12 July 2021. Beginning of our France-Nepal bike trip. A date that will certainly be remembered for a long time to come. Here we are finally giving the first pedal strokes of what promises to be a long cyclo-nomadic adventure towards the Asian continent.
A departure full of emotions
We had wanted for a long time to meet other cultures, discovering the highlands, take a long journey into the unknown. The decision was made quite quickly in the end : why not Nepal and the imposing Himalayan range ? Why not by bike ? No sooner had we thought about it than we were already embarking on the preparations. And what preparations ! When you start cycling, even if you come from the middle of the hike, there are many new things to learn about. And the more we learn, the more we want to learn, the more we want to improve our equipment before departure. And now after all this research, all this work done upstream, we are finally there. The great departure. The one we dreamed of for so long but who always seemed far away, almost inaccessible. After several postponements of the project due to containment and other pandemic problems, but also certainly for fear of the unknown, we are finally ready. It still seems unreal to us. We are here, outside, with our bikes loaded with all our treasures for the months to come, some members of our family around us, a beautiful blue sky, and yet we feel like strangers to the event. Is it we who are there leaving for who knows how long to the other side of the world ? Is it really big day, the one at the start of our adventure ?
Moving away, nonchalantly. A day like any other on these roads that are so familiar to us. And yet. Somewhere deep inside we realize that we won't be back for a long time, that we won't be seeing our loved ones again anytime soon. We are going forward, the landscape scrolls but time stands still. A mixture of emotions, of a strange complexity, operates in us : excitation, serenity, melancholy. Then we go out of our borders, those of our agglomeration, of our department. It floats like a holiday feeling in the plains of the Camargue. Fate is even comforting, offering us a first cyclo-traveler meeting to spend our first evening in company. It also announces the color of this journey to beautiful encounters but always ephemeral.. So be it.
From the Camargue to the gates of Queyras
The flat calm of the Camargue roads gradually gives way to valleys, leaving themselves room for bigger hills, then mountains. We love the mountain, we have always loved him and we don't want to feel limited by his difficulties. Our first bike tour this winter in the Alps comforted us : even without training, with a lot of weight, cold and bad conditions, it is possible to travel by bike in the mountains. Sure, we still need to find our rhythm. Sometimes too slow we get frustrated, ineffective. Sometimes too fast we feel we are not enjoying enough, we tire. So this time, we try to do things more gradually. We take a little more time, we listen to each other.
Our common passion for photography leads us to take many breaks. This is an opportunity for us to take a break and enjoy the landscapes. We discover Provence and the lavender fields on the road to the Valensole plateaus, where we bathe in a constant scent, sometimes almost disgusting. Then these purple expanses with the famous scent become scarce, and let us glimpse the azure blue of Lake Verdon. It's time to stroll, to have a go at a swim on a less crowded beach, yet formidable charm. To add to that holiday feeling, and since it is not always easy to allow yourself a bivouac in such tourist areas, we discover the joys of camping by bike. It certainly gives us the comfort of a shower, but above all the conviviality of beautiful encounters, once again fleeting but all the more touching.
This Provence lake is followed by that of Serre-Ponçon, where we begin to feel a little more the imprint of the mountain. We suffer from these first climbs, in the heat. But as our lucky star seems to be there and guide us, our efforts are rewarded. We enjoy a wonderful evening above the lake, in the company of a group of paragliders who graciously offered one of us the chance to fly in a tandem in the setting sun. The journey constantly reminds us of how perfect life is, and since every difficult moment is only there to bring us to a magical moment. We live every moment, every pedal stroke. Sometimes in pain, sometimes gratitude. After only a week of roaming, we already feel the power of life's little pleasures : a smile, the furtive sight of a wild animal, a break on a well-placed bench, a shower… These little pleasures help us cope in difficult times, to overcome them, learn from our mistakes, move towards something positive. And that's what brought us to Guillestre, charming little village at the entrance to Queyras, where we take a rest more or less forced by a pain that is very embarrassing for Antoine in the Achilles tendon. This is an opportunity for us to have a good time with the family who generously welcome us. We share meals, discussions, and even a beautiful aquatic hike in the neighboring gorges. And since there is no coincidence, it is on the advice of the father of the family that we change our route to go through the Izoard pass.
A pass to Italy
At first we feel a little crazy for having chosen this option. Antoine’s tendon is hardly better, and it is all the same a mythical pass of the Tour de France at more than 2300m of altitude. Then we reassure ourselves : nothing is infeasible, just go at our own pace. So we continue our journey towards the pass. The first kilometers do not impress us yet, but they quickly turn into a horrible feeling of not advancing on this long, flat-looking road. The meter is there to remind us that this is indeed an illusion since we are already on a slope at 6 Where 7%. And after endless miles, we pass Brunissard, the last village before things go wrong. The sun burns our skin, our legs already seem tired, and yet we see a series of pins approaching, much steeper than our current slope. We lose our footing in the face of the incline of the climb. Our stress is palpable, our discouragement too. It's time to stop, to catch our breath away from the scorching sun. And so we stop, as many times as necessary. The shadow of the forest along the road gives us a little courage.
We are almost there. The view is clear, she is magnificent. The landscape transforms and becomes lunar. We arrive, already very proud, at the flat of the Casse Déserte. All is rock around us. A superb show that we appreciate all the more for what it offers us of comfort after this laborious ascent.. But the sky gradually darkens and forces us to climb again. Only two kilometers left. We can't wait to get to the top, and at the same time we want to enjoy this memorable sight a little more. The clouds are more and more threatening above us. Definitely, we are unlucky for this first pass. It suddenly starts to rain, then hail. We laugh so much the show is absurd : the day is falling, the two cyclo-travelers that we are slowly coming to the end of the Izoard under a torrential downpour, a huge smile on the face, as if all previous efforts had been erased, while in the distance the sky opens to let the sun shine on the mountains.
We did it ! What joy, what pride, what excitement ! It always rains, we are cold, the pass is lunar, but whatever. We let our emotions overflow while going for shelter. We need to cover up and find a place for our tent to warm up. We will stay a bit away from the few vans and motorhomes also present. The rain stops to let us enjoy the panoramic view of the surroundings. We will enjoy it for a long time the next day, before starting the magnificent descent separating us from the Col de l'Echelle, that of our passage in Italy.
head full of dreams
The Col de l'Echelle is not comparable to that of the Izoard : much shorter, much less steep and without a large panoramic view, it will still remain etched in our memories. The hard ascent of the day before is felt and we are almost struggling to overcome this new pass. It opens a passage to a magnificent green plain, in which we let our thoughts sail to Italy. Can we cross the border safely ? How will we feel when we cross the threshold of our first country? ? Will the pizzas be as good as they say ? And the coffee ? As many questions as twinkles in our eyes that night for our last night in France.
To see our itinerary in detail, it's happening on Komoot : just here (even without an account normally 😉 )