International Autumnal Expedition
23rd to Sunday 27th September 2009
In The Bath!
you’d better come and look at this,” called
Stan in an agitated tone.
an alligator in the bath.”
strolled in, expecting that someone had
left behind some sort of bath toy; but not
was for real.
real, live alligator baby.
it looked like one.
it was a pretty little gecko.
in the bath?
how it had got into the apartment, never mind into the
bath remained a puzzle.
How it remained in the
bath, was more obvious. The poor little thing
was quite unable to climb out up the steep slippery
the gecko was rescued, Stan was able to freshen up after
our arrival from England and off we went to Il Vesuvio
in Menton’s Place du Cap for an enormous pizza and a
carafe of disappointing house wine whilst we planned
the first phase of the BOOTboys
international autumnal expedition.
had some unfinished business to conclude. On BB0836
we had passed by a sign to Le Grand Mont or Gramondo
as it is known on the Italian side of the border, which
is where its summit lies. All
4,521 feet of it. It had seemed too much last
year whilst on our
way from Sospel to Menton via Roc de l'Ormea This time,
it would be our major objective.
Sweat and Tears
planned to start the walk from the Col de Castillion The
Rother Guide book said to catch the Sospel bus to the
Chemin de la Grotta so that is exactly what we asked
for on the bus. The driver looked at us as if
we were daft. So I presented him with the bus
timetable where it was clearly shown as a stop. He
muttered something which could be translated loosely
as “I ‘ave been driving zis bus for seventeen years
and in all zat time I ‘ave never ‘erd of zis Chemin
explained where it was and asked to be told when we
passed through the tunnel at the Col de Castillion and,
sure enough, just as predicted by both the Rother Guide
and the bus timetable, there was a bus stop called “Chemin
de la Grotta”. I could see it quite plainly as
the bus hurtled past and down the hill.
arretez s’il vous plait, nous sommes arrivés
au Chemin de la Grotta." I pleaded to the driver.
To be fair, he did halt the bus but denied there
was any such stop. Nevertheless he opened the door for
these crazee English guys to alight whilst he muttered
the equivalent of "I ‘ave been driving zis bus
for seventeen years and in all zat time I ‘ave never
‘ad anyone get off zis bus at zis place."
he said "Bah!!" whilst slapping his forehead
with the palm of his hand and shot off down the hill.
we were at the right place, we had a further problem
to sort out before we could set off with confidence.
The Rother guide referred to a narrow road at
the north entrance of the tunnel. The trouble
was that the tunnel ran from east to west! What it meant
was the track that went south as the road bent north
where it emerged at the west end of the tunnel. Obvious,
then on, we relied on the French map and, with a minor
exception, had no more
problems. At least, not whilst we were in France.
Italy was another matter but more of that later.
path was well way-marked and climbed steadily, mostly
through lightly wooded slopes of deciduous trees with
regular long distance views. There were signs
of wildlife- frequent poos a bit like hedgehog’s but
larger, We concluded it must be wild boar although
we never saw any.
path to Mont Razet (right of centre)
not pass ----- on bikes!
we reached a choice point but we had already decided
to take in a bonus peak- Mont Razet at a not insignificant
4,219 feet. It was a
bit off-putting to find a path closed sign but on closer
examination it became clear it meant to two wheelers.
Quite right, far too steep for comfort riding
or pushing a bike.
and beyond from Mont Razet
the open summit we could see, to the north, Sospel and
patches of snow on the big hill beyond. Our main objective across
the valley to the east and, south, in the distance, was
the Menton / Cap Martin
to the left, coast ahead
In the near ground we noticed some
buildings. Checking the Rother book confirmed
that they were Maginot Line bunkers.
line bunkers .....
and troop passage way
I read the book more carefully we would have saved twenty
minutes or so but instead I misread the map.
a result, we wasted
time going further down the increasingly hairy south
ridge before retracing our steps and finding the substantial
path that led east to the Col du Razet, where on BB0836
we had met the Hungaro-Canadian guy who trod on Tony's glasses.
