It's been exactly a year since my last visit to Col de la Bonette. I realized that a couple minutes ago when I started to write this post and looked at last year's photos. Anyways, I just spent two days camping in the mountain with a friend at Col de la Bonette. We discussed the opportunity a couple weeks ago and finally decided to give it a try.
The Col is only about 120 km from my place and takes about 2 hours to get there. Following directions from Nice is very easy and almost impossible to miss: route D2205 on to D39/D139 and then D64. We had a stop at the bakery in La Bollinette (on D2205, 56 km from Nice, just before entering Mercantour Park) where a very kind lady prepares and sells awesome stuff to satisfy your appetite, and then some. This is a must if you drive in that direction. We had some sausage croissant for breakfast and it was awesome. I could not ask for more, early in the morning. I have a salty tongue when I get up, so..
We kept driving and stopping frequently along our way to make some pictures, stretch our legs and discover nice spots. But Camp des Fourches was really what got our attention. We spent a long time there, revisiting the abandoned building, walking toward Ventabren and then visiting the bunkers (23 soldiers) and walking up the hill to Fortin du Mont des Fourches (50 soldiers). That was really interesting. As you know this area is part of Ligne Maginot, built by the French in the thirties, just before the Second War, to protect the border from the Italians.
After a few hours of discovery we drove up to la Cime (2800m), the highest portion of the Col and stopped by a larger bunker (226 soldiers) where we spent some time. Hopefully the door was blocked-open and we had 3 flashlights. It was hard to pass this opportunity. That was AMAZING! Long corridors, rooms, showers, machine room, machine gun/cannon installation, generators, etc.. Without flashlights the visit would have been impossible. It is pitch black in there. Complete obscurity. And it's wet, and rusted.. and scary like hell. But we visited every room and it was very exciting.
The next step of our trip was to drive down to the valley and find a spot to setup the tent (Lac des Eissaupres). That was easy and we had a great dinner there. It was indeed pretty amazing to sleep by the river and hearing the 1700 sheep. Head count actually confirmed by the shepherd himself! Not that I counted them to fall asleep, but..
In the morning we walked quite a while toward a hidden lake in the valley, at the foot of the mountains. We learned that there are ibex at the top. We decided to get there and it was well worth the efforts. We found at least 15 ibex over there. We sat in the grass quietly and started shooting pictures. These guys were very relax and our presence didn't seem to bother them.
We had a great time in the area over a period of two days, and found that going there in the middle of the week is a good thing. It was very quiet and the people we met were all relax and smiling.
Finally, we headed back to the valley where we cooked for lunch before leaving to get home. On our way back we stopped again at La Bolinette to buy some goodies for our families!
You can find the whole picture set on my website at www.normandprimeau.com
Just a quick note on the pictures. Most of them are monochrome simply because I found the rocky mountains and valleys come out very nicely. It also brings some kind of nostalgia and is appropriate for ruins, bunkers and everything holding emotions from past events. I hope you like mood.
© Normand Primeau