Having spent some weeks now on relatively flat land, except when we scaled a couple of those perched villages, we thought it was time to conquer the nearby Mount Ventoux – very aptly named because it means ‘windy mountain’ – well, venteux means wind in French anyway. On this mountain winds can get up to 320 km/h… no wonder things have difficulty growing on one side of it. And the wind blows constantly most days of the year.
It was a beautiful but hazy 25 degree day as we sailed off towards the 1,912 m high white limestone capped monolith north-west of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. My golden rule has always been to take a jacket just in case… Even if it’s never used, it can be left in the car. Today I broke my golden rule thinking it is ‘warm down here – it’ll be warm up there’ – wrong – and I would suffer for this mistake.
The road was long and winding (not as in windy). We passed through a great variety of flora on the way, some coniferous-looking, other – well different, mixed and open woodlandwith lots of spring flowers between the trees and shrubs.
We also passed many cyclists – all looking very professional in their tight outfits and spiffy-looking racing bikes. We wondered if any of these were in training for the Tour de France as they seemed to have little support teams with mini buses, and this route had actually been used for the great race in past years. A British rider, Tommy Simpson, died of exhaustion during the race here in 1967. Seeing the constant inclination it’s no wonder!
Near the top the vegetation becomes very sparse – on one side of the mountain almost non-existent – just a bit of moss here and there on the creamy-coloured rock. The roadside edges drop away steeply – no guard rails – and it was wide enough only for 2 cars. What is it with this country and its lack of guard rails on the road? I’d hate to think how many people have ended up off the sides of these humungously high mountains and plummeted down to a grizzly end.
We finally reached the top, stopping in the car park with about 30 other tourists and obsessed bike rider people. At this point we had the windows up so we had no idea of the sudden 15 degree drop in temperature we were about to experience. What a magnificent 360 degree view of the surrounding country… if it hadn’t been hazy. I sprang out of the car only to spring back in after about 10 seconds – it was freezing and there were still snow drifts on the northern side of the mountain! Consequently, we didn’t get any pictures of all the cyclists – Heather in her long sleeves just happily clicked away at the haze and the flowers!
The time just happened to correspond with another Baroness lunch break, so we found a semi-sheltered spot amongst some stunted trees on the back of the mountain and hastily gnawed into our little picnic baguettes.
The rise in temperature as we descended was amazing. I for one, was very happy to be back down in the haze again – even if it meant my sinuses were to resume their sniffling and snuffling. At least it was warm. I must remember to stick to my own rules – always take a jacket.
Tina and Heather