to the skin.

My feet were sloshing around in my boots as I was walking. Rivers of water were running fast down the paths. It was all quite exciting actually .

After walking up a very large hill we started to look for a shelter to have lunch. We eventually found a little bit of cover under the eaves of a garage door in a remote farm of a small village . We put our packs down and spread out our feast as best we could, our lunch of rice crackers, tomato and cheese.

As soon as I said “wouldn’t it be funny if the garage door went up ” , it did! As the door went up a car came around the sharp corner and I’m not sure who got the biggest shock, the driver or me. The shocked looked he had on his face seeing two drowned rats was priceless. He kindly showed us another area on his property under cover that we could use, we sat there and dried out for a while, rung out my socks and had lunch.

Wringing my socks out

By the afternoon the rain had cleared and as we walked through another small village, a gentleman was walking around looking up to the sky, checking the weather I think. We exchanged pleasantries and were so surprised when he offered to show us a 12 century communal oven in a building where the village made their bread. He even showed us how the implements worked, shifting coals and where the bread went. What a treat. Unfortunately not a hot, crispy loaf was on offer today.

We were enjoying walking the trail, even though we were a little wet. Everything looked so fresh and green. The branches of the trees and flowers were laden with raindrops as they bowed their limbs to us as we walked past.

One section of the trail had a high embankment on both sides. To our surprise it was full of wild strawberries. It was delightful to pick handfuls, eating as we walked and stopping only to fill up again. They were small but sweet.

Looking down from the hill, the village of Monastier sur Gazeille came into view through the mist, down in the valley. A sigh of relief came from me thinking, nearly to the end of the day.

Hmmm! But, we find one more little obstacle to overcome before heading down. An electric fence. So backpacks off, onto the muddy ground on all fours we crawled under the wires, guiding each other on how low we could place our bottoms. As you could imagine a few laughs were had during this exercise.

Descending down into the village we could hear a donkey “Hee Haw, Hee Haw” in the distance, welcoming us into the Village.

After finding our accommodation and walking into an open door, we soon realized there was no-one here. We waited in the front room for quite some time before giving up and started to investigate the premises. Finding an empty room with two single beds we soon made it ours. The little village was a delight, and after a good clean up and spreading our wet things around our room to dry, we set off to discover the village. But not before a quick drink at a little bar that looked like it was about to close. The houses were amazing with all their colorful facades, a gorgeous big church where the local cat came out to greet us.

Finding a place for dinner was a little more challenging. We are staying at a gite for the night hence no meals, but there are a few hotels and bars. After visiting them all, from one end of town to the other we discover that they only serve meals to their own guests.

Oh my goodness it was getting to be around 9 pm by this time. All of a sudden we heard a gentleman called out to us ” are you the two ladies staying at the gite?” Well, yes we are! He had been looking for us to make sure we were comfortable. Our question to him was “where can we eat”, “Come with me” was his reply. We followed him into the Bar and introduced us to everyone as the two Australians. We were quite a novelty in town. They couldn’t understand why we would want to come all the way over to France from Australia and walk.

We were starving by this time and our eyes were getting a bit droopy, we had, had a very eventful day. We asked the gentleman to explain the menu which was on a large chalk board . Then finding out that was the sandwich menu. ” No,no ” he says “they have Pork and Lamb dish you should have one of each and share”. But have a drink first, what would you like, I’ll get it for you. Finding a table and waiting a while, we were starting to think we had misunderstood about the meals. We wanted to get our order in before it closed for meals. But no one was coming near us. Just as we were going to get up and find the owner to order, two plates of food arrived at the table. Looks like you don’t have to actually order. It was very delicious.

The locals were so friendly and it was a lot of fun. We found out when we went to pay the bill that our drinks had been paid for. A wave goodbye and off we went down the narrow little street, faint street lights led us to our bed for the night.

A nice way to end our fabulous first day.

Deb and our Happy Hour Hour

Day 2 Monastier-sur-Gazeille – Ussel

Today we are walking from
Le Monastier sur Gazeille to Ussel .
Or are we ?

Leaving Monastier-sur-Gazeille on a beautiful sunny day, we found ourselves heading up. We have gone from a lovely grass trail to rocky terrain. Soon we were walking along a ridge and the scenery was amazing. The wildflowers were in full bloom and butterflies were hopping from flower to flower.

We met a lovely French family who stopped to talk to us. They were wild camping and all were carrying their own kit. Even the little one. They were a lovely family who later in the day would assist us in our demise, and a rookie hiking mistake by us.

