"Championship of Alpine Passes" or "Seealpen & Liguria"
Originally the plan has been to discover the mediterian island of Corsica, the dream island for every biker to finally figure out by myself what parts of all the tales and stories from and about this island are true. There are rumors that the island is the best and most beautiful place for motorbikers…. Not easy to belief for a guy like me which grew up with Alps in the backyard, Black-Forrest in the front and the french Voges’ right around the corner. Not easy to believe indeed, so most highly time to either prove true or shut them all up for ever!
Because finding myself in the most priviledged situation having some more vacation-days on my account than my loved one, I decided to start the trip earlier than her. She supposed to fill up the 30 liters that belong to here in the right box of my goat and we managed to book a night-train Zurich to Genua.
The five days which I left earlier I wanted to use for discovering another corner of the Alps which I have on my „to see list" since quiet a while;
The „Seealpen" a Part of the Alps that stretches between Lac Leman in Switzerland and the touristic shores of the northern Mediterian Sea. On the loop the most western corner shall be the Grand Canyon de Verdon which I somehow managed to drive by for the last 10 yrs, several times and because of several different reasons of other priority.
As every tour, even this one starts a) at the earliest possible daytime and b) with one nicely strong coffee.
It is no secret as well, that ALL the REAL good things in life one first has to earn in sweat and pain. For the westward traveling Central European this means: Eating Autobahnmiles.
At least until the little village of Martigny one post of the northern gate to the Seealpen.
Unfortunately does "eating miles" not very clear describe traveling on Swiss Autobahn.
200mls usually take you several hours because on one hand, we have probably the best maintained roads in the whole world, but on the other hand we have simply too many cars around. Because, as everybody in the world knows, we are one of the wealthiest nations in the world, there are many many cars trying to prove this day by day. But that’s not all! The very most problem is the through-traffic! All the trucks that are bringing the goods, equipment and all kind of stuff from Europes North to its south drive through our country. The Alps naturally separate the northern part from the southern part of the continent. There indeed are very limited chances to cross this huge obstical economically so we find ourselves flooded by foreign trucks and cars all year long. Most terrible: They don’s even stop in our country to have a coffee or buy some whatever. They just haul all the potatoes from Holland down to Italy, only for cleaning and than back to Germany for packing and back to Italy again into the shops or onto markets where they will be sold as "Bio-Food".
At peak time finally, the summer vacation time, sometimes I expect the whole fuckin’ Eurasian landshelf to flip over to the south, as each and every g’damned car from the north heads southward over St. Gotthard- or St. Bernhard-Pass! One very spectacular, deeply impressive thing every year.
But, where have I been….? Ok Martigny.
Only a few miles after Martigny, the road leads up to the Grd. St. Bernhard Pass. The famous abbey on its top where the famous dogs come from. It took some hundred year of breeding and cultivating that race of dogs. Today they have the little barrel around the neck right at birth. It will be the job of the next few generations of pationated breeders to make sure the barrels contain some fair quality of booze.
If your heart is not beating faster on the way up to this pass, you might remain at fingerboarding and exchange your bike against one little piece of plastic to be wrap around the fingers instead of using your fingers to turn on the throtle.
It’s already pretty cold up here, autumn sends its first messengers announcing a long and hard winter. However; Reaching an alpine pass, even by motorbike, always makes me somehow feel like a little conquestor, explorer or discoverer. A not very common feeling these days, especially not in my age.
One almost can smell the fresh air:
Later on the way goes down to the Valle d’Aosta, takes me for a short time up this valley on an unspectacular freeway to the little town of Courmayeur. Breathtaking views on the Mt.Blanc compensat fort he last two dozen kilometers on which one shares plenty of dark, cold tunnels with overtired truckdrivers who too often try to chase their lack of sleep with a pinch of cocain or some wodka and fight some pretty spectacular position-fights on the long, boring road.
Architectural evidence that Courmayeur, here at the bottom of Europes highes Mountain, truly stands for climbing and mountaineering… (check the rope at the wall)
Ltl. St. Bernard...
