From the high alpine plateau, the walk climbs up to a mountain pass alongside a massive rock outcrop, before descending steeply on a rugged, narrow path into an eroded and wooded dry river valley. It ends on a valley plain in a semi-urban environment.
Today you will leave the sleepy town of Plan d'Aups Sainte Baume, returning along the route that first led you into the town two days ago. The bed of the ancient Chemin de Fer leads you directly up to the Peace Monument at Col de Bertagne. Above you towers the massive stone face of Pic de Bertagne then you descend towards the ancient ice house “La Glacier”, zig-zagging through the herbs and shrubs. The smells of Provence permeate the air and the views across Vallon de Crides open up intermittently in stunning displays. You rapidly descend into the cool forest of familiar but miniature varieties of trees like oak, beech and holly until you meet the “Le Torrent du Fauge” which, despite its name, may be dry. Take a very short detour to the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey and watch the source of its water bubble out from the rocks. Finally you walk through the park and picnic areas of the town of Gemenos before arriving at the Church of St Martin, the town's patron saint, and the bus stop.
Please check your accommodation sheet to check which hotel you are booked into in Cassis. The directions to Hotel Cassitel are detailed here, if you are booked elsewhere please see your accommodation sheet for directions.
Always check the weather before setting off, and take heed of any paths that have been closed by the authorities.
Temperatures in Provence can soar, and you can't always rely on passing a water supply on your walk. Take at least 2 litres of water per person, perhaps even more on very hot days. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink, and take regular sips as you go.
There is no where to pick up food or drink along the way so a picnic and plenty of water is necesarry. You can ask you hotel to provide this (always ask upon check-in) or you can pick up supplies from the local bakery or supermarket before setting off.
Points of Interest
1) Lignite - or “brown coal”, has been mined in the Vallon de Chemin de Fer since the end of the 18th Century but with limited success. The operation was begun using the skills of German miners, the experts at the time, and required the construction of a narrow gauge railway to Plan d'Aups. This mine was one of the few non-nationalised concerns in France and its sporadic production was dogged by high transport costs and more efficient competition until 1922 when it closed.
2) The Wind Hole - is a geological oddity on the skyline of the Falaise de Cugens. On the descent from La Glaciere towards the Parc de St Pons, look for a rock by the path on your left, painted with a yellow icon like a mini sunrise and the words “Trou de vent”. From here search the cliff tops for a hole, like a giant polo mint, below the line between mountain and sky.
3) The Cistercian Abbey of St Pons - founded for nuns by Bishop Rainier of Marseille and by 1223 the nuns had joined the Order of the Provencal Sisters. As a religious centre and with its natural hydropower, the abbey became an important focal point for agriculture and industry in the region but was abandoned some two centuries after its establishment.