Friday, 1 July 2016

French Alps - Day 6 and going home

Fri 1st July:
The last day has arrived and the weather looks good again so the plan is to go to the area north-west as this is somewhere we've not really been to yet and our maps say there's some nice roads in that area. With the route for the day planned out and stored we finish breakfast quickly and get ready to set off again.

The first part of the the route just goes down to the lake and then follows the main road to Gap which is pretty uneventful though quite busy. We make our way through Gap and are soon on the N85, part of the Route Napoléon, heading north. After a while we get to a small-ish left-turn onto the D17 which leads to the Col du Noyer. The road up is a bit narrow in places but has good surface though you need to take care about rocks and gravel that have fallen onto it. We get to the top and find a little cafe there where we decide to make a quick stop.

 We carry on down the pass and follow the road to the north through some valleys and get to the Lac du Sautet near the village Corps. We join the N85 again and follow it for a bit until we turn left onto the D526 just before La Mure. This road takes us to the Pont de Ponsonnas where we stop for some photos and also find out that you can do a 103m bungee jump here, if you feel brave enough. Here the website of the company running it: Vertiges Aventures
Luckily they are closed today...

We set off again and keep following the road which goes up and down a bit through different scenery and we pass through the town of Mens and from there on to Clelles. On that stretch of road it happens that some stinging insect, I suspect a wasp maybe, find it's way into my right sleeve and stings me in the forearm. I immediately stop, get my jacket off and try to get the little bugger out but no sign of it any more. Only the sting is left and it hurts. But there's not much that can be done so I carry on and shortly after Clelles we find a place for lunch. It's called Snack Vercors and is located directly next to the main road in a well kept park-like setting. And it even has a pool!

I manage to cool down my sting with a bit of ice and soon I don't feel it any more...

We eat well and are soon back on our bikes heading down the D7 towards the Col de Menée and from there on to the Col de Grimone. On the way the road winds through some spectacular valleys and under rock overhangs and everyone seems to enjoy themselves.

On the way up the Col de Grimone I go ahead a bit and position myself on the outside of a big hairpin bend to snap some photos.

At the top we meet up again and then head back down the mountain. After that it's basically back to the Gite on main roads. First towards Gap, which we seem to hit at rush-hour so progress is quite slow there and then on to the lake and back up to the Gite.

When we arrive at the Gite we have a little rest, get changed and then it's all hands on deck to load the bikes onto the trailers and pack as much as possible already so we can set off bright and early the next morning.

After that is done it's time to finish off our liquid supplies and some seem to have a bit more than others...

Here the route for that day: Motoplaner-Day6

Sat 2nd July:
Departure day has come. We have breakfast, pack the rest of our things into the cars, clean up the house a bit and do the recycling...

We finally set off around 8am on the long and uneventful drive....

Around 6.30pm we arrive at Rainer's place and unload the bikes. A couple of the guys are going to stay the night at Rainer's and then ride home the next morning but I decide I want to get home tonight still and since it's only about 2 hours from here I load my luggage onto the bike, say my goodbyes and they wave me off shortly after 7.30pm.

At around 9.45pm I arrive at my house with 2344km more on the clock and totally exhausted.

Again, it has been a great tour and the company and scenery has been fantastic. I couldn't have wished for a better bike holiday and I really look forward to the next one.

Thanks guys for taking me along!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

French Alps - Day 5

Thu 30th June:
Today we wake up to mixed weather. It rained almost all night so it's still wet outside but it looks ok for now so we decide to follow the plan we made last night. We'll be heading south via Sisteron and then back. Should work out at just under 300km today.

We get ready and are soon on our way down to the lake. We at first follow the same road I took yesterday to Chorges and then the D3 to the dam. After that it's a left onto D951 which leads to Sisteron through some valleys. It is good fun and not too busy and we come through some scenic villages on our way.

Just before Sisteron we hit some heavy rain. It doesn't last long and when we reach Sisteron it pretty much has stopped again but it was enough to give us a good drenching. We decide it's time for a coffee break so we stop in the centre of town and head for a nearby cafe.

During this short break the weather improves somewhat and by the time we set off again the roads are pretty much dry again. We head south out of Sisteron on the D53 and want to make our way to the Pas de la Graille but shortly after Sisteron we have to stop because Hans and I are low on fuel and probably won't make it over the pass and to the next petrol station. So we decide that the people with small tanks, all the MT-09s, quickly go to the nearest petrol station and the rest head up the pass already and wait at the top. According to Hans' GPS the next petrol station is about 10km away so off we go. After re-fuelling we back-track to the point where we split up and now we too are on our way up the pass.

The road is very narrow and leads almost entirely through a dense forest so it's hard to see what's coming. Also the surface is not very good and quite bumpy and slippery, especially since after the rain it's still wet here and gravel and has washed into the road in some places. After what seems an endless 15km or so we get to the top, meet up with the others and are rewarded with some nice views of the rolling mountains and valleys below.

