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Wednesday 09 July 2014

Bryn and Emma's C2C Challenge Day 16: Gorge du Verdon

Posted by: Help For Heroes | Categories: General

We had a very entertaining evening in the open air restaurant beneath our bedroom window, people watching and hoovering every morsel of food on the special offer menu. The town clock stopped chiming at 10pm and even noisy diners couldn't stop us from sleeping. I checked the forecast and it was for rain so I was not surprised to wake in the night to hear rain falling. As dawn broke I could still hear water gurgling away and lay there hoping that 'rain before seven, clear by eleven'. When the town clock started bonging at seven I opened the curtain and was surprised to see a clear sky. I had been listening to the sound of the fountain.

We were away by 08.45 and began to climb straight out of the village. As with all these things, they are so much better when you are doing them rather than thinking about them. 'It's like being on an exercise bike at maximum resistance...for hours... in the sauna' said Emma.

The incline was steeper than that leading to the village so we inched upwards at about 4.5mph but it was cool after the rain so while the drip-ometer was at max, we avoided sweat blindness or severe tomato face. We stopped twice for a drink from our water bottles and to say 'wow, that's amazing', and 'I'm so glad we came this route' etc and after about an hour we were at a viewing point ready to do some viewing.

The view really is incredible and it gave us a huge boost to look down on the lake way below us. As we gawped, a shadow passed over us and, looking up we saw a huge eagle swoop past. There were several of them riding the thermals and we felt for a short while that we were the only people up there. Minutes later of course some Italian bikers roared in, followed by an Austrian mobile home and a couple of cars to spoil our moment.

Sadly there was no sign to mark the highest point, I was sure there would be one so didn't stop at one saying 1180m, calling out to Emma, 'don't stop, were nearly at the top' only to not find it. But, for the record, the map says it's 1201m even if there's no sign.

Our only drama was setting off again when Emma shouted 'Bryn, stop! My wheel is stuck, I can't move!' She was right, somehow her front mudguard had jammed onto her front tyre and she was going nowhere. This called for Mechanic Bryn and in a few calm minutes the problem was solved; by removing her mudguard...Simples.

Call us Gorge snobs but actually, we think that De l'Ardeche is more impressive than Verdon, even though this is The Grand Canyon. Verdon has one moment of simply staggering, utterly jaw dropping 'Wow-ness', complete with eagles, but then not as many individual 'Wow points' as l'Ardeche. Still, that's only our opinion from one pass through, so please don't take issue if you are a Gorge Afficiando.

A few gorge miles later, we crossed the Pont D'Artuby which was smaller than I had been led to believe. I am not keen on heights and while I have managed the huge drops on the solid ground, I didn't fancy cycling thousands of feet above a void. However, I manned up successfully and crossed the bridge feeling rather chuffed.

We met an Aussie couple on mountain bikes, '29ers', with massive panniers and felt completely outclassed as they have been cycling for three months including Alp D'Huez... And camping... Chapeau!

After the Pont, we had a tedious hot and long climb back uphill that sapped our enthusiasm and we were relieved to get onto a level ridge that ended at Comps sur Artuby where we had lunch. The owner gave us his opinion to head east before turning south to Bargemon and we set off in the rain dreading another bit of local advice. In the event his route took us across a huge military training area like a Provence version of Salisbury Plain, with lots of tank crossing points and danger signs. It also included a blooming great big hill. 'So much for flat all the way then!' Said Emma.

Reaching yet another Col we then had a wonderful descent to Bargemon so Restaurant Man was forgiven. In Bargemon we sat in a cafe and ate a Magnum each while watching the Tour de France on the telly and noting that Posh and Becks have a place there, no wonder it's so expensive.

A few more Ks along the side of a valley of expensive villas and we came to Seillans where we are in a quaint old house full of Napoleon pictures and the door to the bathroom is like the swing doors in an old western movie.

It's now chucking it down with rain but we will have to brave the downpour to seek food and drink in the village.

Tomorrow it's Cannes.

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