It was going to be a shorter day today of around 16 k’s and about 10 k’s in, we were looking forward to having our feet paddle in the Loire river. But we just kept going and going and our kilometres keep getting higher, it just didn’t seem right we were up to 16 k’s already and no village or river in sight. But we all know that kilometres aren’t always right in our guide books, so we let it go for a bit further.

It was also getting very warm. One minute we are walking along a ridge and then a steep decline down into the valley, we could see and hear the river, but no village. We thought great, we must be there, but no up we went again. Exhausted we sat in the shade of pine trees and had some lunch. We had followed our red and white signs all along and we couldn’t work out where we had done wrong.

We were lost!

What do you mean, We’re off the Map !

Maps and guide came out and looking at all the GR trails, we didn’t even know which one we were on. We decieded we weren’t going to go backwards so off we went and eventually we came out of the forrest into a clearing. We could see a car driving along a road in the distance. We thought we would high tail it to the road. On reaching the road, we could see there were 3 houses scattered along it, so we went door knocking. No luck with the first one, but we did laugh as we saw hiking boots and walking sticks at the front door.

Next minute a car came past and like a mad woman I ran onto the road waving my arms calling out “Stop”. Explaining to the driver in the car through google translate where we wanted to go he took one look at us and pointed off the map and laughed. What, were off the map! We could see the funny side of all this too.

He couldn’t do much for us, his little car full of Hay for his animals. So on to the 2nd house. Now this is where luck was on our side. A lady was just arriving to her house when we walk up. She could speak English and understood our predicament. She appeared very shocked to see how far we were from our destination. She was very lovely and rang our host for the night and explained where we were. Our host offered to come and pick us up.

After quite some time she arrived and soon we were in the car heading 20 kilometres in the other direction. Now before you all jump in and say “how did that happen?”, let’s go back to the French family that had passed us way back earlier in the day. Now this is our defence!

We had come out through a clearing at a junction of three roads. Seeing the French group sitting over on the right having lunch we waved and they pointed to the lower road. Great, there’s the Red and White marker, off we went. Now all GR signs look the same, but there are all different routes that crisscross over each other throughout France, and all have different numbers, some even have several GR numbers.. We had taken a GR route, just the wrong one.

We trusted the family, they were French, and his map was a lot bigger than ours:

So the rookie mistake was, don’t listen to anyone else before checking the map yourself.

As I say “you are never lost, just walking in a different direction.” The bonus for the day was the magnificent scenery we saw from the top of the mountain. To watch the eagles soaring on the wind currents was magnificent.

We did find out the next day that our gorgeous French family also had got lost, but they weren’t as adventurous as we were. We did run into them the following day, he was extremely embarrassed and apologetic that he had got us lost. But we had lost ourselves. We all had a big laugh, and this little episode did connect us in the coming days, when we would run into the family on the trail. We would point in a different direction for him to go in. It became quite a big joke.


Were Eagles fly and Australians get lost !

Out accommodation for the night was a delightful BNB, owned by a beautiful couple. After freshening up and even though we were exhausted, went for a stroll around the garden. They own two donkeys, who loved the attention we gave them.

Our meal was very traditional, and when the husband came home from work out came his home brew of red, white and rose wines. Lots of laughs around the dinner table, we were told we were the first Australians to stay with them. Not sure if they would want any more after our demise of getting lost.

We didn’t have any trouble falling asleep in our comfy beds that night.

It was another fabulous day. One that we celebrated, actually getting to the end off.

Pictures below are of our beautiful French family. The one thing that did surprise me walking the GR70 was seeing quite a few families walking on the trail. Mostly free camping and carrying all their kit.

Day 3 Ussel – Landos

Amazing skies greeted us as we started the trail today.
We were heading to Landos.

Feeling very spoiled this morning, as well as our host giving us a lift back to our starting point of Ussel, she also gave us a yummy packed lunch of rice, tuna and salad .

We left from the centre of the village. The hollyhocks in the surrounding gardens waving us on our way in the gentle breeze . The houses are quite pretty with their colorful shutters.

Rolling green hills and blue sky, with streaks of white fluffy clouds stretched across to the horizon. The trail today reminded me of the Camino, as it made its way winding in and out of little villages with their church steeples towering over the rooftops of the villages.

It was lovely to see a father and his two sons travelling with a donkey. The father was very gently teaching his sons how to handle the donkey.