....Col de l'Izoard..
...to finally check into Lanslebourg only to realize later that day, that in this one-horse town can not even be found one single sportsbar, pub or similar where a traveller can have his well deserved brew before sleeping.
I anyway will regret the decision to stay here over night as instead the place presents one unforgetable views to the several 10'000-feeters which surround it. The views are spectacular in the early morning sun:
Motorbiking (and anything else) gets quiet a bit into background in moments where one facess this breathtaking views and one realy has to resist doing a photostop each minute. http://cooltours.smugmug.com/photos/37569662-M.jpg
Climbing and descenting Col du Mt. Cenis I experienced on nearly empty roads and in the first sunbeams of the day. Up here, several spectacular offroad tracks meet (Giorgio might be able to report about them) and only the remaining chill of the night forces me forward yet and keeps me from stopping too many times, only to soak up the scenery in my mind, heart and soul.
In Susa it runs me westward again. All along the mainroad until Olux where I finally manage to get my daily shot of breakfast-, well, brunch-caffeine.
In Lausiers the championship most definately starts. "Col de Restefond" and right after that, the "Col de la Bonnette", the highest, legally reachabel point by motorvehicle in Europe (for common people at least)!
Among the other things a man should have done in his life (planting a tree, procreate a child, loving a woman and riding a GS) having been up here is "MUST" number 5<SUB> </SUB>in each motorbikers life.
Might be because of the cold or just because of the grey, unfriendly sky, I did not enjoye my stay up there as much as I should have done. So, fast, shooting the compulsory pictures…
… and than, once again, down into an new, nameless vallye, waiting to be discovered by me.
At that point I somehow can’t reconstruct the rest of that day's trip. One thing I remember clearly enough: The leg was twisty and one endles rush of curves and winding, allmost empty roads. A never ending lovestory between a man, his bike and the scenery they're temporary part of.
I also still have the picture in mind which, at the Croix de la Mission, 10 mls before my destination Castellane, almost have been the last picture in my life ever; A blue truck, a bold driver, plenty of white around the black of his eyes…. Well, the name of the place indeed promises that it wouldn’t have been the worst place to leave the planet….
Sorry for not getting to the point yet. Need some creative break and more consultation of dictionary first.....
2 b continued.
Great stuff, thanks for sharing. :freaky
Ok, here we are back again.
As mentioned before (or was it elsewhere) the little french village Castellane is one of my favourite places since many years. I can exactly explain the reason for that. The village is very small, there’s not much to see and do, anyway I like the place very much.
I remember that this place was the first place to stay outside of Spain when we did our Iberian loop back in 2004. 6 weeks of experience with proud, most of the time unfriendly and cold-distanced Spanish hotel-stuff... Might be that the nice "what can I do for you my friend" at the hotel-desk gave me a more friendly impression that it would have done coming from an other side.
How ever, of course I do have made great experiences too with the local f&b-industry and the fact, that each time I was there the sun was shining might have done the rest to make the place simply "a great place to be". By the way also the fact that at this place meeting several famous and very popular motorcycling-roads does for sure not disturb this impression at all.
The following morning promises allot (as btw every moring does, especially if it’s a sunny one)! The peaks of the surrounding hills infront of my hotelroom-window seem to burn in the sun, only the haze of the morning which still remains at the canyon’s entry keeps me from starting the engine allready at 7pm.
9pm anyway was early enough to head east (there’s a band with that name… right??)Some persistent fog at the door to the continet’s most impressive canyon still bungle me some of the great views at this position.
Instead I take the chance for some self-portraits, most of theme come out with average result.
I’m following the D952 along the northrim of the Canyon, all the way to Moustiers….
….and, you might guess it, make a first coffeebreak at the shore of Lac de Ste Croix. I’m taking the brown one in openair-the pub campingplace in which the staff is currently busy to clean up the last leftovers from the Ricard, Pastis and Wodka - orgy which obviousely just have finished some short time ago.
:clap Great photos!
WOW, what great shots! We have some great riding in California, but the grandeur of the Alps is just jaw-dropping. Great report!
