Tag Archive: Valais


The Sunday of the rally dawned bright and sunny once again. When I say sunny, of course, there’s something a little different about the sun down in the valley. As we were surrounded by such big pointy mountainy things, the actual sunshine didn’t reach the valley floor until a good 2 or 3 hours after sunrise, and left a similar chunk of time before sunset. An interesting phenomenon that meant that in the Winter, folk living in the valley receive only about 20 minutes of actual direct sunlight, where higher up the mountains they got to enjoy a lot more of it. Lower temperatures with the altitude make up the difference though, so it’s all swings and roundabouts.

Then there was... just us left!

It was Tony’s turn to be a tad hungover this time, so he slept on whilst I was up and chatting to some of our new friends. A lot of folk were up mega-early and had packed and left before I was up at around 9ish (I know, early for me!), but our fellow Brits, of which there were 8 in total, all took their time to pack up so that their tents had a chance to dry in the sun from around 10am. No rain, just a heavy dew, as the weather gods had once again been kind to us with a beautiful weekend.

We took our time and made sure that we were the last tent still standing, and old rally tradition of mine that we just happened to resurrect. First on and last off, seems fair! One of the Valais club members, Jean-Maurice, had offered to take us back to his house for lunch, and very patiently waited till we’d finally finished packing and were ready for the off at the crack of 1pm.

Still waiting...

He wanted to show us some of the roads which we had missed from the ride the day before, so took the scenic route up some amazing hairpins to Lac de Champex and back round again to his small village near Verbier. Absolutely beautiful, and an interesting challenge with fully loaded bikes, even with the hints on how best to handle the hairpins that he gave us beforehand.

Yes, the water was very cold!

After a wonderful 30-odd mile ride, we came to his house and were welcomed in by his family. Veronique, Jean-Maurice’s wife, who was originally from Mauritius, had prepared a delicious Mauritian dinner which we all dived into after whetting our appetites on the ride.

The view from Jean-Maurice's veranda!

After we had completely stuffed ourselves, Jean-Maurice pulled out some maps of Switzerland and Italy, and we spent a happy hour or two plotting possible routes to and around Mandello del Lario, and looking at the options for heading over to the Stelvio pass.

We eventually took our leave and headed off to get the tent back up, as we’d decided to stay in Valais for a few days. Jean-Maurice had offered to take us on another tour around the region, so we’d exchanged phone numbers and he promised to call us later. Another place with so much to see and so little time to see it in, but we wanted to fit in what we could, including a day at the thermal baths that sounded so relaxing! We had spotted a small campsite by the waterfall on our way to Collonges for the rally, so went back there and got ourselves set up in just enough time before the light left us.

OK, so the road gets a bit twisty up ahead...

Jean-Maurice called to say that the weather forecast was good for the next day and then expected to rain on and off for three days after, so suggested that we postpone the trip to the baths so we could take our tour on the good day. We arranged to meet him in Martigny at 1.30pm, and, as we were nicely full of the meal we’d been treated to earlier, we decided on an early night so that we could be up at a reasonable hour the next day. Well, reasonable for us, anyway!

Tony enjoying the view

Monday saw us up, breakfasted and on our way in plenty of time. We met up with Jean-Maurice and off we went on what turned into a 70+ mile trip. We picked up a couple of J-M’s friends en-route, who we just happened to bump into, 2-up on their Very Purple BMW K100RS. They decided to join in the fun, and away we went, up hill and down dale, or should I say, up mountain and down more mountain! I had the SatNav on so we could track the trip, although I have now found out, 8 days later, that it seems the SatNav only saves the last 7 days, so it’s gone. Gutted! It was a wonderful day, though – we saw all sorts of amazing roads, fantastic vistas, and strange and wonderful things such as the rippley pyramids, which are indeed a natural formation.

Yes, they are actually a natural formation, or that's what they tell the tourists, anyway!

We stopped for a coffee break at a hotel in Nax, a small town perched on the side of, yes, you guessed it, a mountain, and at the juncture of 3 valleys. The break was very welcome to me, as I’d discovered that needing to go to the loo most definitely affected my riding when dealing with the twisty turnies, so the relief was two-fold!

Many miles later we all parted company and we headed off back to our campsite, tired but happy. We decided that we’d done enough riding for one day, so walked over to the restaurant attached to the campsite, and perused the menu. Not cheap, but that was something we’d come to expect in Switzerland, so when we spotted Chateaubriand on the menu, we decided, sod it, we’re on honeymoon, let’s push the boat out! This caused much amazement to the owners of the restaurant, who said, “But the English usually eat cheese omelettes!”. After a little light bantering, it turned out that in 28 years of running the place, this was the first time that any Angleterres had ever ordered Chateaubriand! Good to know that we continue to surprise and entertain as we go.

