I unzipped the opening of our tent and let the morning sun flood inside. We both peered outside and marveled at the mountain peaks guarding us like giant rock sentinels. Our previous day’s efforts, of riding the challenging 5.3 miles (8.5 kms) military road, had paid off with one of the best wild campsites we’ve ever experienced in Europe!

We were feeling quite accomplished for getting our motorcycles to such a remote place despite the challenges we overcame, however those feelings of accomplishment quickly faded as we cast our eyes on a group of hikers traversing the steep mountain trail.

One of the hikers was in a one-wheeled chair and the other two were guiding him up the rocky trail. As they passed above the fort walls of our campsite, we gave them a friendly wave. The wheeled hiker returned our wave with a tremendously huge smile and the friendliest wave you could imagine.

We quickly packed some hiking gear, water packs, and followed them up the mountain. We had to know their story.

It turns out that the wheeled chair is a French invention called the Joëlette that allows people with reduced mobility or a disability to go on hiking excursions with the help of two guides. The guides were mostly volunteers from medical school who were spending their summer helping the disabled during a week long hike of the French Alps.

The animal version of our G650GS motorcycles.

It was so inspiring to see the joy of these people experiencing the beauty of a mountain trail because of the selfless love, dedication, and determination of the volunteers. It was incredibly inspiring!

We continued our hike up the steep trail to the ruins of Fort de Viraysse. This fortification was built in 1888 to defend France against an invasion from Italy, and is one of the highest military posts in France at 2,772 meters (9,090 ft).

The scenery from this height are pretty stunning, offering views of the valley, and the ruins of the walled barracks that I renamed “Overlander’s Camp”.

The peak to the northwest had a group of French rock climbers who were making the ascent to the very top. To the east, you could clearly see the many mountain peaks of the Italian Alps.

On our way back to Overlander’s Camp, we came across a flock of sheep, apparently owned by “AL”, who were busily eating the small bushels of grass that grew among the sharp rocks of this harsh environment. The sheep would hurry away from us as we neared, however there was one small red goat who seemed to enjoy our company.

He let us pet him, rub his neck, and even posed for us while eating a thistle bush. Goats seem to eat anything!

As much as we were enjoying ourselves in this wonderful campsite and valley of the sentinels, we felt like we needed to continue. There were still a lot of places we wanted to discover in the next country of Italy.

We packed our tent and camping gear and, a bit reluctantly, said goodby to Overlander’s Camp as we descended the rocky trail.

One of the nicer sections of the trail

Chantil and I both prefer riding up steep and rocky terrain compared to descending. When climbing you can control your speed much easier with just the throttle and clutch, and the consequences of falling don’t seem to be as severe. When descending you have to effectively use the throttle, clutch, and both brakes which is more challenging, especially when standing on the foot pegs. Gravity is also doing its job of pulling you down the trail faster than your comfort level.

It wasn’t pretty, but we managed to get both of our “pack mules” down the military road and onto pavement to continue the next leg of our motorcycle adventure.

Entering the Piedmont Region of Northern Italy
372 km (231 miles) of riding from French/Italy border to Lake Como

Crossing the border from France to Italy was as simple as riding over Colle della Maddalena Pass and noticing a blue euro sign on the side of the road reading “ITALIA”. We were in Italy! Gotta’ love open borders!

Turin, Italy

Our only reason for stopping in Turin was to see another Trash Animal by environmental artist Bordalo II. We arrived at a nearby park where we left the mules, and walked to the area of the mural.

Along the way we enjoyed the Fontana dei 12 Mesi (Fountain of the 12 Months) and the Monumento ad Amedeo di Savoia (Monument to Amedeo of Savoy). The monument was built in the 19th century to celebrate the youngest son of King Vittorio Emanuel II, the first King of Italy. Amedeo served in the military and took part in the wars of independence with Austria. Later in his life, he was even the King of Spain for a short and tumultuous time after the Spanish Revolution of 1868.

A Bear Made of Trash

Chantil and I enjoy walking around cities and discovering various street art and murals. Europe has a thriving street art scene and we’ve come to know many artists who have created works all over Europe. Bordalo II is one of our favorites! He creates these amazing animal murals from discarded plastic and metal trash.

Part of the enjoyment of seeing his murals in person is looking at all the details and determining what kinds of trash were used in his design.

This area of Turin is also home to some other murals that we found to be interesting.

I thought the interactive piece titled Before I die… to be pretty interesting. Some of the things people wanted to do before they died were telling of the times like “Survive COVID-19”!

Although we didn’t have any chalk to add our goals, we took a picture and later added it via Photoshop, “Travel the world via motorcycle.” Who knows if we’ll achieve this goal, but at least we’ll enjoy the journey along the way.

During our short walk back to the mules, we came across some smaller murals including this neon sign, a chair attached to the side of the wall that produced an interesting shadow,…

…a colorful apartment building, and even some discarded beer bottles that captured my camera’s eye.

The remainder of the day was spent riding the backroads towards our next destination along the shores of Lake Como.

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Join us next post as we marvel at the beauty of Villa del Balbianello and learn about Count Guido Monzino, the famous Italian explorer.

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20-21 Aug 2020

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