After passing over Col Agnel, our first mountain pass, we sped down in to the valley, keenly looking out for our next mountain. But in the Alps there is no shortage of mountains, and we had a lot of trouble picking out Col D’Izourd from the peaks around us. That didn’t stop Grace trying!

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After a massive climb that day, and a pretty long downhill run, two hungry cyclists rewarded themselves with a nice hotel and a very fine French meal, on the base of Col D’Izourd.

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A good meal and a nice rest, although desperately needed, didn’t make the mountain go away. In 2011, the Tour de France crossed Col D’Izourd, so the road was covered with slogans written in paint, encouraging various teams to “Go go go” or “Allez!”. We pretended we were in the Tour, with our friends cheering us on. Unfortunately, we would have come last, after the tortoise. We made it up by lunchtime, and without any performance enhancing drugs!

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A highlight of Col D’Izourd is the Casse Desert, a barren scree slope which must be crossed. The road cuts through what looks like an incredibly unstable cliff of broken stones, but actually when you get there you realise it’s a pretty solid road. We were glad for the modern engineering efforts, crossing this pass a century ago would have been quite a frightening experience.

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After getting to the top, a few hundred metres down the road is the Napoleon Refuge Col D’Izourd, one of many such refuges in the Alps. It was on this side of the mountain that Grace had lived for several months back in 2007 filming Audrey of the Alps. So this return to the mountain was a highlight for her. We were hoping the shepherd (not Audrey) would still be on the mountain, and had hoped we would be able to stay at the Refuge Napoleon for the night.

Alas, when we arrived at the refuge they were quick to tell us that they were closed. Yesterday had been their last day for the season and they were cleaning the place out. Grace pulled out her magic DVD, found the woman who ran the place, and gave it to her. Suddenly the doors were open to us, she remembered Grace as the Australian with the camera. We were invited in to have a cup of hot chocolate (which Grace had been assuring David was the best thing to drink on the top of the mountain), and exchanged all sorts of stories.

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After some time, we decided we had better go and find the shepherd. So we continued down the mountain a little further, turned off the road to the shepherds hut, and found the new shepherd, Julian, guiding his sheep. After listening to our story, Julian invited us to stay with him for the night in the cabin. We left him to herd and sat down to make our lunch. Unlike Audrey, Julian had bought a donkey with him. The donkey seemed more inclined to come for lunch than to walk around with a bunch of sheep.

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That night, the refuge was having their closing party and Julian invited us to attend the party with him. He drove us across the rocky mountain pathway with his bright blue old 2CV. The start of a very rowdy night, with all the refuge workers and their families letting off steam after months of hard work over the summer. French style. A lot of drinking. After cycling up two mountains in two days it was hard work partying to all hours, though everyone was lovely and we had a lot of fun. At around 2am we left the drunken party folk to walk back down to the cabin, after a ride with Julian in his car while he was sober, we thought we could miss any potential lift offers going back down.

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The next day was a little difficult, but at least it was downhill!

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