We walked through shoulder high wildflowers today, the colors were amazing.

We had walked about four kilometres and we started talking about our next accommodation. It sounded beautiful as Deb read it out to me. Quaint old farmhouse. Beautiful shaded garden, home cooked meals, crisp white sheets, view to the surrounds and pretty blue shutters.

As Deb was reading this out to me I looked down the road and said how funny look at that farmhouse with the blue shutters, and it has a lovely sign with its name. To which Deb replied that’s it! O! Oh!, today really was going to be short day. We just laughed what else could you do.

We had a little conference and decided we couldn’t stay here and would have to continue to walk further. We had already paid the nights accommodation, so that was a bit of a blow. We went and knocked on the door, no answer. We had a bag between us that we were getting portered to our accommodation each day, as we both were travelling further in Europe when we had finished our hike.

The doors were all open and Deb thought she would have a little peep inside to see if the bag had arrived. I was the look out. Just after she went inside I could see a car coming towards the house bumping along on the narrow dirt road. I was called out “quick quick someone is coming”. Yes, it was the Mademoiselle who owned the BNB. Deb came out just in the nick of time. We were trying not to laugh, but we felt like two naughty school girls. What if we had been caught.

We tried to explain that we had to walk further, so said we couldn’t stay here. We had made a mistake with the distances. She seemed a little miffed at first but we had already paid so she would be getting the night off. She would have to eat the 4 french sticks that she had tucked under her arm from the bakery. They did smell very nice.

After her ringing around for us, we eventually found a place in the heart of Landos, and not on the outskirts by 15 kilometres.

Lets talk about accommodation on this trail. From Australia there is not much information on accommodation. I had the Alan Castle guide book and Deb had the Dodo guide all in French . Booking did become difficult from home, everything had to be in French. I couldn’t channel my high school French, but I could remember my horrid French Teacher.

I was very grateful to Deb who did the bookings with the assistance of her French neighbour, otherwise if I had done it we could have ended up worse off. It was the French hiking season so we had to pre-book our accommodation, as small towns may only have one gite. The lesson here is that not all accomodation is right in the towns. In this case Landos, the accomodation was indicated it is in town not in the outer area.

Arriving in Landos, we walked around for a little while trying to find the accommodation. We stopped and watched a game of men playing Petanque, only to be glared at by angry looks. Not our usual welcome.

For me the town didn’t really have a nice feel about it. But this was just a first impression. We were still looking around until this lovely gentleman called out to us, he was the owner of the Hostel and he had come out to look for us. How lovely.

It was a very big complex, I’d say set for school trips etc. Our room was made up of a kitchenette, two bunk beds and two single beds. The showers and toilet were across the hall. The two singles had been taken so Deb and I had the two bottom bunks. Dinner was interesting, as there were only two places open and when we walked past the first one it looked a little dodgy, the second one was a large bar with a restaurant. Very pretty tablecloths with vases of fake flowers. What more do you need. Well we didn’t need the thousands of flies that came to dinner with us, just as our meal came out. The owner was very nice though.

Enough of this exciting day, we were ready to go to bed and be well rested for the challenge of the next day. Footnote was, the next morning we went to have breakfast and the only place open was our dodgy place so in we went. Well weren’t we wrong, so full of character. We sat up at the bar and had amazing coffee. Spotting cheese on a side table I ask could we have a cheese and bread. She gave us so much that we made a sandwich to take away for lunch . We did enjoy our lunch that day.

Day 4 Landos – Pradelles

Today was all about views,
fluffy clouds, picnics, wildflowers and walking with donkeys.

A glorious day greeted us as we headed for Paradelles . The clouds were in lines across the sky, leading us to the horizon. Wide open spaces of farmlands. Today was all about views, fluffy clouds, picnics, wildflowers and walking with donkeys.

We would walk through the little village of Arquejol with its wonderful but now redundant 11 arched Viaduct. Further along we stopped for a break at a another small village. The owner of the bar was very excited we were walking the trail, and he showed us memorabilia he had in cabinets of Robert Louis Stevenson. He even had souvenirs. Of course we bought a couple of things, he was a good salesman. He also had a stamp that we could put in our Trail Booklet of places we were travelling through. These stamps were harder than we expected to collect, as not many places had them or were that interested in the historic Robert Louis Stevenson Trail.

It was a WOW, WOW, WOW, day today.

