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Monday 28th July

 

We were late up this morning; partially due to the some what indulgent intake of Alcohol we had both enjoyed with fellow campers the night before.

AJ was up, showered and ready to roll; she was very excited about the day ahead she was bouncing around like a Mexican bean on steroids which didn’t help her Grand parents slightly fragile state.

One hour later we were packed away and saying our farewells to the site owners and several drinking buddies from the night before.

After a stop in La Clusaz for supplies, we headed up the D909 to ascend the “Col de Aravis“ which at its summit is (1486m).

On the highest point of the mountain pass,there is a little chapel devoted to Saint-Anne for the protection of the travellers passing by.

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Like all Good Mountain Passes these days, you will find a café and sadly a host of tat shops,

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                                                              Enjoying Hot Chocolate

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At the top of the Col de Aravis

The sun shone, and the temperature was in the low 30’s as we descended the Southern side of the Col, via the Gorges de L’Arondine This wonderful winding road with high Mountains on one side and unbroken views to the other even kept AJ who was sat in the second row with the window down snapping away with the camera, interested.

We were looking for the Dard Waterfall; the waterfall as cut the rocks in a V-shape throughout the years, which gives a it very special visual effect.

As we rounded a very tight bend I caught a glimpse of the Fall, hidden away behind the trees,

Anchors on, out we jumped for a short walk through the trees to the waterfall, which I think you will agree, was worth seeing.

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                               The Dard Waterfall                             A refreshing spot.

After this little stop we arrive in Flumet, where the D909 ends. Flumet is a small village of about 900 inhabitants situated at an altitude of 900 meters on a rocky outcropoverlooking the confluence of two mountain streams: the Arly (which takes its source in Megeve valley and empties into the Isère) and the Arrondine (which comes from the Massif des Aravis, the mountain range we are driving through).

We turn left on to the D218B and start to climb out of the valley. In Queige we take the D925 to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Just after the town of Beaufort we start climbing the Cormet de Roselend (1968m). It’s a long 20,3km climb to the top with lot’s of gear shifting and hairpin turns, but the views are great. On the right side we see the Roselend Reservoir. Measuring 800 m long and 150 meters high, it can contain up to 185 million cubic meters of water.

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Roselend Reservoir

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The weather is slowly changing now, Clouds are rolling in and light Rain starts to fall, yet the temperature hasn’t dropped,

We quickly stop for photos, before continuing up this long winding Road, hairpin bends, switchbacks, narrow bits of road, this one has the lot,

Finally we crest the top, to find a local farmer busy feeding his stock.

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Now that’s a serious piece all terrain of kit.

After the summit it’s a 20km descend to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The road number also changes to D902, meaning that we are back on the original Great Alpine Road. We Take our time and enjoy the spectacular turns.

as we descend towards Bourg St Maurice the weather finally turns, Heavy Rain, and mist, descends upon us from above and boy does it come down, so much that we pull over to wait for it to pass, the sudden drop in temperature has caused all the windows to steam up, the wipers just can not cope with the amount of water, so its safer to stop.

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A wet Wait.

A quick look over the roadside wall and you can see just how much water is coming down,

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I must be 50 metres above this, and it still looks like a river of mud.

The Rain eases and we head off again staying on the D902 through Bourg St Maurice,

usually as you climb up out of the town, you should get a great view of Mont Blanc, but today it’s a little misty

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Some where in the mist is Mont Blanc

 The road passes through the Vanoise National Park. Created in 1963, it was the first French national park. The park is bordered by the biggest concentration of world-class ski resorts in the world. There were once plans to interlink all these systems and resorts to create the – by far – largest ski area in the world, featuring over 1000km of ski-slopes. However that vision was ended with the creation of the national park,

Soon we can see Lake Chervril (Tignes reservoir)

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After the Second World War, France needed electricity and it was decided to build a hydro-electric dam in this valley. Whilst this was a great achievement for French engineering and was for the greater good of France, it meant that the old village of Tignes would be drowned. The dam was completed and the village was submerged in 1952. Once every 10 years the lake is drained for maintenance work and the remains of the old village becomes visible.

