As always I seem to be starting with an apology! Sorry to have been “Off Air” for a while, I thought that this retirement game was meant to be about taking things easier, not so yet I’ve been busier than ever, but one day!
This morning, whilst on-line watching a bit of French television, I clocked a weather warning for most of France, une canicule, a heatwave was approaching! The forecaster went on the explain that a period of very hot temperatures and violent storms was expected for a swathe of the country running from The Pyrenees in the South West to the Vosges Mountains in the East.
My mind wandered off to my recent trip . . .
After our success on Col de La Bonette we overnighted in Jausiers. It’s a pleasant little place that nestles in the Ubaye valley, unlike many alpine villages it hasn’t been spoilt by the infrastructure or development of the ski industry. Those visitors that do come are either walkers, cyclists or like me “Motards.” To be fair the choice of accommodation is a bit limited, but L’Hôtel Bel Air did us proud. It’s a two star Logis; basic accommodation, good food and use of the garage overnight for Baby Harls, what’s not to like there!
We hit the road early and stopped a few miles down the road in Barcelonnette to fill up Baby with motion lotion, grab some fresh apricots, peaches and water for me; it was hot already, 26C in the shade! Better get higher up into cool air. One of my favourite roads in the Alps, the D902, was calling and this was one bit that was new to me. Col de Cayolle here we come!
Fuelled with fresh enthusiasm for my delightful mount I really couldn’t wait to get stuck into the bendy bits. To be fair, it was pretty easy on the uphill side. Sure there were a few twiddly sections but nothing that caused concern, or was it our re-found confidence? I stopped to admire a rather interesting rock formation, an anticline, where the strata had been bent and twisted upwards by the incredible forces that are still pushing the Alps ever skywards.Then I noticed the sinister tell-tale signs of Larch Die-back in the forest behind. This almost unstoppable disease is caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum and whilst it can affect number of species the Larch is being particularly badly hit in the Alps. As you can see in the photo the young needles turn brown and drop from the tree, eventually killing it. It’s a big problem world-wide, but I was quite shocked to see just how much was evident in the Alps and the more I looked, the more I noticed.
Riding on we crested the summit which marks the boundary between département, we were now in Provence. At 2326 meters or 7631 feet, the pass is respectfully high and whilst certainly a lot cooler than down in the valley it was absolutely humming with flies!
From the Col the road dropped continuously and through various lovely bends for 32 kilometres to the village of Guillaumes, where we squeezed into the Gorges de Daluis a six kilometre long canyon formed by the River Var cutting through soft red sandstone. It’s a geological treasure trove and I would have loved to have spent more time there, maybe another day. Great scenery, fantastic road, but oh dear, 17 tunnels! Actually they weren’t that bad, really!
After the gorge the valley widens, yet still is quite spectacular and the road clings to the steep side on a narrow ledge.
A quick blast West along the N202 was nice, if only to get some air moving around, the scenery was still ruggedly lovely with a distinct Mediterranean feel, this is dry country at this time of year. We turned left at St Julien du Verdon and parked up on the side of Lac de Castillon, time for lunch, that lovely fruit I bought earlier and to inspect more interesting geology!
Did I mention that it was getting hotter? Much hotter! No, I lie, it was scorching really scorching. The air temperature gauge on baby was showing 39 degrees Celsius, but I wasn’t complaining because the view made up for it!
Growing at the side of the road were squat wild thyme bushes and the scent hung sweetly in the still air. I picked a couple of sprigs and rubbed them inside my helmet, you know you stink when you can smell yourself! Only another 200 miles to a shower and a swimming pool!
Oh the joys of “Une Canicule!”
“This wheel’s on fire, rolling down the road.”
Catch you soon.