We followed the same GR52 trail as far as Colla
and there found the path to Gramondo
from near Mont Razet summit
way-marker said one hour to the top. It looked
hard work so we set off slowly. And then it got
steep and quite rocky- almost a scramble. Conditions
in which Stan excels whereas it is just beyond my aerobic
efficiency. I don’t think I could have gone up
any slower. It was therefore a surprise to emerge
at the top a full twenty-five minutes inside the target
examines the trig point on Gramondo's lesser top
an exploration of the goat-poo strewn summit area we
decided to take the Italian route home. We could
see the trail clearly running along the eastern flank
of the mountain. Getting down to it was a minor
challenge but it proved to be a sound trail obviously
used by mountain bikes and also by motorised trail bikes.
At the Pas de la Corne the trail headed back over
to France and to the GR52 but our map showed a good path
continuing south to the coast so we thought that would
make an interesting change.
Sweat and Tears.
tears as in rips rather than tears as in sobs but it
could just as easily turned to weeping.
path suddenly disappeared. We searched high and
low for its continuation but it had vanished. We
even got the gps out and confirmed our location but
the path was nowhere to be seen. The hills side
was increasingly overgrown with vegetation, including
some vicious bramble bushes attacking us from every
could, however see a good looking path heading off south
east along a side ridge. How to get to it was the issue.
We tried various approaches before eventually
battling our way through, blooded, perspiring in the
heat and in need of a new Lowe Alpine sale to replace
that path proved good and led, in time, to civilisation,
although we declined what might have been a short cut-
Stan arguing that we should not now go down any path
on which we were not sure of its exit. Consequently
we took a longer than necessary road route before arriving
over Mortola inferiori to Ventimiglia
weary and desperately short of water by now, we trudged
back along the road to France in search of a bar.
first was actually at the border and we lost no time
in rehydrating with beer.
back on the coast, we passed “Tony’s bar” where on BB0836 we had boosted the profits so much that
they reinvested the proceeds in an extension.
didn’t add to their empire this time but pressed on
back to base.
the apartment I found an Italian map that showed a quite
different line for the vanishing footpath.
with France beyond
I don’t believe that existed either!
evening we chose La Capoule. Mainly because it
was only a ten yard walk. The plat du jour was
cous cous- not as good as those of Le Taureg but not
bad. Much cheaper and a damn sight closer! Plus
a bottle of a three quarters decent Bandol red.
Would you call a 9 mile road slog in the
midday sun a rest day?
from the Italian border
had this idea of a gentle stroll along the cost to Ventimiglia
to show Stan its huge street market. All went
to plan as far as the lovely little bay with the erstwhile
fisherman’s huts below Grimaldi but that is as far as I had been before.
at the fisherman's bay
fisherman's bay at Grimaldi
The rest of the route lay on the road up above
views were good .....
and some not so good!
provided some good views but isn’t an exercise I would
want to repeat in a hurry. It was hot with quite
a lot of traffic and too many tunnels. I just slipped my mind and
body into automatic. Striding along, I had this strange
feeling of being a sort of miniature Jack Reacher, heading
for a new town. Fortunately (or otherwise!) the
sort of adventures that inevitably find him, completely
passed us by. Or we passed them by. For
example, I discovered later that we passed by a nudist
beach about which I was totally unaware.
Latte there was a near derelict fine old villa with
a Hanbury connection. Also, some nice old farm
buldings that must have been very peaceful 100 years
Hanbury connected villa
on the skyline
no longer rural scene!
old town and beaches
was a mystery at the river. Not the masses of
large black fish. I had already heard about them
and how, at the right time, the Italians in droves take
chairs to sit in the river and pull out the fish. On
the bridge was a whole bundle of padlocks. Why?
Is it a piece of urban art? Or do they serve
of large black fish
bridge padlock art?
toured the market but bought nothing then found an old
fashioned restaurant called, I think, La Pergola, or
something like that where the service was slow but the
we walk back? Come on, it’s a rest day! We
joined the hundreds of other visitors at the station
and caught the train back for an afternoon snooze.
at the unpretentious Bouquet de Garni. Simple
menu. Escalope of veal with good chips and decent house
A Good Idea
challenging climb, the Cime de Baudon, started with
another challenging bus journey. No problem with destination,
this time. It was just that the bus to St Agnes
is small and there was a large group ahead of us in
the queue. Consequently we had to stand all the way
on this roller coaster ride to the highest coastal village
in the land.
