The highest Paved road in Europe - at least thats what the signs say
So here we go. Out of Barcelonnette and a 10kms warm up to the base of the climb. Just 23kms more to climb but the grades are nice. Never above 6% or so. It's still a couple hours of climbing but we get out into the high wild country and the open tussock lands remind us of high country at home.
We pass a girl riding a little wheel bike in open sanders skimpy t shirt, basket on the front and little else. What the hell is she doing way up here and we wonder later where she was going and what the hell she was doing?
Anyway the top is here and a soft couple kms brings us to the col - cutting through a ridge top
Col de Bonnette
The border of Italy is only a stones throw away and we have passed gun emplacements, garrisons and as we descend through another empty garrison town long abandoned. The road snakes so far down that I can't even see the end, but the curves we do see a 1000meters down are a simple delight to ride. Open grasslands with great vision and I use the whole road for each hairpin ( with a smile on the dial)
We stop after the upper valley to regroup but we are no where like down (it is more than 30kms of descending ) and we release the brakes and roll quickly with the speedo showing 50 kms for a long while. The road rough and bouncy in places and other places baby bottom smooth
Lunch well deserved (Swiss boys there again) and more Down until finally the turn to climb to Beuil. Small narrow backcountry road climbing high on the sidewalls of a gorge. Two more hours of climbing and even if the scenery is spectacular John is still forced to his pocket for a gell at the 3 km to go point
Col de Couillole
Col de Couillole is well received after a long day in the saddle (6hrs 20 or so) From there it is a 4 kms roll to Beuil and the best meal on the trip (the hotel well it used to have Michelin 2 stars)
But first the small grocery shop for immediate food - a peach some grapes and a OJ
On arrival at the hotel John"s eyes lit up when the owner welcomes us in high heels and hot pants. I hadn't warned him
In the morning some bike tuning (not on my Trek of course) and a long visit to the historic town before we depart.
Back over L"Col de Couillole and down 1000 meters to the valley turn right and roll for another 20 clicks with barely a peddle turned.
A sharp left, layers off and we start climbing over the first major col of the day, Col Saint Martin 20kms and 1050 vertical. The gap in the hills can be seen a long way off and it gives a target to aim for
Coffee and tart on top (well 2 Expresso's for me) and a coke for john
Soon we are away again as the phone indicates some rain and the clouds look a little threatening but it comes to nought
More valley descending before we begin the climb if the world rally famous col Turini
A uncountable series of zig zags lead out of the lower valley through La Bollene-Vesbie into the upper valley with another series of fabulous switchbacks which lead to the top
Smoke fills the valley - ruling over from the other side and we read later some 60 hectares and a small village have burned
Hotel Les Chamois is the total opposite of the hotel in Beuil but the choice is limited on top of the col. Three small hotels and one is closed.
We shower and grab a sandwich in the other hotel while looking a world rally memorabilia
Tommorrow to Nice.