Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Alpine experiences - Stage 1

This one is gonna come in stages - it is just too much to put in one post...and maybe that is my brother's point. See what you think.

Maybe it is my point! Hmmmmmmm!!!
This summer just gone, my brother and I decided that we'd spend a week in the Alps. Both being avid road cyclists, cycling enthusiasts and Tour de France fans, and both relishing the challenge that uphill gradient's provide, it was inevitable that one day we'd end up in the Alps, emulating (in a less majestic fashion) what those pro riders do every July.

And so it happened that in the spring, a plan started to come together. I say a plan, it was more of an idea. There was actually very little planning and we only decided fully to leave on the very day. It was not the smoothest of departures.

It would have to be a cheap ish trip. I think the only firm target came from my brother Andrew. He said that he was eager to do this trip 'Ollie' style. He'd often wondered whether living life at the pace that I often did, would allow one to sufficiently appreciate experiences, both during and in hindsight. He speculated that, in undertaking experiences as I did - with very little regard to rest, eating healthily and taking time to sit back and absorb - one probably wasn't making the most of actually doing the task in the first place. Indeed, this was the main philosophical subject of our Alpine experiences trip, a subject that was revisited whenever subsequent thought managed to push it's way through the haze of all encompassing fatigue. A subject I hope to highlight and revisit in each subsequent post about the trip. I even hope to convince my brother to publish some of his eloquent words in some of these posts, having just been absorbed reading his version of events, when really, I was only after some place names.

So for this week, me ol' bro was going to do it my style and test his hypothesis in extreme fashion!

So the rough plan >>

Leave Surrey Saturday and drive to Dover for a ferry crossing
drive down through the East of France
Enter the alps and climb a small ish alp in France
Move into Switzerland and climb a Big Alp
maybe check out Geneva
possibly do a night ride in Paris
return home Sunday night a week later

>> And of course, don't spend a cent on accomodation.
Leave Surrey, Ferry Crossing, uncomfortable overnight just South of Reim, then a mission down through Geneva to Tanine for first ride
Initially I thought the 'Alpine experiences' were going to be about just the cycling. Turns out the whole trip was full of 'experiences', good and bad, easily grasped and just out of reach; just a melee of highs and lows in both the actual and metaphorical senses.

This mission was up there for me with a private attempt at the 3 peaks challenge that 2 friends and I attempted one weekend. A HUGE amount of travelling and effort, but so very worth it!

Notable aspects of the journey South
- An overnight just South of Reim. Woken up by a couple of inquisitive Frenchman, rolling past rather ominously in their white van. Not what you want after a restless night.
-A drive/stop and cycle through the Jura mountains. Most definately the hidden highlight of the whole trip, though didn't quite reach the lofty heights of some of the later experiences. A fantastic way to ease in!
-A second night, by a picnic stop layby. Stunning backdrop. Woke up to see eagles riding the thermals infront of the cliffs.
-More passes crossed, the most perfectly exquisite town of St Claude. So beautiful, as was the climb out of St Claude. As majestic as it was precipitous.
-A battle through Geneva
-Arrival in Tanines prior to our first Alpine cycle

Having first heard my brother's thoughts on what it is to truly do justice to an experience, I was starting to appreciate more what he was saying. In a little under 40 hours - We had covered nearly 800 miles wild camped in 2 random places, spoken zero french, eaten in excess of 30 rice cakes between us, crossed 5 or 6 mountain passes, stopped for breaks/site seeing/petrol over 10 times. And really we hadn't even started.

We arrived in Tanines very tired, but the draw of the alpine passes was still motivation enough. Stage two was to be our first alpine cycle.


Post a Comment