Agnes is on the col right of centre, Cime de Baudon
in the gap, left of centre
the way I received a telephone call from Jilly of the
Menton Daily Photo fame. We planned to meet her
later so she rang to warn us that the hunters were out
that day between St Agnes and Gorbio and to take extra
care. No sooner had the call finished than we
saw two men with guns and high visibility sashes by
the side of the road.
near St Agnes
didn’t see any once we started walking but we could
hear them banging away, especially around St Agnes.
in light deciduous woodland, our path climbed steadily
to the Pas de Piastre and then turned into Stan terrain.
Once again he significantly outperformed me on
the climb to the Cime de Baudon.
switched on my mental record player and chose my usual
climbing tune- Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer.
body and mind in perfect rhythm, it seldom fails in the
UK to get me up the steepest hills. Not in France.
Then it dawned on me. This is a Catholic
country- such Presbyterian hymns won’t work here.
retuned to my secret weapon, the latin hymn we used
to sing at school. I never knew what it meant
but I could remember the words and it has a very simple
meter for very steep metres.
gen-tes om-nes un-di-que
dom-in-um -mm -mm
ill-um lau-da-te po-pu-li
in-gens est et-ce-ter-a
On and on it goes ………………………………
didn’t work. It was just a hard, hard slog. There
was too much negativity in my mind. Why am doing this?
Where’s the fun in it? I am too old for
this game. The only positive thought I could think
of was the prospect of lunch at Jilly’s so I hung on
to that vision.
then, all of a sudden I was at the summit. And
once again I had significantly beaten the way-marked
target time. Remarkable!
4,154 feet, the
Cime de Baudon is the highest point in the area and
has a large “table d’orientation” with lines pointing
to all the main features.
Cime de Baudon
Like Gramondo, the top
had a considerable quantity of sheep or goat poo but
similarly, not a beast to be seen anywhere. Strange.
back up the Cime de Baudon
steep path down to Gorbio, proved rather longer than
I had anticipated. At the Col de la Madonne there
was a quite modern abandoned building looking very sad
with an interesting war memorial in front of it. It
looked as if there was a story to be told.
and the war memorial
Gorbio, there was no
one filming for Petit Filous or for anything else
although there was an artist sat under the old olive tree
completing a good Michael Jackson painting.
for Gorbio video
on and headed down the shepherd’s path to meet Jilly,
who, bless her, had produced a delicious lunch for us.
After a very pleasant couple of hours, we resumed
our journey to the coast, rewarding ourselves with a
beer once completed.
& Stan as seen by Jilly....
and with Jilly
night, I took Stan to La Tavernetta in the Place du
Cap, an Italian restaurant with amazingly slow service.
Fortunately the wine came quickly and was a decent
Nobbiolo. We though the food was coming quickly
too when the waiter came out to apologise that the Chef’s
sauce was not available for Stan’s escalope and would
he like pizzaiola sauce like me? I thought they
must be must about ready. Bizarrely the waiter went
on to eulogise about how good the chef’s sauce was.
Just why it was not available was not clear but
we came to the conclusion it was because the chef himself
was not available. It took about another hour
before the food arrived.
we ordered coffee but had to send it back because it
was cold. That was, the waiter explained, because
the machine wouldn’t heat the milk. OK, but it
didn’t heat the water either! No coffee, thanks.
Just the bill. We only had to ask twice
more before it was presented. Food good but service?
leaving the apartment, we discovered a Cinquecento Rally
taking place in the gardens outside.
inspecting the tiny vhicles, we took
a gentle stroll in the sun along the prom and harbour
wall then a light lunch at the restaurant on the front
with the turquoise sunshades. I forget its name.
from the harbour wall
the time we returned, the cars had gone. It was
time, too, for us to go.
international autumnal expedition completed for another
Back home to a cold and damp Kendal.
27th September 2009
If you want to comment on this report, click on
you have Memory Map on your computer, you can follow
our route in detail by downloading BB0930a,
Steve G advises: "For those who like to look at your
meanderings but use Tracklogs or other software then your logs can be converted
using the freeware utility GPS Babel."
For the latest totals of the mileages, heights and Lakeland Fells
Books Wainwrights see: Wainwrights.
If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let
me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!
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