Posted by: Richard | July 1, 2009

Day 13: To Bonneval sur Arc

June 26: Today we left the ghost town of Val D’Isere.   It was a nice cloudy day, but it was going to be a long hard slog.  A big ascent up to the Col de L’Iseran and then down and back up again. 

Lynn and I realized today that we are becoming uphill powerhouses.  We killed the first 1000m ascent, driving up through trees and ski runs to the Col de L’Iseran.  For those of you not familiar with this famous col (pass), the tour de France often goes over the col and it is one of the highest navigable passes in France.  Lynn and I were motoring up the pass, doing about 2 hours of climbing (book timings) in 90 minutes.  We feel really strong now that we have sent back 3kg of stuff to Canada.  It is interesting, but there is a perfect pack weight, which once achieved, allows speed and a lot more walking pleasure.  Even half a pound above this weight and walking gets harder and ascents slower.

Lynn and I arrived on the pass, expecting to be lonely as Val D’Isere was so quiet.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The pass was filled with motor homes, motorcycle tourers and a lot of cyclists.  Lynn and I had a quick cup of tea as it was pretty cold and then had our lunch (bread and cheese) in a little wind shelter.  We got the photos next to the sign and then started to descend.  One concern I had was that we hadn’t been able to get any water, and I hadn’t brought much as my book said that the Col was a water stop.  We were on rations.

We dropped quickly over the Col, both of us listening to our iPod’s.  I rejoiced to Mogwai while in the quieter parts I would hear Lynn giggling behind me listening to a Seinfeld show (FYI – Lynn has a lot of Seinfeld shows – audio only – on her iPod).  It was a euphoric feeling as we dropped down. 

The euphoria would not last, as our route was barred by significant snow covering the route and what I thought (and lower down was confirmed) was a giant eroding snow bridge covering a ragged stream.  We followed the auto route for an extra 500 m and then made our way down a steep rocky path to rejoin the path.  We looked back on the snow bridge and saw a 15 foot drop between the fragile bridge and the water below.  I was glad I was cautious.

While we are maniacs on the uphill, on the downhill we are slowpokes.  We lost time as we descended, losing all the gains we made on the uphill.  As we came to a little shepherd”s chalet we hoped to find water.  The water was not on, and we were out of luck.  At this point Lynn and I had to make a decision.  We could drop into the valley to Bonneval and get some water in about 60 minutes.  The other option was a 3 hour dry run up high.  We’re not maniacs here, this is fun, not some sort of battle of pain, so we dropped down to Bonneval.

Bonneval is a great town, we were very impressed.  We walked through the town, loaded up on water (we are becoming like camels, downing a 1.5L at a water stop in addition to filling our canteen) and then went for a coke.  While we were having our coke, black clouds rolled in. 

We left the bar and continued into the old village (Bonneval has only 250 residents, but is somewhat popular in winter so has more buildings than would be expected).  It’s a lovely village and we had a closer look.  When we started again on our walk, distant mountains were obscured and we could see the rain.  We walked about 10 minutes out of Bonneval when we started getting pelted with rain.  We scampered back and asked at the few open hotels if they had space.  We found a room at one and went inside to remove our soaked clothes. 

The hotel room was covered with flies, about 50 of them.  While Lynn got dry, I started a campaign of terror on these flies that will live in infamy (two flies evaded my wrath and I let them out of the window in the morning so that they could tell their countrymen to leave Lynn and I alone).  Standing on tables, beds and jumping about, I left a path of destruction in the room that saw the walls, windows, mirrors and ceiling covered in dead flies.  Lynn was proud of me, ridding our room of these unwanted guests, a true man am I.

While I was killing, the storm passed and a nice evening arrived.  Lynn and I wondered if we should have toughed out the rain and kept going.  Alas, we didn’t.  As compensation though, there was a little restaurant that had been guidebook recommended for 10 straight years.  ‘Au Vieux Pont’ was as kitchy a restaurant as I’ve seen, but very cool.  An old french jukebox played french pop music from the 50’s and 60’s.  In addition, there was some old country, and maybe even a bit of old french country.  We ate a giant meal of Tartiflette.  What is tartiflette.  Well, to start with, it is delicious.  It is shredded potatoes with spices (like you find in turkey stuffing), covered in great beaufort and other local cheeses and baked.  We ate a kilo or two of this lovely concoction with a giant salad, bread, wine and some Badoit (don’t get me started for my love of Badiot – a french sparkling water).  Lynn was concerned that this was not enough food, so pressured the chef into provide a half a kilo of french fries.  Somehow we put all this away.

Being new to the region, I ask a lot of questions and take a lot of advice.  After such a big dinner, I felt we needed a digestif to break through the heavy food.  A glass of Genepi (as far as I can tell pure alcohol with a bit of green genepi grass) was provided.  We sipped this and the pain in our feet went away.  True to form, it did seem to cut through the immense meal we had.

We went back to bed and slept like babies.

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