We woke to find it had rained overnight, and that red wine (lots) and beer
(some) do not a jolly morning make. There were no breakfast facilities
at the campsite, so we stopped in the next town where lots of coffee and
orange juice was consumed, at least by me. I decided that I liked riding
by myself, so set off ahead while the others completed their breakfasts.
It was a day of Colls and out-of season ski resorts. We had mentioned meeting
up for lunch and dry-slope luge at L'Alp D'Huez, so after the 20+ hairpin
climb to there I settled down in a cafe to wait.
I ate, then wandered round a bit then popped into a shop to look at
a map (as mine was rubbish). Some time later the others turned up (having
stopped several more times) and decided that they were going to eat in
a village at the other side of the hill (there is a big pass going up and
a little pass back down again, or vice versa as the mood takes you). As
I had already eaten I set off with the group but without the intention
of stopping. The road down the other side was indeed much smaller, rather
badly surfaced and had occasional rough-stone paved gullies where the snow
melt crossed the road. I loved it, and went haring past into the lead.
I passed the small village where I expected the others to eat and carried
on to the bottom. The road signs were a little confusing, as both directions
were the same road, except one was D25 and one D25a (or something). I opted
to go left, and followed a scenic road through a village where the road
got quite small, then a little smaller, then rather gravely. About a mile
past the village it became a bridleway in both directions, I seemed to
have contrived to go to the dead-end village that I had noticed on the
map earlier. Besse by name. I turned round, not too upset (it was an interesting
village) and tried the other version of the D25, which seemed to work much
better. At various points during the day we had to negotiate the Col du
Lautaret, the Col du Galabier and the 2800m Col D'Iseran into Val d'Isere.
At one point I noticed a large fortress on a huge rock pillar in the
middle of the valley, sporting a Swiss flag. When I got closer I noticed
an interesting little fortress which appeared to be connected with it (defensively,
not physically). A few hundred yards down the road I decided to stop and
look round, the sort of freedom of action that was the main attraction
of going off alone. The small fort had free guided tours, and had some
workmen working on it (using a tiny teeny tower crane, it seems that in
Europe a building site just isn't a building site without a crane, this
one looked about the right size for building a sectional concrete garage).
I noticed lots of people heading off into the woods to look at the other
fortress and followed suit. There was a very impressive gorge between the
two forts, rather narrow and rather deep, which would have provided pretty
much impregnable defence. Across the gorge was a suspension bridge. That
wasn't the only way to get around the area though, the cliffs on both sides
had a network of 'via ferrata', large iron staples hammered into the rock
as a means of passage for troops. There were two ropeways across the gorge
and there seemed to be various ways into each fortress too, going by the
pictures on the large signs. In the UK the signs would have said 'danger,
do not touch the via ferrate or you will die horribly and we will prosecute
your corpse for trespass", but this was France, it had maps of where the
routes went and a list of the equipment you needed to do the trip safely.
I was momentarily tempted, but felt ill equipped. And it was baking hot,
clinging to bright white limestone wasn't tempting, but more tempting than
plummeting to certain doom.
I set off again and soon arrived in Bourg St Maurice, the stop for
the night. I waited in a lay-by for the others, and within a few minutes
Jeremy turned up, closely followed by Ian. We decided to find the campsite,
which wasn't hard as it was no more than 500yards from where we were. We
started to book in, and whilst waiting for the woman who knew how the computer
worked to turn up the remainder of out group arrived. We were told to stick
ourselves in a particular field, and Mike started pitching his tent, not
noticing that his chosen tent lay in the middle of a large circle of other
tents, a group of youths. After having his error pointed out to him, and
the youthherd having moved the youths off of the clear patch where they
were playing a ball game of some sort to make room for us we pitched camp.
Scouts reported that the campsite had a pizza caravan and a chip caravan
with beer. Which was all we needed. Crispin attempted to clean his air
filter with petrol to cure his mid-range flatspot. When he returned from
a test ride we informed him that it appeared to be cured, as we had clearly
heard him hit redline in the first 4 gears as he headed up the valley.
It isn't a quiet exhaust. Jeff gave Mike 3/4 of a crew cut, after which
the batteries in the trimmer ran out. Mike wore a hat the rest of the evening.
I repaired my phone charger by heating a tent peg over a petrol stove to
improvise a soldering iron with which to solder a choke back in. I then
glued all the components in place with araldite to ruggedise things. It
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