2014 France / Italy Ride Continued
Now back in Cannes, Ethel and I spent an “off” day relaxing and getting ready for my short off road tour with Alex while she plans to see a bit more of Cannes and take the train to Monaco-Monte Carlo for some sight seeing. Alex and I have planned this off road adventure for several months and he has been so gracious as to prepare two BMW GS 700’s for the occasion. The bikes were fitted with Continental TKC 80 tires and skid plates were attached to protect the engine and “sensitive underbelly” of the bikes from the inevitable rocks which we expect to encounter on the ride. A few years ago a good friend told me of some Europeans riding what were referred to as the Ligurian roads near the French / Italian border in the Southwestern Alps. I saw a video or two on-line and on our first adventure here in Europe riding one of Alex’s bikes (the Ducati Multistrada) I had asked him about the Col de Boaire (Colle della Boaria in Italian). He “strictly forbade” me from taking that bike up there, but we subsequently had many discussions about riding that area and seeing the Alps from a different perspective. Well (alora), it’s all coming to a pass this year; he and I are going. We gathered maps, read on-line information and mentally recorded what others have said about the adventure. The area is steeped in history as well as beauty so it promised to be a worthy enterprise. We rode from Cannes to Tende, where Alex had arranged for lodging, and had a coffee and a snack before scouting our B&B which turned out to be a classic country inn operated by Francesco a great French man with two fabulous Italian Sheep Dogs. We unloaded, got settled in, checked our maps, consulted Francesco on the state of the roads (which had now been reported to be closed) and then headed back to town to see if the tourist office had any additional information. They did; “you're in luck” the lady there told us. “Those roads have been closed for two years, but they just opened two days ago”. It seemed strange that we’d not read/heard about this, but it appeared to be “common local knowledge” so we headed back to the Bar for another coffee and found some serious German off-road riders there now who, when asked, informed us that “don’t worry, they’ll be open or you can just go around”. After a good breakfast, (with eggs from Francesco’s chickens), we packed a lunch and headed south back through Tende to the little town of La Brigue where our off road adventure began. Although the Germans recommended we initially take a short alternate route, we stuck to our plan/map retrieved from the “official sources”. Well, the Germans were very shortly proven correct as the first climb (set of rocky switch backs) were a rude introduction to the day and one we hoped would not represent the track ahead. While these BMW GS 700’s are great light weight adventure bikes, they are not real off-road bikes so we now felt we were in for a real adventure. Luckily (for us) the track smoothed out substantially and it was smooth going for a number of km’s when we took a wrong turn then had to return to the junction and get back on track which for several km’s seemed idyllic in terms of scenery and riding. Then we came to an area where there had been a landslide (did I mention we had previously passed by a “road closed” sign?) and in the same area the roadway had partially slid into the very (very) deep canyon to the west. It was obvious that others had come this way and had attempted to create a track at the edge (the very edge) of the slide in order to get by the obstruction. When we arrived at this obstruction, there was an Italian rider there contemplating the feasibility of passing this 20-30 meter skinny trail then Alex just rode straight across without a bobble so then I followed and then the Italian, now apparently inspired, did the same. We all, thankfully, arrived at the other side without any issues. There would have, most likely, only been one consequence had we not successfully negotiated the trail; disappearance into the canyon below. So we now proceeded as a threesome up the extremely rocky climb to the Col ahead. My abilities (not abundant) and the bike were truly tested on this pitch, but we all eventually arrived safely at the top where we found the other Italian waiting for his friend (can’t imagine how long he might have waited if his companion were at the bottom of the canyon?) They, the two Italians, seemed familiar with the route and assured us that we’d just passed the hardest part and the rest would be pure pleasure. We were grateful to discover that they were correct and for the next few hours had some of the most enjoyable riding and sightseeing one can imagine. We passed many roads as we rode and discovered that the area has abundant opportunities for the off-road enthusiast. We stopped to eat the nice lunch Francesco had prepared and pressed on to the Col de Boaire where we gazed off into the distant valley at Limone Italy. Then we visited the Fort which is just near the Col de Tende and then headed for Tende and a beer.
This morning we decided to take another short off-road loop to the West of Tende then return to town and pick up our bike luggage and head back to Cannes. The ride up in the mountains was short, but very scenic and the ride to Cannes was an exceptional example of Alp road riding which for today the main feature was the Col de la Lombarde. Just fantastic beauty.
Note; this ride proved to be every bit (and in a few spots quite bit more than) what we hoped and I am so grateful to Alex for creating the opportunity for me to see this area from a perspective that few get to experience.