We passed through the famous ski resort Val d’lsere but the weather is still poor and its not worth stopping, plus the whole of the man street has road works, it looks like a WW2 bomb site.

We climb still higher, Tina managed to take this photo looking back and down towards Val d’lsere

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Val d’lsere from 2300 metres up. The Col de L’Lseran

The clouds were starting to break, and the rain had stopped, maybe we would get to see those stunning views I had read about, but first I would have to get ready for driving in something usually saved for Christmas – SNOW!

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Yes it’s August in France, and it’s Snowing, who would credit it,

Now bare in mind when we set off this morning it was 30+ degrees and climbing, we expected another hot day, and our attire suited that, not this, we had T-shirts Flip-flops and Bloody shorts on, it was freezing, we even had the Heater on in the Landie…

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After a mad Dash into the café, much to the amusement of other tourists dressed in fleeces and winter mountain gear, a hot cup of Chocolate was enjoyed, Posing for photos was not even remotely on the Girls minds, so we headed off to hopefully descend into the warmth of summer again.

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Wet and very icy Roads on the way down.

Descending the Col de l’Iseran, Tina decides to educate AJ and myself From the book she is holding, here is what we got-

After summiting its 2770m top, its worth knowing that it’s the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps. It connects the valleys of the Isère River and the Arc River between Val-d’Isère in the north and Bonneval-sur-Arc in the south. During the climb you will be driving through a number of galleries and tunnels, with a maximum grade of 12%. In total, the climb is 48 km long at an average of 4%.

How’s that for mind blowing information when you’re freezing….or in AJ’s words. You’re boring me Nanny…..

15km after the summit of the col we reach Bonneval-sur-Arc. A lovely little Alpine village, here we join the D1006 it’s a faster main road, not that we joined it so I could get my foot down, no way,

We joined it as it’s the best way to find the Esseillon forts. After 20km on the D1006, we can see the Esseillon Barrier or Esseillon forts. These are a series of five fortifications built between 1817-1834 in the nineteenth century on a rock outcrop which guarded the upper valley to protect the Piedmont region from a possible French invasion. It has four strongholds and a redoubt, five forts in total which all bear the names of members of the Savoy family.

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It was lunchtime as we pulled into the car park for the Forts, and like all the other families we settled down to a picnic lunch of fresh French bread, cheese, and ham, washed down with a little wine,

now when I say little, I do mean little, the wine bottle contained one glass of wine that was all that was left from the night before, and as I was on beer, you can guess who drank almost two bottles last night!.

Fed and watered and a change of Clothes, we walked down through the steep wooded area to the Devils Bridge.

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Crossed the Bridge which is not for the faint hearted, and climbed up the other side on a very narrow and steep path,

I won’t bore you with details of the Forts, but they are well worth a look around, allow at least two hours when visiting, and be prepared for a proper hike.

Here are a few photos to give you a bit of an idea what you will see.

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If you want to see inside, best get your trip booked!

It was now getting late in the afternoon, the weather had improved and we had to find somewhere to camp tonight,

We continued on the D1006 towards St Jean de Maurienne until we reached the turning for Valloire on the D902.

This road would take us up and over the Col du Telegraphe but sadly the weather again turned bad on us, so after turning down a quiet unmade road through a wooded area,

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A quiet Back water 

we switched the land rover off and set up camp.

The awning was up in minutes giving us a dry and enclosed area, which was quickly warmed by the heat from the stew Tina had boiling away on the cooker in minutes.

AJ and I wandered off to check the area around us, to find there wasn’t a sole for miles, we were quite on our own, Wild Camping is permitted in France, but if you happen to be on some ones land, it’s only polite to ask permission, if you can find some one that is.

The Rain got heavier and heavier that night, but it didn’t both us, we settled back to playing Dominos with AJ, and a relaxing drink, That’s the joy of camping, we all slept soundly in our quiet little wood, tucked up in our roof tent, in fact it’s possibly the best night’s sleep I have ever had. Goodnight!.

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Somewhere in there we camped the night.

To be continued !!