A few years ago, if Andy had suggested watching the sunrise from the summit of Mont Ventoux, I would have worked out how long it would take us to drive there, set an alarm and enjoyed the drive across and up the mountain.
But that was a few years ago and things change. So a couple of evenings ago when we started chatting about heading up to watch the sunrise, the whole conversation was around how long it would take to cycle up from Sault and where we could get head-torches from to light the way.
So often we chat about doing something and never quite get round to doing it as life gets in the way, but this time the boys aren’t with us and we had no reason not to do it, so the suggestion quickly became a plan. As it would be a full moon, with good weather (and very light winds) we decided to do it sooner rather than later, so last night the bikes were loaded into the car and we set the alarm for 2.15 this morning.
There’s something so exciting about getting up in the early hours like that, it somehow throws me back into the excitement of travelling during the night on childhood holidays, so I bounced out of bed, threw on my cycle kit and packed our last bits of kit, whilst Andy gave Millie a quick walk.
The drive across the Saint Christol Plateau to Sault was beautiful with the lavender fields just visible by the light of the full moon and Deer, Foxes and Wild Boars being caught, looking surprised in the headlights.
Unloading the car at Sault, we almost felt like naughty teenagers, trying not to wake the neighbours as we giggled about what we were doing, whilst tying our warm clothing around the handlebars and clipping in to ride off.
Needless to say (as this was a bit of last-minute planning), we had no winter cycling kit with us, so had cobbled together a motley collection of jackets, fleeces and leggings which meant we didn’t really look the part as we started to head off along the road that leads towards the mountain.
It felt so different to be on the mountain in the dark, totally alone without the usual trail of cyclists passing in both directions and no cars either … The most perfect cycle path.
The only light came from our head-torches and the bright full-moon……
And the only sound came from the rustling of leaves and snapping of sticks as unseen animals dashed out of sight into the woodland as we continued to climb.
Even though it was chilly, we soon warmed up on the climb and wrapped yet more of our layers around the handlebars, climbing in just short-sleeved jerseys and shorts. What was strange though was that every so often, for no apparent reason we would hit a patch of warm air that would last a few hundred metres, before it turned chillier again….
Once we passed Chalet Reynard we started to see the skies behind us becoming lighter and taking on the apricot tones of the approaching dawn. Although we knew we still had an hour to get to the summit before sunrise at 6.12 am., it was hard not to panic that we might miss it having come all this way……
So we continued on, watching the colours on the mountain shift from dark greys and browns ….
To paler tones as the early light started to move across the sky….
The view into the valley, back towards The Luberon was incredible, with the small towns and villages lit up, twinkling below us as we watched the summit get closer with every turn of the pedals…..
Reaching the Col Des Tempetes I was stopped dead in my tracks by the view (although to be honest by this point I was very happy to have a stop!). The view across the layers of blue mountains towards the distant rocky mountain tops, set against an orange sky was utterly stunning …. To be honest there is no photo that could ever really do it justice….
The final few hundred metres to the summit passed in a blur of colour and excitement that we would actually make it to the top with about 15 minutes to spare before the sun poked its face over the distant ridge…..
I must admit that as I turned the last corner and rode past the sign marking the summit, the view brought tears to my eyes. I knew it would be spectacular, but what I saw outstripped any preconceived ideas of what it would be like, happily there was a small group of cyclists who captured the moment for us (as we captured it for them)
All that was left was to pile on the layers we had brought with us (as the pre-dawn chill was quickly getting into our bones) and watch the sun start its progress into the sky above us…..
We were transfixed by the sight…..
Utterly, utterly stunning….
Certainly worth the early start and every turn of the pedal…..
Even the view away from the sunrise was spectacular, as the light threw an enormous shadow of the mountain across the valley below ……
Of course we made the most of the peace and quiet, especially once we had the summit to ourselves after the other cyclists started to ride back down the mountain, leaving us to enjoy the solitude.
I can’t imagine that there are many other times of the day in late July that you can just wander up and pop your bike against the Summit post to take a photo….
Or take a selfie in front of the landmark tower, with hardly anyone else in sight….
Eventually though, with the sun now high above the horizon, we decided it was time to go and started the descent back down the mountain towards Sault, well wrapped-up in our layers against the unexpectedly cold morning air (certainly much lower than the expected 14 degrees)
As always the ride back down was an absolute delight, watching the sunlight move across the hillside, whilst the birds started their early-morning chatter…..
We did snigger though as we started to see cyclists heading off up the mountain for their early ride, smart in their matching cycle kit, smiling at us and probably wondering what on earth these two grinning idiots dressed in a mish-mash of tracksuit bottoms and fleeces were doing weaving their way back down the road at just before 7 am….. we were so happy!!
Then back down through the Lavender Fields……
…..their scent rising in the early-morning light……
…. And the air filled with the sound of bees, busy around the acres of flowers…
And finally back into Sault for a much-needed and well-earned breakfast
And a quick wander around the wonderful Wednesday morning market A visit to Sault on Market Day
Before finally heading back to the house and a rest ….. all home by 10.30 am after a full day (or probably more precisely, night) of excitement …..
I have a feeling though that it won’t be the last time we head up to watch the incredible palette of colours that comes with watching the sun rise from the summit of Mont Ventoux
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