You already start to climb before really exiting the city facing towards north. Come on, starting to climb that soon? That had no sooner happen. Wuhuuuu. This should be the last curve. Aha, there is another hill. Oh shit, the road climbs to the top of hill. I immediately gain an altitude of 896 m starting from sea side. Dude, what the hell is this at the crack of dawn? This happens from time to time when I do not previously perform a detailed search about the route. One must initially adopt him/herself to the route psychologically. There wasn’t any slope climb in my mind this morning, dude. All of a sudden, I started the hard way – to climb.
The villages and towns of southern France as that of Italia resemble the ones in my country. Even, I felt as if I was pedaling through the villages in Aegean region. The geography is almost the same.
I roughly know the route I will pass, I’ll cycle towards north. I also know that the most important passes of the Tour de France lie ahead. I just need a direction sign: “This road goes to that pass.” I’m ready. Let’s see those famous mountain passes of the Tour de France.
After Nice, heading towards north there are two places worth to visit: Isola and Sentier de L’eau. These small towns with their houses belonging to 17th century, marvelous narrow streets, flower pots hanging in front of every balcony and window are whispering to me “Don’t leave. So why to travel around the world?
One of my followers had asked: “Gurkan it is said that streets in France stink is it true?” I had already mentioned before twice. Just to move from one big city to another by plane or train does not mean traveling in a country. The lifestyles of people living in big and touristic cities won’t resemble the whole country. Aren’t there any similar places in your own country? Foreigners keep asking me: “Is Turkey safe?” I keep answering as: “Yes, definitely safe.” I don’t say this as a Turkish citizen rather as a voyager traveling around the world.
Sentie de L’eau lies just next to the highest through road pass of Europe, Col de Bonette (You might say “Dude, you had mentioned that the highest pass is Col de L’Iseran, are you kidding us?”). Actually, it was not the highest till a couple years ago. As I was planning my route for the world tour the highest pass of Europe seemed to be Col de L’Iseran. But, almost three years have been passed since then. Meanwhile, the French guys had moved the pass 100 m higher which made it the highest paved through road pass in Europe.
The most beautiful camping area I have ever seen was in this town. This camping place lies right at the exit of the town just at the skirt of the slope. It costs 10 Euro/day. It is clean and neat, has Wi-Fi and also a nice beach. I call it beach because there are many nice artificial lakes built upon the rivers flowing through the Alps where you can swim.
There were other voyagers like me camping there. It is nice to stay at camping sides for solo travelers like me. To meet new faces and have conversations with travelers, make use of their experiences is a great feeling.
Ludvic and Daniel are French guys on their vacation. These two friends are on the road to pass 26 of the 52 mountain passes found in France. They are at the age 45 and are from eastern part of France. You know the saying “French people know but don’t talk English and they are know-it-all persons” What a great lie!!! There are a lot people don’t knowing any language other than French. One of the reasons I noticed is that there aren’t considerable immigrations from the villages to cities because the population of young people in villages was pretty high. People called their English speaking friends, asked help from people passing by to help me or directly accompanied me to the destination I asked for. French people are very polite and also helpful. By the way, they may assume an adverse manner towards the foreigners living in their country but this is a situation due to failure to adapt to the French culture of these people.
Ludic and Daniel have been traveling through France with their bikes for years. As I said: “I cycled through south of France”. They replied as: “We don’t call south as France”. I asked people about their opinion on southern France while heading towards north. As I mentioned before, “Never rely on one person’s opinion”. It is interesting to know that French living at the center and northern parts of the country don’t like the southern coasts of France. They say that the reason is not because it is much expensive there, but people there are not like the French. For god’s sake, what does this mean? : ). Yet, I didn’t cycle much along the French coast. I only encountered one case of inhospitality in Mentona. But there are such rude people in every country and corner. This is quite normal. Besides, I didn’t have any contact with the people in Nice where every single spot was filled with tourists. Therefore, I just keep listening to the comments about people of southern France especially to the part close to Italy.
There are many other cyclists like me in the area where I put my tent up. Everybody came to this spot to have the same feeling. To ride on bicycle to the highest place of Europe! How interesting, I have recently learned that this spot is the highest through road pass of Europe. If Ayca hadn’t traveled with me I wouldn’t have gone down towards southern coast of France and would have headed directly towards Col de L’Isera from Torino, Italia. Actually, you will find such coincidences frequently reading my road memories starting from my Japan tour heading towards where I’m presently. Isn’t it amazing?
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and put down my tent. After having breakfast I was ready to go. Woww, it is getting cooler. How I have missed this. Dude, I don’t like hot weather, also cycling at such weather. Good that I woke up early. I want to climb to the summit till noon. I’m at 759 m. The highest point is at 2802 m. Just starting to pedal, I big smile appears on my face. My first departure from the Republic square in Samsun towards Japan and then the moment of departure from the First Turkish Grand National Assembly building in Ankara come in my mind. I also had had a big smile on my face at those moments. The moment a smile appears on my face is a sign that I’ve gone through my goal in my mind. I had also smiled at those moments. Pedals start to rotate.
For this day I’m wearing the yellow jersey, the famous jersey of Tour de France. Well, I’m not a racer and I would never consider myself equal to them whom I respect very much. I never raced or had a chance where a podium or a medal was awaiting for me. It won’t be in the future for sure. But, I regretted many times while pedaling that there hadn’t been anybody guiding me when I was a small kid. My life might have had another course. I might have attended Tour de France as a road cyclist, who knows. While I was thinking these a man came next to me.
– Braavooo bravo, Italian?
– No, I’m Turk
He rose his thumb and continued to cycle. His 14 years old son was following him. I smiled…. I was caught up in the spectacular view on both sides:
– Abi (elderly brother in Turkish) this is it!!!
One of the youngsters following my home page had written once: “Why are you climbing to the summits? Isn’t it being on the road that counts? Why the desire to climb? What are you trying to prove?” The kid passing by was a 14 years old boy climbing the highest through road of Europe on a bicycle. The point is not just to ride on bicycle, to be aware of bicycle culture, doing sports or being on the road! Dude, I witnessed at that moment, the impact of climbing the highest through road of Europe with a bicycle, on this 14 years old boy’s whole life.
Hundreds of cyclists follow the routes of Tour the France. There are 52 through road passes. How else the motivation and self confidence added up to a person could it be explained?
I recorded videos and took photos at every pass I climbed to. I screamed at every summit. Dude, those last meters, wowww !!!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. My chest vibrated at every scream. … My eyes went into tears at every climb. … Keep on going dude, go on, come onnnnn!!!! It’s over, over… Just hang on, don’t give up… Well, I could have stopped and taken a short break but I hadn’t… I hadn’t only done this in France!!
Col de La Colombiere 1618m
Col De Aravis 1498m
Col De Saises 1550m
Cormet de Roseland 1968m
Col de L’Iseran 2770m
Col de la Madeleine 1746m
Col du Mont Cenis 2083m
Col du Galibier 2642m
Col du Lautaret 2058 m
Col du Telegraphe 1566m
Col da Bonette 2802 m
Col du Bonhomme 949 m
Col de Savine 991m
Col de la Faucille 1323m
Passo della Bochetta 772m
Passo Rolle 1984m
Passo San Gottardo 2106m
Furka Pass 2436m
Grimsel Pass 2165m
(As Napoleon was heading with his army towards Paris he used this route. The details are written on this stone monument)
I believed into myself that I would succeed before setting out for my Japan tour. Why? There were people who did similar travels in my country. Also, there were many other travelers in the world. So, I said I’ll also do it! What I was going to do returning to Turkey? I guess there are some readers closely following my travels. Searching in internet I encountered a voyager who I realized in what he succeeded during his seven years tour around the world and I took as an example said:
– Do you want to travel around the world?
– Yes, …
– Then just desire and travel.
So simple. When I put in this way, it seems to some people just as an odd story. But, the 14 years old boy Andre with whom I climbed to the summit said:
– One they I’ll follow your footsteps.
– I know you’ll do because you climbed this pass. You would succeed in anything you want to!
Why one travels around the world? Why with a bicycle? Why one climbs to the summits? Why one travels this way? Why one prefers such a lifestyle? I have been writing on my home page www.gurkangenc.com for years and will continue to write.
The development of the culture of a country depends on the men and women realizing their dreams relying on their determination and faith.