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TDAF2016 – Day3: Europe’s highest pass vs. TW560

Welcome back to the third day of this year’s TWIKE adventure to southern France.

Today, again, we have a tasty mix of 2k+ alpine passes from our list waiting for us:
2361 m Col d’Izoard – France
2108 m Col de Vars – France
2715 m Col de la Bonette – France
2350 m Col de la Lombarde – France/Italy

After spending the night in a very old and rustic place, we are greeted by yet another brilliant day with its first golden sun-rays filtering through the many trees around the property.

Our extremely rustic place for the night.

Our extremely rustic place for the night.


 
A beautiful day awaits

A beautiful day awaits


 
We pack our stuff and set off towards Col d’Iozard.

After only 500m a police car pulls us over and two inspecteurs get out, looking determined. They greet us with some questions regarding the exact nature of our vehicle – is this, sir, a bike? After ascertaining themselves that TW560 is indeed a fully roadworthy, insured and registered vehicle, they proceed telling us that, yesterday, whilst entering the city of Briançon, we ran a stop sign. (yes, we indeed did so) And that this was subject to a fine.

To cut a long story short: With lots of schmoozing in French, generous amounts of smiling and repeated apologies, I was able to have the fine waived. After this early morning 20-minute hiccup, we were back on our way up to Col d’Iozard.

Col d'Izoard - an arena of white peaks

Col d’Izoard – an arena of white peaks


 
Since we hadn’t had any breakfast at our overnight place, we were very happy to find an interesting place on the way up to Col d’Izoard: A refuge where Napoleon had stayed and has been hosting guests since that time.

Napoleon's refuge from above

Napoleon’s refuge from above


 
Napoleons refuge...our breakfast stop

Napoleons refuge…our breakfast stop


 
Having a good breakfast is really simple in France – Get some really buttery, fresh croissants and add a large mug/cup of coffee with generous amounts of frothy milk…et voilà.

French breakfast - Café au Lait & buttery croissants

French breakfast – Café au Lait & buttery croissants


 
The fact that the place does not have any WIFI or mobile signal does help people to try the "truc infallible"

The fact that the place does not have any WIFI or mobile signal does help people to try the “truc infallible”


 
The place is really cozy – I’d love to stay some day. The people are extremely friendly and we got our fair share of conversation with most of the staff over what exactly the TWIKE is and how much they liked the sustainability of the concept.

Chatting with the very friendly owner

Chatting with the very friendly owner


 
We could have stayed much, much longer but eventually set off after saying good-bye to everyone.

A short while later, we reach the highest point of Col d’Izoard.

Col d'Izoard - pretty impressive & not covered in stickers

Col d’Izoard – pretty impressive & not covered in stickers


 
What we both like about these passes is the moment of suspense when we start to see the other side and what it is holding for us: Col d’Izoard doesn’t disappoint in this regard!

…and a little further down, dramatic gorges to cross.

Descent from Col d'Izoard

Descent from Col d’Izoard


 
Without much effort, we arrive at Col de Vars – nothing much to report here except for the obligatory ‘we made it’ pic.

Col de Vars

Col de Vars


 
After a relaxing descent from Col de Vars, we’re ready for the main event of today:

Challenge accepted!

Challenge accepted!


 
We followed this sign and were ready for our ascent from 1240m to 2808m. Still on our first charge, we were completely relaxed. No need for a recharge to climb the pass! Wow. Still. Have. To. Get. Used. To. This!

We're ready for the highest pass in Europe!

We’re ready for the highest pass in Europe!


 
The climb is spectacular. (& steep!)

Unreal beauty on our way up to the Col de Bonette

Unreal beauty on our way up to the Col de Bonette


 
We take it slow uphill, since we don’t want to overheat the motor. Plus, there is much to see – rather quickly we enter an altitude where there are no trees and not even grass grows. It looks like mars here.

The Col and Cime de la Bonette await us!

The Col and Cime de la Bonette await us!


 
Initially, our plan was to reach Col de la Bonette and then drive down a non-tarmacked road for about 1km and cross over to Col de la Moutière.

Unfortunately, as we saw yesterday, there is still quite some snow at 2800m… which blocked our hat-trick switch-over route to an other peak and valley.

Just a short drive later, we arrive at Col de la Bonette. Since this is the highest pass in Europe, we’re not the only ones here. (TW560 was at the highest point reachable by road in Europe last year)

Col de la bonette - we're not the only ones!

Col de la bonette – we’re not the only ones!


 
There is one sad moment for us, though: Whilst we’re able to cross off the Col de la Bonette from our list, Cime de la Bonette will remain there. It was closed due to snow -> see for yourself

Col de la bonette 360°

Col de la bonette 360°


 
After taking in the breathtaking scenery, we begin our descent towards the valley and our eventual stay for the night.

The Côte d'Azur welcomes us

The Côte d’Azur welcomes us


 
Deserted ghost town halfway down col de la bonette

Deserted ghost town halfway down col de la bonette


 
At 3pm, we’re both hungry and stop at a very small restaurant serving local French specialities. I go with an old classic. Home-made quality and taste!

French Food-porn. Foie Gras with chutney.

French Food-porn. Foie Gras with chutney.


 
Since we’ve still got lots of time on our hands and still feel like driving a bit, we decide to add a bonus pass to our trip today.

From Isola at 900m we climb back to 2300m just for the fun of it. We pass though another ghost town of sorts: Isola 2000 – a huge ski resort with dozens of large buildings. Everything is closed-down and shuttered for the summer. Again an eerie experience.

We make it to the top and whilst we take in the scenery on the Italian side, look up some places for the night and make some calls.

Our bonus pass for today: Col de la Lombarde

Our bonus pass for today: Col de la Lombarde


 
Just 10 minutes later all is set and we drive back down to the valley.

On our way down, we find another invaluable use for an electric car: Wildlife observation! We saw an ibex from far away, standing on our road, seemingly unaware of our presence about 150m away.

I told JC to slowly roll towards it and see how close we could get. Since we didn’t make any noise and approached at sub-walking speed, it just stayed there.

With an electric vehicle it is possible to sneak up and get close to one of these!

With an electric vehicle it is possible to sneak up and get close to one of these!


 
We were able to get to about 20m before it raised its head and seemingly confused literally jumped back into the forest. This was another highlight of today!

Our Chambre d’hôtes for the night is, interestingly, way back up from the valley with Isola.

One last time, we start our ascent from 740m to Col de Colmiane at 1450m. Our place is at 1340m, just before the col itself.

With more than 25% still in our batteries, we’re slowly understanding the overall effect the new battery is having: We don’t charge anymore. We just DRIVE!

We’re not yet sure, though, if we are going to be missing our random charging encounters in the middle of nowhere we had in the past. Sometimes good, sometimes just a pain. 🙂

The friendly owners welcome us and TW560 with electricity in a closed garage and rooms with a view. Tomorrow we’re going to reach the sea. It seems somewhat strange with the view from my room and remembering the last three days. 🙂

There are worse places to write a blog from :)

There are worse places to write a blog from 🙂


 
Looking forward to tomorrow!

TDAF day 3 GPS track

TDAF day 3 GPS track

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