ACTIVE 4X4 ADVENTURES
Alps 4X4 Tour - full 10 day itinerary described
We meet at a charming campsite located on the banks of the River Arc in Lanslebourg, for a welcoming burger BBQ, and introductory briefing to the 10 day tour which lies ahead of us...
Day 1: We depart the campsite following breakfast and within a few minutes we leave the tarmac onto an uphill mountain track through Pine forests. We pull over and deflate our tyres (20psi front and 25psi rear) to ensure maximum traction, puncture resistance and improved handling on the bumpy tracks. Following an exciting traversal of the mountains, we descend towards the turquoise Lac du Mont Cenis, where we stop to marvel at the breathtaking views, sparkling Alpine wildflowers and the occasional marmot, scrambling back to its burrow. We proceed along the winding gravel tracks and before long find ourselves negotiating an ancient Roman road, also used by Hannibal during his exploits in the Alps. Midday finds us at a picnic area in the shade of a stand of Chestnut trees, enjoying a refreshing lunch of cold meats, mixed salads and fresh baguettes. From there we head off towards one of Europe’s most majestic 4X4 routes; the Col del Le Finistre, a truly exhilarating off-road driving experience, through the most impressive mountain scenery imaginable. By late afternoon we are exploring yet another sensational series of mountain trails; the famous Strada del Assieta, where we are able to set up our first wild camp, in the splendid isolation of the natural wilderness, adjacent to some Larch forests. Dinner is served at 7pm, comprising of a homemade hearty beef and vegetable stew with rice, followed by filter coffee and dessert. ACTIVE 4X4 ADVENTURES are uniquely characterised by the delicious gourmet meals served throughout.
Day 2: Following breakfast at our wild camp, we continue along the delightful Strada del Assieta to its conclusion at the bustling ski town of Sestrierre, where we pause for a walk around and maybe a little shopping. After a short road drive featuring beautiful natural scenery, we take a turn onto the next mountain track, which leads us up to the Lago Nero, or Black Lake, a wonderful feature located in a striking setting, perfect for our leisurely lunch stop, and an opportunity to get wet for those who don’t mind cold water. After lunch the track continues up the mountains, becoming a little steeper and slightly more technically challenging. Nothing too hairy, but definitely a low range application. A few pleasant hours of adventuring later, we are back on the tarmac for a quick drive to our campsite. And what a lovely campsite it is, perfectly situated in the shade of a scented Pine forest on the edge of the River Durance, and boasting its own swimming pool for a late afternoon splash around before dinner. Last night featured a casserole meal, which means it’s a BBQ tonight. A proper charcoal braai that is, which will be loaded up with ribs, steaks, chicken breasts, or whatever else is on the menu.
Day 3: No need to start the cars this morning, because we are going river rafting! And our setoff point is just a short walk from the campsite, on France’s longest river, the Durance. We pass a fantastic morning on the river, including a stop-off on a small island, where we roast marshmallows over a fire for our mid-morning snack. The rafting includes a few minor rapids which add to the excitement, but there is no white water as such, so is suitable even for children as young as 6 years. After lunch at the campsite, our adventure proceeds to an afternoon of outstanding off-road driving through Larch forests in the mountains. We finish the day at fabulous campsite, located amongst stunning hardwood forests, and also having its own swimming pool. With another fantastic casserole dinner to look forward to, what a great way to end a great day. Nonstop adventure action from morning till night, using our 4X4’s gently and respectfully to access and appreciate the wilderness.
Day 4: We are back onto the mountain tracks just a few brief minutes out of our campsite, buzzing with anticipation of what comes next. The first 3 days have been excellent, setting a very high standard of exceptional experiences. From the unsurpassed beauty of the natural environment, to thoroughly enjoyable moderately challenging tracks, to exciting adventure activities, consistently high quality gourmet meals and wonderful rustic campsites. What next? The answer comes quickly enough, with yet more fabulous off-road driving, culminating in a view to knock your socks off – we are standing on a rocky precipice, thousands of meters high, overlooking an enormous valley created over millennia by the gradual effects of glacial erosion. This is a moment to behold, and if you have not already been blown away by the majesty of the natural environment in these parts, you will be here. Suitable mesmerised, we wrench ourselves away and carry on driving to the valley below, where we stop for lunch. It could be tuna mayo, it could be a pasta salad, it could be hotdogs, you’ll have to wait and see. For sure it will include the delicious freshly baked local bread, and fruit of the season. There is more off-road driving in the afternoon, up and out of the valley and over the mountains ahead. The tracks are consistently enjoyable and the scenery is consistently spectacular. We reach our campsite in the late afternoon, which although lacking a swimming pool, is a little gem of a place, run by a very friendly elderly couple, who really go out of their way to make us welcome. Later, gramps can’t believe his eyes when he sees our group of 12 feasting on charcoal grilled rib-eye steaks, accompanied by mashed potato, classic 3 bean salad and mixed greens, followed by filter coffee and dessert. Mon Dieu! These British campers in their 4X4’s certainly know how to eat in style. Who says you have to eat tinned food when you camp? Not on an ACTIVE 4X4 ADVENTURE!