Camping by the waterfall

The meal was absolutely excellent, and the local wine that they recommended to accompany it was also delicious. We retired to bed fully replete once again. Happy days indeed 🙂

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All the Brits

Photo stops notwithstanding, it was an easy ride from Chamonix to Collonges, and we arrived on site at around 2pm. Other than Phil, a fellow Guzzi riding Brit, we were the first folk there other than the Valais club, who were still setting up. We were warmly greeted by Giorgio and Richard, who we’d been in contact with by email beforehand, and were the first to get our tent up so had our pick of the nice level sports pitch.

Nice inflatable, nice duck!

The rally was being held in the Couvert, a local community facility, like a village hall but with three open sides. It was filled with wooden tables and benches, and had kitchen and a bar which were being run by the club. There were also excellent toilet facilities on site, and even some communal showers. Superb. Party on!

After setting the tent up, the club were also organised and we went to book ourselves in. Richard, an ExPat Brit living in Switzerland, took our 15SF (10 Euros) entry fees, and in exchange gave us each a load of goodies, including a sticker, patch, free beer token, minature bottle of the local schnapps style hooch, and a bit of swiss chocolate. Needless to say that the chocolate and minatures didn’t last long.

Happy smiley people

The club had local beer on tap, but as I have never managed to aquire a taste for beer of any flavour, I asked what else was available. Now I’ve never thought of Switzerland as a wine producing nation, but we couldn’t help but notice the large quantities of grape vines clinging to the mountain sides in pretty little terraces whilst on our way into the valley, and it turns out that they do make wine, and do it rather well. They just tend to drink most of it themselves rather than export it, which seems fair to me! I partook of one of the local whites, a Fendant de Fully, which I liked so much that I partook of a bottle or three more than was good for me. Suffice it to say that a good night was had by all, it’s just a shame that it all gets rather fuzzy for me past about 1 or 2am! I do believe we were amongst the last still standing though, in true Tony and Sarah tradition.

Then there were two...

The next day I was somewhat the worse for wear. Definately too wobbly to go out on a challenging ride on twisty mountain roads, so we declined the offer of the organised run and went back to bed for a while after seeing the rest of the folk off. Saturday night was a much more sober affair, well for me, anyway. We had the opportunity to enjoy a local speciality, the Raclette. This was a simple affair, basically take half of a round of cheese (and they’re big rounds!), stick it under a little grill, and wait untill the top layer has melted and started bubbling. Scrape that on to a plate and add a new potato, a gherkin and a few pickled onions, then eat. Scrummy, but not desparately filling, and after a couple of these we moved on to the main event, a full platter of cheese, salami and walnut bread. A little more civilised than your standard rally burger van! A little more pricey, too, but this was Switzerland. We scoffed what we could manage, and ended up asking for a doggy bag for the substantial leftovers. The nice man at the cheese stall happily re-assembled the sliced cheese and packaged it all up beautifully for us.

Bit posher than your standard burger van!

The wine was going down a tad more slowly for me that night, so of course it was Tony’s turn to get a serious drinking head on. Several bottles of wine later we were chuffed to bits to be given a prize simply for attending the rally from the UK on our honeymoon – a huge bottle of the local brew in a presentation case along with a couple of matched glasses, oh, and a couple of beer mats too, just so we could keep things civilised. Long distance awards went to a lovely Danish chap, Sven, and Val from the UK, who had only passed her test a year and a half previously so was still on a restricted bike. The prizes were a minor challenge to work out how to transport back home, and we always love a challenge!

We managed to be some of the last to retire yet again, and eventually threw in the towel and headed for our tent at around 2am, tired but happy – a good rally indeed. Big thank you to the Moto Guzzi Valais club for making us so welcome and organising such a great event, highly recommended to all of you Guzzi riders out there!

PS This was my first ever non-UK rally, definately not my last!

Proving the Swiss have a sense of humour!

The view from our bedroom window

We awoke refreshed just in time to see a bunch of paravane parachutists enjoying themselves, swooping and swirling about in the clear mountain air above Chamonix. One tasty continental breakfast later, we were packing the bikes under a blue sky in bright sunshine and getting ready to set off. We have been so lucky with the weather.

