Waking up to the pinks of a beautiful sunrise over Brienzersee is the way to start any day. We parked up and headed to Interlaken looking for a place to have breakfast. All the places we saw didn’t have parking except for somewhere down the street somewhere. We kept on riding since Interlaken was too touristy and ended up in Thun, at a wonderful on street Cafe called McDonalds.
It’s always fun to watch the double takes when people walk up to look over the bike and gear, make their way to the back to see where the bike is from, and BAM, they don’t have a clue. Our license plates from the United States just show the state, not the country on origin. The plates most non American people are used to are large and name the country of origin. After a couple confused moments we walked over to talk to them and most times the confusion grows. “You ride a motorbike from America?” and “Where are you going?”. It seems to always be an ice breaker.
Riding down through the countryside was fantastic we farms of fresh-cut wheat, cows, grape vineyards and back up and over a small pass in another National Park until, coming around a corner, we see in the distance a fabulous castle on a hill in the middle of a small town surrounded by perfectly terraced vineyards. At the same time we both exclaimed “Lets go explore”, so into town we rode, up a one-way street the wrong direction again, and parked at the front door. It’s great riding a bike and finding these close up parking spots.
The Château d’Aigle has a 800 year old history with the two fortified tower being built in the early 1300’s. The Château d’Aigle throne since the late 12th century, in the heart of a renowned vineyard, has been a former residence of the Knights of Aigle, the Compey-Thorens and noble Bernese Governors and is now a wine museum. We took a self-guided tour to check this place out and thoroughly enjoyed our time spent here.
The day has really warmed up and our gear has been setting in the blazing sun the entire time we were exploring. We follow the road toward the French border and Monte Blanc and more passes. As we pass thru town and head toward the mountain passes the skies start to turn dark and menacing and it starts to rain a little, prompting us to rethink crossing the pass as we don’t want to be slowed down with the bad weather and caught on the mountain at night, maybe in snow. Since it’s already late afternoon we turn back and find a nice inn with views of Monte Blanc, with a bar and Italian restaurant. We hang up our gear to dry, get a drink and wander around town before the restaurants open at eight.
The rain had stopped during the night and the day started with some blue skies peeking through non-threatening puffy clouds. We started out the wrong way and didn’t realize this until we got over the first pass. I was completely disoriented with my directions and didn’t want to believe the maps so we went a different way and ended up riding another pass, the Cormet de Roselend, with very few vehicles on it, just a bunch of bicycles.
In my confusion we ended driving by the of the passes that I really wanted to ride, the Col du Petit St Bernard. Oh well, how many stickers do you need anyway. The next pass that we rode ended up being the biggest treat, the Col dr L’Iseran. When we started on this road the clouds had come in a little and the wind had picked up and the road was in fair condition with wide open exposure on the edge of the road. After a few miles up past a mine and an deserted ski area we still had not seen one vehicle making me feel this might dead end somewhere up on the top of the mountain. It was exciting so we decided to continue on and see what was at the top. After about 45kms we got to the pass sign on top of the pass, still having not seen one vehicle, but the weather had improved, so we snapped a picture and continued on.
Rounding the corner and about 200 meters up the road the pass was blocked because the snow had not been removed yet. A snow wall about 5 meters tall and 50 meters long blocked the only way back down the mountain. Today was the day that the pass was opening, so if we could wait for 2 hours, it might be cleared. We ended up waiting with several bikes on our side and there were several bikes and RVs waiting on the other side of the snow.
After having a little party at the top with the other bikers they finally cleared the road but left a strip of only about 0.5 meters ice free. Some of the RVs coming up had a difficult time coming up the hill due to the ice. The ride down was just as deserted and we passed thru a couple towns that looked as if they had just been abandoned. A 2-up couple on a Moto Guzzi chased us down the hill as the shadows began to increase signaling the coming of the end of another great riding day.
As we raced down the roads looking for a place to camp, we couldn’t find one. Traveling without a plan is so great because no never know what you are going to see. Coming around a corner we saw up on the hill a ENORMOUS castle. There wasn’t any information on it and it was closed, but we researched it later that night. It is called forte di Exilles and was built in the 1100’s as a military road protecting access through this valley.
It was time to find food for supper and a campground and we were tired and hot. Passing through Montgenevre we found a Pizza place and ordered way too much food. It was just two single orders but the portions were huge. We both ate Melanie’s pizza and took my Calzone to go. Up ahead are some great twisty pass road getting us back up to some cooler temps and finding a small campground sign on the side of the road we turn off in search of a place to set our tent. Pulling into the rustic campground everything is locked up and as we get off the bike a guy shows up and, after I plead our case and quickly arriving darkness, decides we are worthy of a place to stay. We set camp away from the only other tent campers who were a couple Brits and super nice guys, which ended up with my Calzone since they hadn’t eaten tonight.