This is the third day of a long weekend of biking and boarding along the Cote d’Azur. The other day activities are mentioned here.
I knew at the beginning of this trip that I was perhaps taking on more than I could manage, but rationalized it by saying I’d start low and slow and work my way up, I knew that if it became too much of a climb, I could just turn around and glide back to where I started.
So my game plan was to follow, upriver, the Var (D6202) until I reached the Daluis Valley road (D902). From there I’d follow the valley, again, uphill, to Guillaume. From Guillaume I knew from a previous visit by car, that there is a steep, narrow road (D28) that leads up to the ski resort area of Valberg. This stretch of road would be my biggest challenge. And if Varberg was the summit, which I hoped, then it would all be downhill from there.
I parked the car at Touet-Sur-Var and then headed west, passed the medieval town of Entrevaux before turning north up into the valley of Daluis.
Entrevaux is very much what comes to mind when one thinks of a river-based medieval town, with a long draw bridge and vaulted gate situated between two towers. Early history set the beginning of the town around the 10th century, but most of the serious work on the town was done in the 17th century. There’s also citadel perched high on the hillside behind the completely walled-in town. And inside the town the streets (more like passageways) are dark and narrow, with the buildings seemingly leaning in on one another, closing in the sky above. But today they are lined with brightly colored shops, restaurants and bars, making it all quite pleasant.
If you are feeling adventurous, one can climb the hill to the citadel, which was constructed in the 17th century and last used during WWII to hold German prisoners. the walk takes about 20 minutes and offers some great picture taking opportunities.
The entrance to the Daluis valley is quite spectacular with two massive rock cliffs opening up to allow the Daluis river, and now a road, to pass through. Behind this spectacular gateway a beautiful valley opens up, bordered by steep mountains that become steeper and closer together as the road passes through the Gorge of Daluis.
The ride is not overly steep, just a nice incline that makes for a great scenic route with lots of viewpoints.
It’s quite spectacular, as the the cliffs turn blood-red/purple and the pass becomes so narrow that many tunnels are needed, and the road narrows down to the size of one lane.
The road narrows substantially and at times it breaks up, allowing one lane to makes its way around a rocky point, while the other lane utilizes a tunnel. It really is more of a road for motorcycles than cars, and there were plenty of them on the road as I made my way. A little nerve-wracking having a group of Harleys coming up on you as you pass through a tunnel on a bike!
Once through the gorge, the town of Guillaumes is not far away, and I stopped there for lunch at Les Chaudrons for a Salade Chèvre Chaude and a beer. There are hooks along the walls of the terrace to hang helmets, as the town is a popular stopping place for bikers. At lunch I was surrounded by a large group of Italian Harley riders.
Up to this point I had managed to use my battery sparingly and was still showing 80%. But that would diminished quickly as I now made my way up to Varberg. It is narrow, steep, and I was down to less than 10% by the time I reached the top. I was hoping that Valberg was the summit, and from there is was all downhill. Along the way I passed through the scenic town of Peone, with dramatic rock features above it that look like the ruins of an old castle.
I was exhausted though. To get into Valberg I actually walked the bike some of the way as I’d had enough. And then I heard thunder as dark clouds rolled in and it started to rain and get quite cold. Thoughts started going through my head that I may have to get a room and stay the night, and finish the trip the next day. Or get a taxi van to take me back to my car.
Finally I reached Valberg but I didn’t stay long (reason for no photos of it here). I just wanted to get down quickly, but only if it was down hill. I asked someone at restaurant and they confirmed I was at the summit and it was all down hill from there. I was tired, but now just wanted to get home. So I started down.
The whole route is 90 km, with 65 km to Valberg which took me about four hours. The final 25 km down was done in about 40 minutes, with 30 minutes of it just amazing as the road narrowed and wound steeply through the gorge, following the Cians river below. My legs no longer hurt, just my fingers as I had to continually break to slow down to make sharp corners. I don’t have many pictures as I didn’t want to stop, just wanted to enjoy it all at top (safe) speed.
I went from being totally exhausted to completely exhilarated. I was freezing at the top, but the sun came out along the way and warmed up the ride, so that by the time arrived back and the car I was relaxed, thrilled, and already thinking about when I could do it again!