This ist the most western point of my loop. I’m heading back east on the D19/GR99, all along the southrim of the Canyon and the lookouts, scenery and roads confirm most clearly, that this is for sure MUST number 6 for every humand with a motorbikers heart beating in his chest.…. That’s the reason why I’m discovering the world by motorbike!
The D19, the hat brim on the Grand Canyon de Verdon’s southern rim.
Meanwhile the sun warmed up the day and the yet narrow curves around the GCdV slowly change into wider, great prepaired bows. The trip between Comps and Logis du Pins is another dream from which I only awake at the time I’m reaching Nice and it’s monster-traffic.
Still having the lonely roads in mind, I’m strolling along the harbour of Nice and try to find out whether I might exchange my goat for on pot like that. ….
Well, not that I want to place to fast and thoughtless a too motorcyclist-proud „…never ever!". But I’m sure that this pot would have to be REAL big, equiped with sufficient stuff for all kind of „jobs" and finally would have to be exchanged back again immediately for my loved goat!...
For sure not necessairy to explain that I can’t find an affordable place to stay for the night in the City of the rich, beauty and famouse. Who cares! I’m anyway still too horney for motorcycling and who anyway Stopps his tour at 3pm just because he reached his destination for the day.
Excellent pics and report! :thumb
Defitely frontpage materiall Baldyyyy hear meeeee:clap
Great report and photos so cool thanks alot buddy :thumb
Hey, geil Alter! :D
Seealpen, it's a nice place. I did there about 30 "Cols" last year :lol3
And my favourite warm-up:
You can see more pictures on my homepage.
So it’s quick decided to proceed riding further east again. I’m pretty familiar with the corner around here, called the "Cote d’Azur". So I can resist easely the temptation to follow the coastline as it supposed to be more nice.
The one who’s doing that to oneself indeed, will be nothing but bitterly disappointed. This coast is probably more populated than the shores of the Hudson-River and catching one little glance of the Mediterranean sea is truly much more difficult than getting a date with Paris Hilton or being invited by GWB to discuss the national security-situation. In fact; deciding to follow the coastline in this area is nothing but a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME. Time, which one truly can use way better on a later stage of this trip.
So I gratefully accept the kind offer of the Autobahn again bringing me fast and safe more east, toward Ventimiglia, the City right at the western edge of Pizza-, Pasta-, Ferrari- and Dolcevita-Country.
For what ever reason at all, I decide for a turn north, after I checked out my map for a village which in my eyes looks most as it would offer me a place fort he night.
Unfortunately Pigna doesn’t fulfill my whish. Instead of a room to stay, there’s very nice camera-feed:
So there’s not much left than heading more north, all the way towards Molini di Triora. As it soon will be clear, the very most highlight of the day! 2<SUP>nd</SUP>, 3<SUP>rd</SUP> gear… for 1.5hrs or more…. all along forests and smooth hills…. That there are wild, untouched places like this right in the middle of Europe… I really am highly pleased about this finding! It feels like being transfered back in time.
Finally I’m finding myself in the only little Albergo that in the village of Molini di Triora is offering. Tired and, once more, happy and grateful for one brilliant day, some new findings and another experience I can share.
The owner of the place is two heads smaller than me and her voice is two octaves deeper than mine.
„What’s for dinner you want to know …!?" She looks busy-contemptuous to me in my flashy bikers gear while she’s placing huge plates, no, better said, bowls of Gnioggi and Pasta onto the table in front of a couple of customers.
"Go, get yourself clean and don’t dawdle too long.." was the answer I get. Well, who could resist these kind of unmistakable and clear stated whishes….?!
It happens later, that at this glory day in the fall 2005 i’ve not only had one of the most beautiful motorcycle rides in my long bikers-life, but also eat the best Spaghetti-Vongole after prior to that I eat the best Tagliatelle of my life ever and right before I put the most delicious wild boar I’ve had ever right on top of it.
To keep company I’m mixing all these delicacy properly with a bottle of the vino de la casa which finally explains for sure why I’m falling to sleep right before my ear’s touching the pillow.
