For the past week, Eb and I have been chilling at a campsite in Embrun, a small town in the High Alps region. We’re not too far from the French/Italian border. We have been chilling here so we can get a game plan of where we want to go to in the coming months. I’ve also been needing to fix my rear wheel as I have had 5 spokes snap on me and it’s annoying because it’s time and money being spent repairing it. This kind of stuff shouldn’t happen so early on after we’ve purchased the bikes, considering they’re made for handling heavy loads and being used almost 24/7. We contacted the company we bought it off and explained to them what had happened and they said we could buy a brand new wheel and that they would reimburse us. They were shocked also that it had happened. So we purchased a new wheel with more spokes and the bike has been great.
We’ve had a mixed bag of weather whilst being here on this campsite. It went from being really hot, to crazy storms with heavy down pour. One afternoon, it was pouring rain with lightning that was striking so close to us with brightest flash I’ve ever seen, and then a second later we were met with the loudest thunder! When we went to bed, the weather had eased, until 2am, Eb and I were both woken up by the loud rain drops hitting our tent. Soon after, the lightning and thunder started and it was another storm. This one was crazy. Eb was so scared she clinched my arm and held onto me tightly. I was just worried our tent wouldn’t be able to hold out the water. Before we went to bed I rigged up our spare tarp over our tent, to help prevent water from seeping through. It helped a lot. I never got back to sleep as it was so loud but Eb managed. That morning, Eb spoke to a Dutch guy and he was surprised that we stayed in our tent the whole night. He said that almost everyone on the campsite was huddled together under the shelter of the toilet/shower block until it eased up. A local said that Embrun hasn’t had that bad of a thunderstorm in 28 years! I’m not sure whether that’s true or not, but still.
Whilst being here we’ve enjoyed swimming and have played a lot of ping pong. It’s a little sad as I’ve become really proud of how I play against others on the campsite. The reason why it’s sad is because I’ve been celebrating wins over 10 – 14 year olds, who have become my friends… I felt like such a loser, because I enjoy playing it a lot, but the ones that are always at the ping pong table are the young ones. I walk over with my racket and they’re like – “it’s the Australian” and give me high fives. How cool am I…
On Sunday, we went for a little bike ride and we had pulled over to take some photos. All of a sudden this man in a car pulled over and came straight up to me, I said “Bonjour?” then he pointed at my shirt with excitement (I was wearing my All Blacks jersey) and started going nuts speaking so quickly doing rugby actions, saying French rugby players I know of. Eb started talking to him in French and he was saying how good the All Blacks were and that he’s a rugby fanatic. Eb explained to him that we rode here from England and he was surprised and shocked. He then decided to tell us his story, explaining that he’s 68, retired, lived in Lyon but he’s retiring here, married, has children and that he’s going fishing in this region. He even opened his boot and started showing us books he’s read, and made us try some of the honey from the local region and blackcurrant jam he had made. It was crazy/weird, he wanted us to know everything about him. There was a lady hiking up the hill walking past us while he was talking to us. Midway through talking to us he asked the lady if she wanted a lift up the hill. She said yes, why not and came over and joined in the conversation. She was from Switzerland but spoke French and English also. The conversation was just the old fella talking, while all 3 of us would listen. He was so passionate when he spoke, he was so much in our face that we kept back pedalling. It had probably been about 20 minutes and he was still showing all of us stuff from inside his car. He even shook my hand 3 times saying good bye, but then would come back and talk more. When he would go to reach something in his car, we’d all look at each other like, how do we end this… He was very kind though, just a bit too much! The lady said to us – I just want to continue walking. In the end Eb and I started walking away slowly saying we had to go. Then he shook my hand once more and finally got in the car and drove up the hill with the lady. It was such a weird/funny experience. We just wanted to take photos then this dude comes out of nowhere haha.
On Tuesday morning I decided I wanted to try to reach a peak of this mountain that was nearby. Eb wasn’t so keen and wanted to go into town. So I threw my Nike’s on, got my backpack and filled it up with a can of tuna, a couple of muesli bars, 2 bottles of water and went to explore! I had been looking at this peak since we had been at this campsite, wanting to climb it. I’m not sure how high it was but I’m guessing around the 3000m mark. I cycled uphill to about the 1500m mark, I think, as the last sign I had seen was at 1300m and I had gotten higher since. I got to a point where I couldn’t cycle anymore and it had become really steep. The last people I saw were at the 1300m point outside a church. As I was walking up this mountain I was in two minds, whether I should lock my bike to a tree and come back to it later, but then I thought what if I get lost and forget where I put it. I also thought, what if I see a wolf, I’m probably going to want a quick getaway and with the bike it would be quicker than running down. In the end I chose the scaredy cat option and continued on with my bike, even though it was probably worse pushing up hill.
I was getting higher and higher, it was such a cool sight. It had been about 2 hours now and I could see the peak, but it was still a fair way to go. I got to this point where I had seen a couple of signs and spray painted rocks with crosses and it being blocked off by a rope. I thought, stuff this, I’ve come so far, I continued going up but then about 100m further there were more crosses and signs. I couldn’t understand the French signs but on the end of each sign it would say ‘savage’. I thought to myself, well they don’t want people going past this point for some reason. Maybe there’s wolves further ahead? What if I keep going and someone spots me and I get a fine. So I decided to stop. It had been 3 hours anyway and when I turned around I was pretty satisfied with the view in front of me. I reckon I was around the 2000m mark, maybe more. I just sat down, had a look at the view and soaked it in. I sat up there by myself for half an hour with no one around. It was the coolest feeling. I had something to eat, took a few selfies and made my way back down.
It took me so long to get back to flat surfaced roads. My bike isn’t necessarily for off road. It can handle parts but not rough bumps, so I was going down braking until I got back to flat surface. I was still 1300m high and had downhill all the way back to the camp site. Usually when Eb and I have downhill sections I brake to stay with her, or I film us going down on the Go Pro. Plus, we are carrying a lot of weight. But this time, I was by myself and wanted to fly down. I wish I had a GoPro attached to my head. I WAS ZOOMING. I felt like I was in the Tour De France, I was even getting in the speed position. I wish I had a speedo on my bike. I was hitting these corners so hard and punching it on the straight. A thought did go over me to say that I should probably slow down, that I could seriously injure myself, but adrenaline took over and said stuff that, this is living, keep going son. I hardly touched my brakes, until I caught up to a car (don’t read this part mum), I overtook them and continued flying down. One of the best feelings. YOLO!
PS we had more photos but we had a problem with the camera and the WiFi is quite slow!