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250. Over the Top

16/06/2016

Yesterday was pleasant weather and pleasant scenery.

Today everything – weather and scenery – was amazingly dramatic.

But the first excitement of the day was a text from Sue saying that we’d had a message of encouragement from no less than Chris Evans on Radio 2. How cool is that?

As soon as we left Macon, the ground started to rise, and soon we were up into the Juras. The weather at this point was pretty good, with a mixture of sunshine and cloud. There was a tunnel, and then we were down the other side.

And very shortly after, the climb to the Alps began, and this was the first time the Hilux was put to the test. We dropped to 45mph at one point, with the pedal to the metal, but there was never any doubt we’d make it up, and steadily, we did.

2016-06-16 mountains

Then upwards and upwards, and the scenery became ever more dramatic, high snow-capped mountains appearing between the ragged clouds that periodically threw rain at us.

There was a series of shorter tunnels with some breathtaking viaducts sweeping round the hillsides and then a final series of hairpin bends leading up to the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel.

 

2016-06-16 viaduct

There were two queues to the peage, one marked BUS, the other VL. The lorries were queuing in the BUS queue, and when we saw a caravan heading up the VL side, we followed suit. When we got to the booth, the nice lady asked how tall the trailer was. I said 3m, and she took out her measuring stick. Of course it depends how level the ground is, and in this case it indicated about 25mm more, but she let us through anyway. The tunnel itself was shorter than we’d expected, but still very, very long, and we popped out the other side in Italy, and our eyes popped out with the view, which showed vertiginous mountainsides, and a pretty town nestling in the valley between. The descent on the Italian side was more even than on the French, but most of it was enclosed in tunnels, so we didn’t get much of the view, and we kept to 45mph on the downhill part to eliminate any possibility of the trailer snaking.

Once on the level we got along fine, and it’s more or less a straight route to Milan. We stopped at a service station to change drivers, have lunch and top up the fuel. Lunch was fine, but having followed directions to the caravan park, we could only gain access to the lorry pumps and it wasn’t clear how to work them. And of course no way to go back to the car pumps. Still, there was still a good bit in the tank, so we headed off, expecting to find another service area on the autostrada, but when we checked Google Navigate seemed to think the nearest was at least an hour away, and the fuel indicator dropped almost instantly to near zero. So we turned off the autostrada to see if we could find a local petrol station. As we headed into town, we found a little local AGIP station, and were even served by a very nice lady. I can’t remember when I last came across fuel with an attendant, let alone such a nice one.

When we looked at the range indication on the Hilux, it said exactly zero…

After that it was fairly straightforward to get to the hotel on the Milan ring road, and we were booking in by 1600. Very civilised!

 

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