For our last day in Mercantour we drove to Col de la Cayolle, a high mountain pass, for a grand finale. Vast views, flowering meadows, turquoise lakes, you name it!

This pass was higher up than the area around Villeplane where we had been walking until now, so the landscape looked quite different and everyone walked with extra energy. There were no trees here, only grass and a few low shrubs, and bare rocks in many areas.

And marmots. When we saw the first one we were all excited and crowded each other to get a glimpse. By the time we had our fifth (or whatever) marmot encounter, it felt rather ordinary.

The notes for this walk said it would be 12 km which we judged to be definitely too much for the kids, especially since a few walks have turned out to be longer in reality than on paper. But for once the numbers seemed to be too high. When we had walked about a third of the way and looked at the time, we decided that we would be able to do all of it, especially since the 2nd half was generally gently downhill.

Which was all very good, except we had gotten a late start (letting Adrian sleep in so he’d be well rested for our long hike) so we got caught out by an afternoon thunderstorm on our way down. First some rain, then a pause, then some more rain, then thunder and a torrential downpour mixed with hailstones as large as the tip of my little finger. Luckily the actual thunder and lightning was clearly and definitely on the other side of the mountain so we didn’t have to worry about getting hit. But we had hail hitting us so hard that it actually hurt even through a rain coat; so much rain and hail that we were wading through deep icy puddles towards the end. And that continued for roughly an hour I believe.

That whole last section is a blur in my memories; I remember green views and paths that resembled piles of kids’ building blocks, which I would really have enjoyed otherwise. But mostly I just remember all of us running to get back to the car as fast as possible; in the end I was running while carrying Adrian to protect him from the hail. Fortunately the path was stable and not slippery so nobody fell, but we all got very wet. Yet another one of those experiences that was pretty miserable while we experienced it, but that we can afterwards remember as a bit of an adventure.

A thunderstorm is approaching