… right. Temperature on the littoral 36 centigrades. Sun like lead (odd piece of metaphore, but there you have it). 1½ hours drive up in the Tinée valley, at c. 2000 meters, temperature has dropped to 24, and it feels even a wee bit chilly if you can believe it. Isola 2000 is a winter alpine ski station, the centre having that slight delapidation that is so often the case with these resorts – also the desperate search for summer activities that could make the pace attractive (and make money) to (from) tourists outside its normal season. Sometimes you get a bit of ”The Shining” feel when walking arround the corridors, looking for a toilett (hot water isn’t working, but the place has been cleaned according to a sign on the wall).
So, get on the boots, the backpack, drink some water, set the GPS tracker in the smart phone, and off we go.
Tête-Mercière is the hike for today, a steepish ascent of 500 meters to the top of the said mountain, then down on the other side and back to Isola 2000. We start by crossing a bridge into a wood, larch mostly, with birds that totally neglect to let themselves be identified. Bother. As we cross ski pistes, Christina points out her favorites from previous winters. The forest opens up, and the view becomes breathtaking … What you find relating to human activities up here is mostly ruins of old military installations from the time when this was Italy and the hereditary enemy was France, unbelievable as that may seem today. Still, used to be the truth and, in fact, from the Valois kings of the Middle Ages up until and including Napoleon Bonaparte, French monarchs did more than wishful thinking concerning parts of Italy they considered would be better off under French administration. Never succeeded for any length of time, though.
Up here, the wind is definitely chilling, though not in an unpleasant way, as long as you keep moving. Up here you will see small groups of Alpine choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus), Alpine swift (Apus melba), and raven (Corvus corax). We have reached what appears a grass clad slope, with indications of sheep passing by (don’t step in it).
Time for a break. In the shelter of the mountain station of an old military cable car, we sit down for lunch: goat’s cheese, olives, bread, dried abricots, and water. We are now already descending, our current altitude is c 2 400 above sea level. Enjoying the smell of herbs, thyme, grass …
We descend and the grasslands turn into rocky scree. Lots of other hikers here, and temperature on the rise as we are now sheltered by the surrounding mountains. We have passed not far from here previously and we find the balise 91 which we completely missed when we passed a couple of weeks ago. However, this time we are unable to find the balise 90 and descend through some wetlands – better luck next time …
Mineral water and sallad in a small bar, then back home to our little corner (not’ p’tit coin).