Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Our Very Own Tour de France - Day 14 - 16

Thónes to the top of La Plagne

Monday 4th September 2017.

Today we swapped one lake side pitch for another - but today's parking spot was far more spectacular!
We trundled away from Thónes and headed back towards the Aire at Faverges because T4rdis2 was in need of ablutions and we knew we could perform them for free there.  Additionally, we also needed restocking with fuel and food so our next two ports of call were Lidl and Intermarche where diesel is presently only 1.14 ( £1.04).

Today's parking spot by Lake Roselend😁
And once all that was sorted out we set off initially along the D1212 towards Albertville, and then onto the narrower D925  (The Col de Meraillet) which climbed steeply to our next venue which was the magnificent Alpine Lake Roselend. Here we had a choice - we could either join several other vans by descending down a rough stoney track to be more or less on the lake side but on soft muddy ground, or we could stay on our own a little higher up on a tarmac parking area who's elevation allowed us to view the expanse of the lake in both directions - you can probably guess which we choose!

After a quick lunch we wandered out for a stroll along part of Roselend's shoreline, and not only was our breath taken away by the lake itself, it's surroundings were equally magnificent and well worth the effort of getting up here to it's lofty height 1612 metres!  Our ascent had been along a steep road that was only nearly wide enough for 2 vehicles and which literally wriggled along beside the sheer cliff walls - hairpin bends came thick and fast!

The Barrage  

The lake is long and narrow, and in the sunshine it's waters are a glistening turquoise colour.  It's surrounded on 3 sides by high craggy partially forested mountains, and about a third  of it's 4th side is protected by a magnificent barrage that prevents the water from flooding down into the valley below.   The purpose of this artificial resevoir is related to the production of hydro-electricity and apparently the system that it is part of produces enough power annually for 450,000 habitations.

However, for us the attraction was in it's beauty and tranquillity!  From our windows not only could we see the lake but also gushing waterfalls and craggy cliffs with Mount Blanc peeping at us from a distance!

I think at the end of the day it will have to go into one of our top ten spots as a wonderful wild camp spot where we've spent the night.

Tuesday 5th September 2017

The 2nd Anniversary of our Nomadic Life Style

Today was a special one for us, and what more could we have asked than to have woke up in such a fantastic place! We've lived full-time in our 2 vans -  first in The T4rdis and then in T4rdis2 - and I think we would both say that deciding to live this way was 100% the best thing we could have done with our early retirement!  In our nomadic time we've visited 10 European countries and covered more than 25,000 miles - and I think our dearest wish at the moment is that we can continue in the same vain for the foreseeable future!

Today's drive was another very spectacular one!  We left our perch at the side of the lake and followed the D925 around it's border which took us up to the top of Cormet de Roselend at 1972 metres.  At one stage I said to John 'just look at the view' but as the road was another narrow twisty one he declined😱! In the picture below you can just about see the road as it runs along below the crags, however this was the easy bit when compared to what was to come later in our journey!

Once we were over the top of the 'hill' we descended into the Valley de Glacier, and as we did so we were accompanied for much of the way by the gushing waters of a river called The Torrent-des-Glaciers!  But it was further down still that the 'fun' really started. Here we encountered hair-pin after hair-pin - and once again the road wasn't quite wide enough for two - but that didn't stop motorbikes and cars squeezing past us in what we thought were unsuitable places, and when we met another motorhome coming towards us we really did get a bit to close for comfort when our wing mirror kissed the side of the other van (but neither of us suffered any harm ).  And we also had another eeeek moment when, as we were negotiating one of said bends, we heard an awful scrawking noise as our back end was caught by the camber of the deep drop of the bend - again luckily no real damage was  done!

Eventually we rolled out (all in one piece) into the town of Bourg-Saint-Maurice where we had planned to stop for coffee - but the busy barriered  car parks precluded that so we nipped a bit further along the N90 and pulled  into a lay-by before starting our ascent to the top of La Plagne.