The dismissal on the other morning is most hearty, all the family’s helping me saddle up and I promise to come back very very soon.
The detailed study of the map shows, that there’d be plenty of fire-roads to be discovered here. Later, while writing down the trip, I shall figure out, that there is an access to the legendary „Ligurian Boundary Road" maybe one of the last REAL adventures one can have around here. How ever, I safe this trip for another occasion.
Instead I’m taking the „difficult to pass"-marked SP17 towards Pieve di Teco.
The landscape showing the same picture as yesterday. It is a scenery that is giving the traveler this certain feeling of peace and freedom. Forrest, hills, breathtaking views over and over
Just somewhere here, up on one of the plenty nameless colles I meet Luigi. Luigi is retired and now passionately is going about his hobby; Castels and older buildings. He’s not keen on all these famous, popular places like Carcasonne in France or Indias big castle, the city of Jaipur. Also „Schloss Neuschwanstein" doesn’t really find his deepest interest too. No, Luigi is most keen on the small, almost unknown little castels which neither have had huge political or strategic value nor represents some great architectonical value.
Unfortunately I didn’t work my way much more deep into his preferences. The reason for that clearly is my poor Italian knowledge on one, but completely inexistent foreign language knowledge of Luigi on the other hand.
How ever, we agree meeting in one of the next villages. There, as Luigi reports, right next to the church shall be found one of these buildings. Additionaly, as Luigi knows too, shall there be one Taverne right next door which is offering the very best Piati di Giorno all around northern Italy. Well, after yesterday’s supper, I have quiet some claims on quality food….
So it comes, that I’m enjoying one piati di Giorno together with Luigi, the Honda CBR-rider and passionated rock-pile-freak in a nameless village right next to a nameless building out of the late 16. Century. Further it comes that we are communicating more than 2 hours although we’re not speaking the same language and on top of all the pensioner from Asti can not be talked out to invite me for the unbelievable dinner.
My journey brings me more east again. All the way through idyllic little villages in each one one wants to stop on the small piazza and just get in harmony with slow and relaxed beating the puls of this places where the time seem to stand still at least since 50 years.
My next break is in Pieve di Teco. I’m satisfying my coffee-addiction in a cosie place right at the village-entry. Ralf, a German family man is speaking to me right as I’m emptying my cup. Quiet some years ago he’s emigrated and now living here a "way better life". In my inborn sceptical way against all German kindness and offers for brothership I first gratefully but firmly refuse his offer to show me some great roads on the map. Truly German as he will be even after 100yrs staying in Italy, he can’t accept my refuse, much more he, as a profound connoisseur of the area, insists that I’m trying out his "me-loop" at least.
In the end my curiosity is anyway more strong than my inborn urge for Swiss punctuality and I’m happy to report, that the decision is a good one!
The loop goes gain more to the north; Aquetico, Ponti, Pian die Prati, Colla S. Bernardo, Nava und zurück nach Pieve di Teco.
And indeed, how could it have been else; The loop is worth each minute and mile. Obviously it’s a popular motorcyclist’s area here as I meet plenty more of them than I did all the many miles before. This loop all through woods and along little creeks finally strength’s my intention to come back to this place as soon as ever possible.
It’s getting late. I’m supposed to pick up the tickets for the vessel from Genua to Corsica at the counter in Genua. As I’ve never been in Genua before and as everybody knows that Italian Citys are pure horror regarding traffic, I decide to head toward that obligation I have.
Again the Autobahn does best service to me and brings me in shortest time right to the gates of Genua.
There’s a room-reservation already at a hotel next to the station and at 2am I’m expecting my girl to arrive with the night-train from Zuerich right in the arrival hall. Having her luggage roll under her one arm, lots of stuff in her hands and the heavy shoes on her feet she’s showing up in the crowd of foreign workers coming home for some days being with their familys. And while I’m standing there I’m allready looking forward to the second part of this trip to be started tomorrow in the mist of the morning and which will be somewhen reported here under the titel "The Corse-Loop" or "Cooltourix in Corsica"!
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