My heart was full and even overflowing . Today was all about why I hike. To walk ancient trails, to see clouds that drift in lines across the sky. Misty blue distant hills rolling across the horizon. To walk where butterflies flutter in and around you on the trail. To see wildflowers in bloom all the colors of the rainbow, even walk through some that tower over you along the way.

The day finished off perfectly. As we walked in the village of Pradelles the town square was full of life. Restaurants lined the square, People having long lunches, a glass of wine, all while sitting in the sunshine or under a brightly colored umbrella.

We were early for our accommodation so we sat in the square, at a Restaurant , ate ice cream and watched the world go by. Our accommodation was above a Restaurant and the owners were two very jovial women . Nothing was to much trouble, even did our washing for us for a couple of euros.

Early evening we went for a stroll around the town and settled down in a Bar for a drink, soaking up the last of the suns rays. The aroma of the Restaurant below our accommodation was to much to bear so we went back and sat outside and ate the most amazing meal, and of course one more cheers for the night.

Today was a Wow day, a day to celebrate why I hike the ancient trails.

Leaving my footprints on the trail, amongst those that have been before me and amongst those still to come.

I’ll say it again, today was a Wow day!

Day 5 Pradelles – Cheylard L’Eveque

If yesterday was a Wow day, today was a Fun day !
This gorgeous Lady dressed in a beautiful yellow flowing dress, and wearing the highest of high heels, lots of jewelry draped around her neck and wrists. She certainly is a Woman of Style.

Setting off today from Pradelles we were farewelled by a local cat. It was just about the only thing moving in the village except for the lady who prepared our breakfast and take away lunch.

Reaching the town of Longogne we were so excited as the trail led us straight through the middle of the towns Market. People were out in their Sunday best, we looked a little out of place walking amongst the locals in our hiking gear and boots. We spent some time going from stall to stall, there was lots of excitement from the stall holders and the villagers creating a wonderful atmosphere..

We just wished we could buy several things but no room in the pack and we certainly didn’t want to carry anymore weight. I did buy a beautiful wooden handled small knife. Perfect for hiking. It had a special twist in the handle which would release the blade. Much to my horror at the end of the trip I had lost it. I had been using it and unfortunately had thrown it out with my rubbish . Devastated.

We found a cafe just near the main entrance to the market and sat and watched the activities. We could have sat there all day watching the life of this lovely town.

But, we had a 28 K day today, and we were going to hit the hills, so we had to get moving.

We headed out of town on a steep incline before it leveled out on a plateau. Still hardly anyone on the trail. At this stage it was a gradual climb before hitting the Pine Forrest , then torture. We had found a little shade of a lonely tree in which we could sit and have lunch. It was an extremely hot day , and the only relief was when we entered the Forest.

Before reaching our accommodation after a long day, we came to a village of the same name where we were staying, and thought yes we’re, here only to find out our accommodation was another 4-5 k’s away in the actual forest. This meant tomorrow we will have a bit of a head start.

In the village we found a lovely house that seem to have a bar attached under a beautiful large tree. Colorful umbrellas with tables and chairs were set up. We saw a couple sitting there so we thought why not. The owner was lovely and told us we did have a little way to go. The other couple sitting there were staying in this little town. I will admit it, we were a little jealous. We stayed for a while, had a cold drink before moving on.

Heading to the accommodation the hill was relentless, both of us were struggling and the only relief for me was to be able to walk through this beautiful silent Pine Forest. No one else was on the trail and the only thing we could hear was our boots hitting the dusty trail.

Were we so glad when we saw the first sign to our accommodation, think I may have done a little happy dance.

Once there , it seemed a very interesting place, to say the least. More like a hunting lodge. It seems no one locks the doors so in we went and a very large man greeted us . Our room was quite nice but no locks to be seen, our bathroom across the way also had no locks. It felt a little creepy.

Dinner time we went downstairs and was so surprised to see a large group of French cyclist. Happy hour had started , drinks and food were flowing. A lovely communal dinner followed with lots of laughter during a very tasty dinner. Love surprises like this.

Sleep time came soon after, and I will say we did think to put a chair up against the door before hitting the sack.

We did survive the night and off on another adventure straight after breakfast. We walked down to the entrance with the cyclist and soon they were riding off and waving us goodbye.

It wasn’t till that next night, Deb realized that she had left her hiking pants in the wardrobe. We assumed that pants would still be in the wardrobe where she left them as the owner had no interest in forwarding them to another village up the trail for her.

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Our daily stages in The Velay