Thursday, 9 May 2013


The hill out of Grenoble was enormous and the first of several over the next two days. It was a bank holiday and motor cyclists had come out to climb the same hill in droves. At the top my face felt that it was the same colour as Dagmar's fire extinguisher that she had bought the previous day. I had done it. The motor cyclists were remorseless. They were everywhere. Some of the young guns testing their machines made it quite scary for us cyclists. For me, it is easy to rev up a motor bike to do this climb but we were the only two cyclists with fully loaded touring bikes and this was much more a test of skill and stamina. My picture is a hill further on.

Cycling is not just about testing yourself. It is more about immersing yourself in the scenery and with people. In these Alpine meadows, crystal clear rivers flowed. Sometimes they were slow and meandering while at others they tumbled down steep rocky crags and mountain sides. Always the water was beautifully clear just as nature intended it. Wild flower meadows continued to adorn the landscape. This time the yellow was from dandelions but not in early morning for they needed until after breakfast to wake up as the flowers had closed up for the night. Of all these flowers tiny orchids made themselves known very discretely so as not to disturb anyone.

We watched as a farmer brought in his cattle for milking while proud parents nearby took their children out on the quiet lanes away from the main road on their bikes. Back on the passes we watched also as motor bikes gave way to cyclists. At this high altitude we were the only ones dumb enough to be on heavy tourers as all the others were lycra clad guys on fast racing bikes. It was refreshing to see so many older people and girls. We found an out of the way Chambres and Tables d'hotes last night. It had no internet but it had wholesome refreshing good food while heating and hot water came from a log burner using wood from the owners' own resources. As we made a sad farewell this morning the clouds sat in front of the hills so that we could see only the road under and peaks above.

At our highest pass, Col de Rousset, a ski resort greeted us while vultures soured overhead looking out for cyclists who had died on the way up. As we peddled through gorges, great overhangs showered us with water streaming down from the rocks. Then we came to the town called Die. I thought that we had just completed the road to die but the reality was a good lunch in a cafe which we shared with many motor cyclists. Just as we settled down to a feast of duck, a motor cyclist from the table next to us stood up. He had a mohican haircut and was wearing no strides!

And finally, I feel that Dagmar and I are now toughening up like old boots.

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