Here we faced a further 20 swish back bends but this time the road was a little wider so my white knuckles could relax!  But once we were nearing the top the area became a bit like a building site with new hotels being finished off and lots of roadworks for the supporting infrastructure, and the Aire that we were aiming for had become a builders storage yard!    However, we needn't have worried because a little further up still we found a brand new purpose built Aire for 40 vans - but all we were sharing with was one other English couple!  Also, we were quite glad to see that all the pay machines (cost was 10 euros a night) were covered up so we thought our stay might be free!

We settled in, had lunch and then set off for a little walk further up the hill where more breathtaking vistas awaited us!

And after we'd been walking for about an hour with views of snow capped peaks both in front and behind us we met a French lady who endeavoured to tell us about the edelweiss plant.  She went to great lengths to explain (in French) that it was endangered and that we shouldn't pick it - I don't think we'd have even noticed it if she hadn't pointed it out!

While we were out we also saw several Marmots frolicking in the sunshine - apparently they thrive in the Alps but hibernate when the snows come!  And that wasn't the only wild life we spied!  After we'd had supper Mr Fox came to see us - and when I opened the door to get a pic he nearly jumped into the van!

Mr Fox sat right outside
our door

This area is another fantastic spot that is laced with numerous footpaths that rise off up into the hills, so after a brief discussion we've decided to stay another day to do some more exploring - but that will be tomorrows story!

Wednesday 6th September 2017

This morning we woke at our usual time and then, as is our habit, we sipped a cuppa in bed before getting up - we hadn't expected the Gendarme to be knocking on our door at 8.30am!  Luckily, I'd just put some clothes so I was decent but John was in the bathroom in his birthday suit!  All they wanted was our pitch money, but as I chatted to them I was a bit worried that John wouldn't hear our conversation and would just pop out into full view!

Anyway, all was well and we'd soon packed our picnic ready for today's Adventure in the Alps!  Now, bear in mind our pitch is in an elevated position at about 2000 metres above sea level, but our intention was to go quite a bit higher with our goal being the top of La Grande Rochette which can be found at an elevation of 2508 metres - so we knew we'd got a fair bit of climbing to do! And just to make our jaunt a bit more strenuous the start of it required us to loose height for the first half hour as we headed to the village of Belle Plagne!

From here the gravel roads started to ramp up steeply, and that more or less continued for the next 2 hours of our walk - at one stage John commented that his heart was beating so hard he thought he'd got an alien in there trying to get out!
In fact this walk turned out to be so hard that when we only had about half a mile to go bu the gradient got steeper  I thought I'd just have to give up - I'm not sure if it was the rarefied  air at high altitude, my unfitness or just the gradient, but with a little encouragement form my walking partner we finally conquered the hill!

Us at the Summit of La Grande Rochette

And it was well worth it - even with lots of rolling cloud coming and going and partially obscuring the 360 degree panorama from the  view point right on the top (which was at 2508 metres) the vistas were breathtaking - so much so that we sat on the Table de Orientation while we ate our lunch!  The low cloud actually looks worse than it was - it just kept drifting by in ghostly tendrils but then lifting to reveal sun kissed mountains.  Our meal was also taken with the whistles of many marmots in the background - as we peered over the parapet we tried to spot them but they proved to be quite elusive!

From our lofty spot we could just about see T4rdis2 - its the tiny white spot to the right of
the village and just about in the centre of the photo!

Eventually, we tore ourselves away from our fabulous dinner spot to start our plod back towards home, and really you might have thought this part of our walk would have been easier - but with the steepness of the slopes and all the loose gravel underfoot it was really quite treacherous - but  with only a few minor slips we soon had our feet on more solid terrain!

And I think that brings me to the end of another episode - we're going to move on again tomorrow but I'm not sure where to yet - you'll have to tune in to the next instalment for that info!

To see our French camping spots click here