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Published: October 4th 2019
Wednesday 2nd October 41 miles
There was a terrific storm during the night and it rained really hard. Best for us if it rains overnight but it does make you think how horrible it would be if you were in the middle of nowhere and got caught in that. Fortunately that has never happened. We went down for breakfast at half eight. For once we were dressed in cycling gear to save time, as we had wanted an earlier start. Usually we go down in ordinary clothes and put cycling gear on afterwards.
Breakfast as expected was minimal with orange juice, a croissant each, dry baguette, butter, a tiny pot of jam and one coffee each.
As soon as we were ready to set off we went back to the sandwich shop for a ham and salad baguette each. Good job we already had crisps, nuts and yesterday's yoghurt. Then it was up, up, up and up round and round switch backs until the Source de Vaumale at 1,180m high and then the road continued uphill! Apparently this is a Category One climb, so I'm sure that's impressive. It was quite cool and misty so we had long sleeve tops on and then added our jackets on top for the three mile descent that followed to the Hotel du Grand Canyon, where we had wanted to stop. Then there was a lot more climbing, with the occasional dip, until we had done nearly twenty miles. There were two men, in a van, who kept stopping to put out temporary signs at the side of the road. We kept passing them when they were stopped so they kept shouting encouragement and waving at us. When we dining in the evening Paul said if we had known we would keep seeing them so far into our journey they could have carried our panniers for us!
Lunch was after thirteen miles, but it really felt like further. There were very few places to stop so we sat on a wall, in a layby and had the baguettes and crisps. This was the last point we saw the workers in the van.
The views of the Canyon were amazing but if you are scared of heights you really wouldn't want to look down that far. Also sometimes you would see a road high in the distance and think 'oh whoops are we really going up there?' (Or words to that effect).
At the Balcons de la Mescla there were steps at the side of the road to the view point that over hung a very impressive 180° switch back in the river. After the Balcons the road climbed steadily until the top and the plateau Tel de Fayet which fortunately was flat and gave much easier riding. At this point the road had moved away from the Gorge and was passing through more open pasture land. Through the latter part of the morning and early afternoon we had kept hearing rumbles of thunder in the distance and hoped there wouldn't be a storm. Then it was a descent to Comps-sur-Artuby which felt like a massive landmark as it was the only place of any size on the route. This was down into a different valley and from then on we didn't hear the thunder again. We stopped in Comps-sur-Artuby for yoghurt and nuts but it was a short stop as we were only just over half way.
Fortunately, the ride was much easier from there as it was mainly downhill with a few rises thrown in. At Pont Soleil we rejoined the River Verdum and rode along side it for about eight miles to Castellane. This was mainly flat with a very slight upward tilt. We passed many camping sites and holiday homes but most of them seemed to be closed for the season. Considering how good the weather was we were surprised by this. There were also lots of places fo hire kayaks. At one point there was a line of about thirty motor bikes coming from the opposite direction. They were all wearing the same jackets. In parts the rocks would completely over hang the road and the road was squeezed between the massive cliff faces on both sides of the river.
Arriving in Castellane we quickly found the hotel as it was another tiny place. We had to take the bikes inside and put them in a Conference room even though the hotel had a garage. The room was very nice. After showers etc we had a walk round the town, which was small and quite pretty and well served with hotels and restaurants. Castellane is dominated by its Chapel of Notre Dame which stand on it's own rock plinth high above the town. It really was high up and you wonder about the difficulties of building it up there in 1770 and why it was built up there. It is not particularly accessible to all!
We dined at one of the restaurants round the main square and had a good meal. It was slightly cooler so the patio heaters were on so we could eat outside.
Tot: 1.45s; Tpl: 0.052s; cc: 11; qc: 26; dbt: 0.021s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb