Day 9: Barcelonette to Puget Thiens (95km, 1315m)

We woke up at 7:00am feeling fresh, ate breakfast which had been purchased the previous day. I had 2 baguettes --- we broke one in half and each carried half. We then packed up and left town along a smooth paved road that pointed to "Col de la Cayolle."

The bottom of Col de la Cayolle (2327m) took us through a gorgeous canyon along a one lane road , with rock overhangs sheltering us, trees along the side, and the gurgling river to the right, to the left, or right below us when we were on a bridge.

The road wound around for a while before emerging amongst a mountain town, the last one before it entered a French National Park. We stopped to eat, apply sunscreen, and then proceeded into the park, which was as beautiful as any that we had seen in the USA. Waterfalls, trees all lined the road, and as the road was so narrow, even the recreational vehicles had to take special care and gave us plenty of room.

Col de la Cayolle was a relatively easy climb, and at the top, there was a sign that showed that we were leaving the Provence Haute Alpes department and entering the Alpes Maritime department. The descent from the top happened very quickly, and at the bottom, rather than take a second climb in the afternoon heat, elected to descend the Gorges des Cians, which was not the recommended direction, according to our OCD guide. The "descent", however, first started with a climb, which at the low altitude and high humdity, led us to sweat like pigs right away. When the climbing stopped, however, we discovered what led the OCD to make its recommendation: while the North-bound route was on the side of the gorge, the South-bound route worked its way through no less than 17 tunnels. Most of the tunnels were short, and provided a needed respite from the summer heat, for which we were grateful, but as you can imagine, we did not get any good views down the river, hence my lack of photos.

At the bottom of the gorges, we arrived at Entrevaux where we ate lunch. At the junction to the main road, which we had to take for about 13km. About 7km into it, Mike asked for a salt stop. We stopped and took some Endurolytes. "It's like I don't get any salt from food! We just ate lunch, and I'm already cramping." "Well, you probably get plenty of sodium, but not calcium, and that's what the Endurolytes provide." It certainly worked, since Mike felt much better right after that, and the next 6km went fast in the Sunday afternoon traffic, which while not light was at least quite bearable.

After we saw the sign for Puget Thiens I stopped at the next tourist information center and found to my surprise that it was open. The lady behind the counter gave me a sheet which listed all the hotels in the area, including a Gite in Ascros, which we knew we had to pass through on the way to Nice. "How far is it to Nice?" I asked the lady. "I don't know how far it is by the route you proposed taking, but on the main highway it is 68km." "Well Mike, do you want to climb Col St. Raphael now, or wait till tomorrow?" It was 4:30pm, and we weren't going to make it to Nice that day anyway, so Mike elected to stay in Puget Thiens so we could climb in the cool of the morning.

We rolled into the town center and started looking for the hotel we were told were there, since that was the one closest to the route. We rode past a bar, where the men outside asked me quick questions in French I didn't understand. They also made reference to our Google wear, and were the first folks on the entire trip to even connect our Google wear with the idea that we might actually work for the company. Finally, after a few miscommunications, they realized that we were looking for a hotel, and pointed me at someone, whom they called "the hotel boss!"

The "boss" showed us a ground floor room, which he charged us 50 Euros for, including breakfast the next morning. The price wasn't bad, so we took it. It being Sunday, there wasn't much choice in restaurants within walking distance, so we ate at the one next to the hotel. We set our goals for the next day: Nice for lunch, and a hotel by the beach (we were willing to splurge since this was Nice!)

The town cooled considerably in the evening, and we had no trouble sleeping.

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