Day 6 of the Haute route. The morning was slowly waking as the cyclists quietly prepared for another day on their bike seats. The click clacking bike cleats were the only sound in the alpine air. You could sense the weariness of bodies from yesterday’s ride. Total mental focus was in need to climb the mighty Col de la Bonette, the highest road in Europe ( 2802 m ). The cyclists tired bodies were simply going to have to keep up with their mental strength.
We left by car half an hour earlier than the cyclists and headed up the twisting road in the sleepy shadows that would take us to up to the Col de la Bonette. The landscape slowly opened up to us and it became a bumpy giant’s blanket. The higher we got the more rocky and barren it became. The sun appeared and lit up exposed areas of giant jutting boulders pushing themselves up towards the sky. A huge group of curious sheep huddled together for warmth as bitterly cold winds blasted the earth. Our car motored its way further and further to the top of the Bonette. Every corner we turned provided us with nature showing off how beautiful she can be. Eventually the road became thin and wound itself around one last rocky mound poking up like an upside ice-cream cone into the sky. There were sheer drops off this bare mound, down slopes of tumbling stone to a valley hundreds of feet below. It was enough to make you nervous and chew your fingernails off ..
Parking the car was a tight squeeze. The cyclists refreshment stop was already being set up – the cyclists wouldn’t be long. I spotted a walking track to the top of Col de la Bonette so I walked up it. The chilling winds were strong and my clothing was not thick enough, but I carried on to the top and was treated with views of hundreds of majestic mountain peaks.. It was quite magical! The roads below hugged tightly to the mountains as they wound like spaghetti down to the valley. I didn’t last long appreciating the view as I was soon frozen to the bone. I returned to the car as quickly as I could and waited. It wasn’t soon before the first bunch of cyclists came around the bend and headed towards the much needed refreshment stop like hungry lions.
All the cyclists were pedalling hard to reach the refreshment stop and there was a lot of cursing going on. Sweat was pouring of most and I wonder if any of them got time to admire the amazing views around them? My sidekick spectators and I did our ritual clapping and hollering and I actually think we got more smiles than usual – probably that they were so chuffed having made it to the top! I even had one of the cyclists give me a huge big sweaty mountain hug when he reached the top – he was so elated!
The cloud cover sedated the sun’s heat and some of the cyclists put on wind jackets before heading down the mountain on an extremely long winding road. When we got back on the road it seemed to go on forever! It took us down the mountain and through a lush gorge surrounded by huge fir trees and gigantic crumbly rock faces. The gorge followed a pristine river dotted with raging waterfalls which guided us to where we need to go -Auron. Passing many tired cyclists we climbed the road to Auron. It was a very steep hill even the engine of the car was angry! I wondered if the cyclists would treat this climb as last-minute punishment?
At the race village in Auron the cyclists seemed to be spread out relaxing in eateries and happy with their efforts. Sadly, tomorrow is the last day of the Haute route and this stage will take us over a few more mountains and finally all the way to the seaside in Nice – I better have the swimmers ready!