We carry on down the pass on the south side where the road and weather improves and in the village of  Saint-Étienne-les-Orgues we turn left and head for Les Mées. On the way we decide it's time for lunch and Hans thinks a restaurant in the middle of an industrial estate would be a good choice. The rest of us are a bit dubious but since we all could do with a bite to eat we sit down. The restaurant is called Restaurant le Mardaric and is located on the outskirts of Peyruis. To our surprise we are presented with a quite fancy menu and decide to all go with a 3-course meal which turns out to be great and even the presentation is excellent. Guess Hans had a really good hunch there!

Properly stuffed we set off again. It's gotten quite hot now so the breeze while riding is very welcome. We head towards Digne-les-Bains on some side roads that follow the main road there and I'm being placed in the middle of the group to prevent me from going AWOL again. Fair enough...

This time we get through the town without loosing anyone and are soon on the D900A which winds along rivers and valleys. A couple of times it starts raining again but stops quickly too so not too bad and we still enjoy the ride. We then turn onto the D7 which leads to Auzet and then on over the Col du Fanget to Seyne. On the way Hans goes on ahead a bit and positions himself to take a couple of photos of us going past and after that we stop for a quick break and to enjoy the view.

Now we get to Seyne and Willi is in the lead with his GPS and it looks like the GPS thinks it would be a good idea to go all the way back to Digne. We follow him and slowly it dawns on everyone that we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere but since the road is great and the ride is good fun nobody actually complains. After about 30 minutes Willi also realises that we must be going the wrong way and stops. We work out where we went wrong and it looks like his GPS didn't tick off a waypoint back in Digne and wanted to do that now instead of going directly with the rest of the route. Never mind...

Error corrected we get back to Seyne on the same lovely road and now take care to take the correct turn. We carry on north towards Barcelonnette and take the turn along the lake again. Then we get to  Embrun and stop at the big supermarket on the outskirts to buy some supplies. Most of those are in liquid form and a couple come in 5 litre kegs which we need to transport up to the Gite somehow. Luckily I always carry a cargo net under the seat and we manage to strap the keg to my bike.

We then go back to the Gite up the hill and of course get drenched again by a sudden thunderstorm.
At the Gite we get out of our wet gear, unload and the chefs spring into action again to prepare a great meal yet again.

It was a really good day and even the few spots of rain couldn't dampen the spirits. Sadly tomorrow will be our last day here but we're going to make the most of it, I'm sure.

Here the route for that day: Motoplaner-Day5

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

French Alps - Day 4

Wed 29th June:
Yet again it is sunny this morning and at breakfast we discuss the plans for today. After the long previous days a couple of us decide we take a day off and do our own thing while the rest of the group wants to head for Mont Ventoux which will be another long day for them. So four of the group ride off and two of us are left at the Gite.

My plan is to simply relax a bit in the garden and enjoy the sunshine and later on ride around the lake a bit and maybe dip a toe in the water as well. Hans, the other one who stayed behind, wants to go to Sisteron, where he once stayed years ago, to see what has changed there since. He sets off too and I stay behind.

After an uneventful morning I too set off on my little ride around the lake. I head through some tiny villages dotted along the mountain and come through Chorges before going up the D3 and down to the dam that holds the lake in place.

I stop frequently for photos and get some food in a little bakery on the way. At the side of the lake I sit down to enjoy my lunch and test the water temperature and it is freezing. I guess I'm too much of a wuss to brave that cold water so just dipping my feet in will have to do.

After a while I ride on along the lake and see someone by the side of the road pointing their camera upwards. I look up too and to my surprise I see these rock formations...

Now, we've ridden past this place several times already over the last days but none of us ever looked up there as it's right in a corner and you normally have other things to do than look upwards at the scenery so it's quite a surprise for me to see these things. I stop to take some photos and find out what these formations are. They're called the Demoiselles Coiffées de Pontis which are rock formations also known as Hoodoos or Tent Rocks.

After I'm done with being amazed I carry on and quickly stop in a little supermarket to buy some supplies as the plan is to have a barbecue tonight when everyone is back. Once that's done I make my way back to the Gite.

I really enjoyed that little ride. It wasn't very far, only just under 100km, but with all the stops it took me almost 3.5 hours and since it got quite hot again in the afternoon I'm in need of a cool shower.

Half an hour later Hans returns from his little trip and he seems to have enjoyed it as well and another half hour later the rest of the group appear, just in time for the rain.

Luckily they only got wet on the last bit up the hill so it's not too bad but our plans for the BBQ will have to be changed. The chefs spring into action and yet again serve a great meal that everyone enjoys. And during dinner this appears outside our window...

Here my really short route for today: Motoplaner Mini-Day4


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

French Alps - Day 3

Tue 28th June:
We wake up to lovely sunshine again and after a good breakfast get ready for another day on the bikes. Today we plan to go north and then a short bit into Italy before heading back, overall around 330km.

After setting off we make our way down to Embrun and then join the N94, the main road, to Briançon. We decided to take main road to get there quickly and progress is good. The town itself is quite busy with traffic and there are several road works going on so it takes a little while for us to get through.
We finally make it, fill up on the outskirts and are greeted by a winding and quite empty road leading higher into the mountains and towards the first pass of the day, the Col du Galibier. It's a stunning pass with a rather narrow road leading up and there are hardly any barriers that stop you from going over the very steep edges. So we take it easy and encounter some more "paparazzi" on the way, this time they're from Griffe Photos and here is their website with the photos of that day:
Griffe Photos - Col du Galibier - 28/06/2016

At the top we stop for some photos ourselves...

 Next we just keep following the road down the pass and it then leads us to the next one, the Col du Télégraphe, which coming from the south you don't actually go up but mostly go down into the valley. Once down we turn right in Saint-Martin-d'Arc and follow the L'Arc river on the D1006. After a while we get to the town of Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis where we stop for lunch. Since this area seems to be mostly living off the winter skiing season there isn't very much choice of restaurants but we find a nice one on the main road leading through and enjoy a good lunch.

Refreshed we set off again and immediately turn right and up to the Col du Mont Cenis. The road leads us past the huge artificial lake at the top and the massive dam holding it in place.

On the way down we pass into Italy and come to the town of Susa where we make a turn again and head in the direction of France and Briançon. The road is very good and after the French border it winds down to the town very nicely, though there's a fair bit of traffic here as well as it is one of the more popular routes between France and Italy.

We then get to Briançon again in full rush hour this time but after another fuel stop we ride up the Col d'Izoard. Since it's a bit later in the day now there is hardly any traffic on the pass and the road there is excellent and wide so a few of the group go for some spirited riding and we meet again at the top.

After a quick stop there we carry on down and soon come to Guillestre and from there head directly to Embrun. Here we visit the local Spar shop to re-stock some supplies and finally we get back to the Gite and the Chefs produce a great meal again which is accompanied by some drinks of course.

Here the route for that day: Motoplaner-Day3

Monday, 27 June 2016

French Alps - Day 2

Mon 27th June:
It's another sunny day and we have big plans today. We're heading for the Verdon Gorge to the south. The different GPS systems tell us it'll be around the 430km mark, taking in a couple of passes on the way so we decide to set off in good time. After a good breakfast we get ready and set off down to the lake and make our way to Barcelonnette where we quickly fill up with petrol and then ride towards the Col de la Cayolle. The road up there is very bumpy and narrow so progress isn't very quick but the scenery makes more than up for that.

From there the road leads down again and we follow the river Var to the south on a nicely winding leading through Guillaumes again. After that we go through the breathtaking Gorges de Daluis a 6-kilometer-long red sandstone gorge where the road has been forced through 17 tunnels. Have a look at it on Google StreetView, it's amazing!

Finally we join the N202 where in the little village Rouaine we stop for a coffee break. Then the road takes us to the Lac de Castillon where we turn south again towards the town of Castellane where we again fill up the bikes.

Now we're not far from our destination, the Verdon Gorge. We join the D952 south which winds it's way along the Verdon river and we finally set eyes on the gorge and the beautiful Lac de Sainte-Croix at its end.

After the obligatory photo stop we carry on down to the river and then head back up the other side of the gorge and stop for a little break, food and drink in the picturesque village of Auguines. As it has been getting hotter the further south we've come this break is welcomed by everyone and we seek refuge in the shade.

Refreshed we carry on along the south side of the gorge and stop a few more time for some photos as the scenery is just so beautiful.

Sad to leave we again come through Castellane but this time we take the road towards Digne-les-Bains. In Digne the traffic gets a bit heavier and probably due to tiredness I loose the rest of the group at a roundabout. Luckily I knew we needed to head for Barcelonnette so I texted one of the others that I'll be heading there and find my way out of the town north on the D900. This road has some really nice stretches and goes over the small Col du Labouret before leading through the little town of Seyne. I carry on and finally arrive at the turn towards the lake where our Gite is located and decide to wait here for a bit and text the others again. After about 15 minutes the rest of the group appears and we're united again. Apparently they took a different turn on that roundabout in Digne because they knew there was a petrol station down there and since I didn't see them turn I just carried on.

Since it's a bit late in the day now we decide to have dinner in a restaurant on the way so we stop at the Le Relais Fleuri in Savines-le-Lac and sit down for a great meal.

Finally we arrive at the Gite and enjoy a few drinks before everyone falls into bed exhausted from a long but amazing day.

Here the route for that day: Motoplaner-Day2