In no time at all we were enjoying throwing the V7’s around some more twisty roads with stunning views and before we knew it we were at the Swiss border. We slowed down at the customs post, ready to be checked out, but no one appeared so we just rode on through. We were on our bikes in Switzerland!

We stopped to refuel and had a pleasant surprise as the petrol was much cheaper than in France. The prices were displayed in both Swiss Francs and Euros but my mental arithmatic quickly revealed that it was cheaper in Swiss Francs than Euros. I paid on my card and we decided to keep our eyes open for a cash machine so that we could pick up some Swiss Francs. No problem, after all this is Switzerland, renowned for it’s banks.

Near Martigny

We had a great ride and got to the town of Martigny, which was not too far from the village of Collonges where the Valais Moto Guzzi Club were having their rally. We had been looking out for a cash point on any likely bank looking type building since crossing the borderbut had failed miserably. Sarah pulled up in a layby outside the tourist information office and I went into the bank next door to try and get some Swiss Francs. As I walked in I realised why we hadn’t been able to find any cash machines: they keep them all safely inside. A few moments later I walked out much relieved, with our Swiss Francs in my hand. We were soon on our way again, destination the Moto Guzzi Rally.

Riding down the road from Martigny to Collonges, we had to pull over to admire a cascading waterfall that spewed out from halfway down a mountain. I love waterfalls, actually being around water generally, and this one was pretty spectular. A couple of photos later we were on our way again, only to halt once again by the side of the river we crossed over once we left the main road. We’d noticed when riding through the alps that one of the streams we followed was an amazing bluey-grey colour, and this was a river that was exactly the same! We had no idea whether it was because of being glacier run off or what, and later discovered that it was none other than the Rhone, so at some point we’ll do a little internet research to find out the cause.

The Midi-Pyrénées is the largest region of France, bigger than the Netherlands or Denmark, and is situated to the east of The Dordogne.

Sarah has found a small Moto Guzzi rally being run by the Valais Moto Guzzi club of Switzerland. The rally is on the weekend of the 3rd of September and is being held in a small village to the west of that famous landmark The Matterhorn. (Even I should be able to spot that!) Sarah took one look at the collection of hairpin bends that is the mountain road shown on their website and exclaimed, ‘I want to ride that!’ I took one look, totally agreed and the decision was made. Sarah emailed the club and we had a swift reply from the organiser, in English thankfully, and we were booked in. Simples! So hence the reason that we are now heading East through The Midi-PyrĂ©nĂ©es.

The guys at Camping Moto Dordogne told us about another biker campsite, Le Camping Moto, near Crest, to the south of Valence, so we decided to head for there en-route. We were also told about a web site of biker friendly accommodation called ‘A Bikers Guide to Europe’ done by a guy called Allan Wren. Check it out, it’s very good.

Mip, our SatNav, plotted a route for us that avoided all but a short section of motorway and we were sorted.

After Sarah saved my helmet

After a couple of hours riding we stopped at a layby for a short break and leg stretch. Whilst taking my jacket off I clumsily knocked my helmet off my bike onto the grass verge on the other side of my bike. I shouted as it rolled over the top edge of a grassed and wooded bank with a 100 foot drop.

The 100 foot drop

I couldn’t do anything as I was the wrong side of my bike but Sarah threw herself to the ground ([S] Ouch my knee!) and caught my helmet with the outstretched fingers of her left hand. Another two inches and it would have been out of her reach and I would have been helmetless. I ran around and grabbed my helmet and gave Sarah a great big kiss for saving the day. Note to self – Always put your helmet on the ground as soon as you take it off. Thought to self – Why do these things always happen to me? Answer to self – To help you to learn and it sure stops life from being boring!

Hostellerie de Fontanges

We kept on going until we were quite tired, and then with Mip’s help we found the Hostellerie de Fontanges. We didn’t realise that it was a Chateau until we got there and thought that it would be way over our budget. Imaging our surprise when we found out that it was only ten euros more expensive than the Campanile that we had stayed in at Mont Saint Aignan near to Rouen ([S] so only marginally over budget!). The staff were not at all phased by two dusty bikers turning up and let us park our bikes in the courtyard.

Bike only parking at the Chateau

They gave us a lovely room with a wonderful deep bath that we threw ourselves into to soak away the stiffness caused by our muscles adapting to riding so much. After a meal on the terrace overlooking Onlet-le-Chateau we slept in a lovely real bed. It is amazing how over a week of sleeping on an inflatable mat can make you appreciate some of life’s more simple pleasures!