posted on Sunday, October 03, 2004

Forcalquier


Finally climbing Mt Ventoux. The mythic giant of Provence and merciless judge of many Tour de France. The climb is any cyclist dream despite the steep grade that relentlessly climbs from the plains to the 1912m of its arid bold top. Despite being friday it was a procession of bike fanatics I don't think to exagerate in saying that at the same time that I was riding it so were at least 200 other cyclists. The landscape could not be more dramatic as the first half of the climb through green forests suddenly gives way to the most desolate landscape of stones battered by strong winds and too inhospitable for any plant to grow. The last 6 km to the summit were dominated by the deep blue sky and the dirty white of the stones cut through by the black tarmac curling up the mountain side like a snake. The last part was really tough with painful legs, steep ramps and a strong and chilly headwind making every pedal stroke a challenge. Lunch was at the top with a grand view spanning for hundreds of km all around, from the Alps to the hazy horizons leading to the sea. I started the long descent to Sault and then followed D30 to Simian a 3 lane big road where in one hour I crossed 3 cars, what a waste of tarmac! Between Simian and St Michel I took a most scenic tiny road D18 and then D5 to St Michel with unspoilt nature at its best and hardly any traffic at all. Here I also crossed a couple touring on bikes, a dutch girl and a danish guy and we could exchange what to expect on our respective directions. I reached Forcalquier and set camp next to a couple of Swiss pensioners riding their bike and camping around southern France, very nice and good natured people. They must have been in their sixties and I wish I am as fit as them at their age and still able to enjoy this.