Day 5: We bid farewell to Madam et Monsieur after a slow breakfast and head off once more, for another fun filled day of 4X4 action, through the giant adventure playground that is overlanding through the Alps. More of the same today, culminating in an early stop at a campsite right on the edge of Lac de Serre Poncon, featuring vast pebble beaches and water warm enough for an afternoon of sunbathing and swimming. Some rest and relaxation before the most exciting adventure activity which awaits us tomorrow morning… You’ve heard of the Tunnel du Parpaillon, haven’t you? And the gnarly 14km track which leads up to it? And you must surely have heard of the even gnarlier descent on the other side? No? Well read on, and get ready to experience a very different kind of off-road adventure action. A clue – you will be travelling much closer to the ground!
Day 6: Another beautiful morning precedes the activity everyone has been looking forward to. Breakfast is dispensed with quickly, all the better to get going, so we get in the cars and head up to the mountain village from where the activity sets off. Once there, we pile into a couple of old 4X4’s, one towing a large but lightweight aluminium frame trailer. The sort you would see transporting rowing sculls, surf ski’s or the like. But it is not carrying either of those. What it is carrying though, are specially designed, robustly constructed, large wheeled, oversized, all terrain down-hill scooters! Each of us is issued with one of these adrenaline-machines and, following a brief instruction and safety talk, we are set loose to make our way back down the mountain at our own preferred pace. 14km of rough mountain track await, to be tackled slowly and steadily, or flat out if you so desire. This is a cracking adventure activity, not widely available, and one would be hard pressed to find a more enticing environment in which to experience it. Absolutely awesome is no exaggeration here. Many remark on how good it would be to drive up the track they’ve just scootered. Well, after lunch at the bottom, that’s exactly what we do. Not just drive up the track to the tunnel, but continue through it, and down the equally impressive track on the other side. Finishing in the sprawling valley below, where we set up along the river, for our second night of wild camping in the wilderness.
Day 7: The tracks continue the next day, up hill and down dale, all the while traversing what surely must be some of the most beautiful natural terrain to be found anywhere in the west of Europe. Just challenging enough to be exciting without damaging, there is inevitably a surprise waiting around every bend, and the bends are plentiful. Whether you have come for the scenery, the driving, the food or the activities; as an intrepid adventure traveller you will not be disappointed. Guaranteed. Today’s tracks are at times steep and winding, at times rocky and technical, and with never a dull moment. We follow along the Ubaye River, through the Mercantour National Park to the Lac des Sagnes, where we stop for lunch and then spend some time hiking up to the impressive waterfall nearby. Our campsite for the night is located on the outskirts of Jausiers, an interesting town worthy of an evening perusal, with ample opportunity to enjoy the local beverages for those who are thirsty.
Day 8: We spend a couple of hours driving on the road, but not any road as we know it. This is the legendary Col de la Bonnette, the highest surfaced road in Europe and infamous quadriceps killer of the Tour de France. We exceed 2,800m elevation at the top, and the reduction in oxygen is evident by its effect on the vehicles, puffing and spluttering.Not to mention the spontaneously exploding bags of crisps, which have caught many by surprise. We descend slowly via the rocky tracks of the Mercantour National Park, following the River Tinee towards St Etienne, where we stop for lunch.The afternoon’s tracks pass right by an enormous waterfall, plunging down a gully adjacent to the track and where, if you neglect to close you windows, you will get a refreshing shower as you pass. Further spectacular off-road driving follows and later in the day we head uphill again into the mountains, seemingly into the clouds, for another very special night of camping out. This time in the Val Cavera, and not far from the numerous old military forts, always an attraction. There is plenty of opportunity for those who enjoy hiking to indulge in a bracing evening walk up the mountain ridge.