Route des Grandes Alpes: Hale Mary Mantra up the Cayolle 29 Comments


By 9.30 we were on the road. Due to a combination of the heat and the uneasy feel. The abandoned fort had more creaks and groans in the night than I care to remember. My imagination went in to overdrive and I was convinced that some ghost was going to scare us half to death. Thankfully my imagination finally calmed down and we got some kip.

We wind slowly through the valley, the river rushing past us at great speed. White water rafting teams zoom passed leaping from their seat. Yells and screams as the as the excitement builds and the rapids provide constant surprise.  With a few miles we start another ascent…sorry not many pictures but the reason will become apparent.

Col du Cayolle

The Col de la Cayolle is a quiet mountain pass in comparison to others. Not long and the reason for lack of vehicles became apparent…its pretty much an old fashioned single track road. Tumbled tree trunks line the slopes like tombstones and that’s just for starters. Once above the tree line progress is slowed down by rock falls and minor landslips. Some bring us to a halt and some have to be negotiated with infinite care. Craig keeps calm and I keep still, only moving my eyeballs so as make minimum movement.

Col de la Cayolle

We turn the corner and crawl under a canopy of jagged rock. Craig is watching the road and the side wall and I am watching the drop and the roof. We shit ourselves. I have never said so many prayers in all my life and made so many promises to god. But for once he seemed to listen and we make it through the cheese grater section unscathed.

Col de la CayolleWe are much relieved when the jagged overhang recedes, but just as I’m feeling secure we arrive at a 3m height restricted bridge. In true Coyolle style its a rough cut tunnel with rusty, old wrought iron railings before and after the tunnel. If the bent iron railings don’t pearce Vin the the jagged rock will. Especially as Vin is 3.1 meters high! With no going back we slowly inch forward. We scrap by the railings between which we can see a lot more of the raging waters way down below than we’d like to. We enter the tunnel and commence prayer once more “Hale Mary full of grace…Never have we been so happy to reach the other side of a tunnel. Thanks Our Mary.

Progress seems tense for a few miles. Then the walls of the gorge close in even further and the single track road feels very narrow. Holy bloody moly, no wonder folk don’t come down here. The pass might not have the wow views but it certainly is the most challenging and nail biting. We clinging to the roller-coaster track above the river.  The road is smooth but the amount of debris makes the journey bumpy and juddery. We careful drive over half-cleared piles of rubble that fling us from side to side like someone in the terminal throes of fever. Mac n Tosh look like they’ve seen a taxidermist. 

Col de la CayolleOur only saving grace is we passed just one car and half a dozen cyclists.  It shows how narrow the road is when the cyclist dismount in order to pass our motorhome. In the process, the odd mountain goat, un-phased by the dust and heat, stop to watch us pass, then resume nibbling. Oh and nearly forgot we spotted our first marmot sign…but no marmots!

The Col de la Cayolle is not for the faint hearted. If you are not too hot on driving your motorhome and scared of heights then I strongly recommend you give this pass a miss. Unless of course your in need of a buzz.

We stop at the first civilised place, Guillaumes. We park on the free aire by the river, take our chairs and crack open a beer. It takes a few gulps before we break the silence. Slowly but surely we begin to talk and eventually laugh about the experience. 

Our Bumble free aire at Guillaumes GPS position: N044.088440, E006.853178

 


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