With our trip to India fast approaching we thought a practice bike ride to the Alps would be a good idea. We wanted to check out the new tandem, and see how we coped on prolonged uphill sections.
After work on Friday we set off on the 20 mile ride to Portsmouth and boarded the night ferry for Le Havre.
It was great to be immersed into rural France again. Cycling along quiet lanes making our way across the country towards the Alps. We settled into a life on the road of boulangerie picnic lunches and Menu Du Jour suppers, passing a true rural scene, lovely villages with well worked vegetable plots, and farm buildings, . A traditional life for most with old people sitting in the cafe drinking small glasses of wine.
The buildings change from thatched medevial timber frame, to stone, and then to cob, as the landscape changes from pasture to more open scene of arable.
We followed the broad lush Loire valley with its chateaus, mills, and grand historical towns for a couple of days before crossing the hills to Saone valley then onto the Jura where the first harder climbs start.
We pass Annecy and the beautiful lake. Tranquillity of the still lake surrounded by mountains set against the clear blue sky and sunshine.The landscape is becoming dramatic and vast. We are closing in on the Alpine rugged landscape.
Valleys narrow as we climb. We are close to rock faces as the road winds its way up to the col. We can feel the mighty Alps.Trees displaying vivid Autumn colours cling to the valley sides. Deep ravines with cascading rivers tumble over boulders, and water falls pour down picturesque chasms.
Eventually we are above the trees and in a more open landscape with dark turquoise lakes. High snow capped peaks make up the panorama.
Noise of cow bells resounding from small sloping pastures, that fill the gaps between the steeper rugged terrain.
As we come over the col to Italy, Mont Blanc looms between other peaks. We stop for coffee. Italian spoken now and the people look different. Surprising how things have changed crossing the col. We have left boulangeries and plat du jours behind. We have a local pasta dish for supper.
Even low down in the steep sided valleys you feel close to the snow and ice sitting on the massif Mont Blanc. There is a sense of the huge scale with white glaciers clinging to the mountains rocky crevices.
There have been many great people interactions in all the cafes, hotels and bakeries we have stopped on our way. Short chats and meetings with characters, or just watching life go by in a village cafe is a humanising part of the journey.
Others we met on the road:
The young lad, with bike loaded with camping gear and equipment, including solar panels, who was heading up the mountain to find some where to wild camp in the freezing night conditions. He was a jolly guy with matted hair and unruly facial hair, who was happy to stop for a chat and tell us about his month trip cycling the small roads of the Alps.
The waiter in Chamonix, who had cycled from Cape Town to Zanzibar after planning the trip for only 2 weeks following hitch hiking to Istanbul. He was working to save up for his next trip, a two year walking expedition in South America.
The two keen cyclists with carbon fibre kit and gadgets galore who we met when we were climbing Petit Col Du Bernard on the way to Italy. It was fun comparing our stories of adventure and how we shared similar ideas on leisure time in life. Slightly different approaches to cycling, and Rory seemed concerned by some of our equipment, particularly cycling in flip flops!
The lovely Ghanaian lady with her broad smile and warm personality, who worked at the free bike loan place in Geneva. We learnt alot from chatting with her about how multicultural Switzerland is with 80% of the population being non Swiss.
Leaving the high Alps we follow lake Leman to Geneva, where we tussle with urban and sophisticated life. We had copped well with the long climbs of over 4000 feet and the new tandem was just right.