Baisse d'Ourne, Col de Tende - Fort de la Marguerie, Fort Central

A 6 minute read, Posted by Dan on Thu, Aug 2, 2012
In Col De Tende, Wild Camping
Tags france, italy, overland, wild camping

Yesterday morning we woke at our Campsite in Barolo in Italy early, the plan was to get to Tende in France, stock up on supplies at the super market, fill up with diesel, grab some petrol for the stove and head up to Col de Tende. We did fairly well and managed to have breakfast, coffee and pack up to be on the road by 0920 hours.

Tunnel de Tende

We took the minor back roads from Barolo to enter France via the Tunnel de Tende, on the SS20/N204. The tunnel was interesting in that it was only open one way at a time. We arrived at the back end of a line going our way, so decided to stop at the restaurant by the tunnel for a coffee and a pastry. That also gave us the opportunity to investigate the oil pressure light that was coming on in the in-laws car. We found nothing that would explain the light... Kicking the tyres did the trick thou.

Tende is a picturesque town, that has houses perched on top of one another, we found a supermarket on the main drag, which was conveniently located next to a souvenir shop followed by a cafe. After getting supplies we made a pitch at the cafe for a light refreshment.

Tende town centre

We managed to get diesel just south of Tende, while filling up we met a local driving an old Toyota Land Cruiser, 80 series I think, who we got chatting to about the tracks on the surrounding mountains. He gave us the low down and a few decent pointers including telling us about some closures due to land slides etc.

Armed with this new info we headed back towards Tende, where we planned to pick up the road Chemin Des Spegi towards Gite d'Etape which we entered through some sleepy back streets of the town, we then planned to continue up to eventually camp near or at Fort de la Marguerie.

Colla Megiana

The assent to Gite d'Etape was slow it took about an hour to get to the top, most of the corners required at least a three point turn, in a 110 Defender. There seemed to be a never ending flow of hair pin bends. Chemin Des Spegi eventually turns into Chemin Muletier Des Spegi.

The roads up the mountain are gravel, which is a welcome change after about a thousand miles on Tarmac since leaving the UK.

The surroundings are initially sparse coniferous forest and dry grey rock. The forest eventually gives way to open rocky, green vast land scapes. Occasionally the roads are fringed by sections of granite wall, some with vast sheer drops. It is very easy to imagine military vehicles on the roads. Meeting one on the assent would certainly make for an interesting manuvoure.

On the way up we noticed that the in-laws car was starting to over heat and loose a bit of coolant from the expansion tank. It appeared the low range work and slow speeds were not allowing the engine to keep cool, we noticed that the car was missing it's thermostat. This it would seem, was a good time to have lunch, we managed to find a spot were we could put the cars into the wind, top up the coolant and have a nice shady lunch, near the turning for Colla Megiana. After the break we never did see the temperature of the Pajero rise again. Apart from the missing thermostat I wonder if there was an airlock or something in the system after the major service and the radiator flush we had just before departing on the trip.

Recovery Time

We continued after lunch towards the fort along Route Stratégique Du Col de L'agnéllino. We had originally planned to do a longer route to the fort, but during the day we lost a fair amount of time. With time now cracking on and it being after three we decided to go for the shorter option, so at Baisse de Peyrafique we kept to the right. We had originally planned to go left and do a loop via Mount Paracouerta.

Keeping to the shorter route kept us on Route Stratégique Du Col de L'agnéllino, this took us along spectacular gravel road all the way to our camp at the Fort.

We arrived at the Fort to find another nice Landy from Germany pearched just where I had planned to camp, with the view you could hardly blame them. I had a look there was still room for us, so decided to ask if they would mind us joining them. They were fine with that, I guess they had no choice really, but I asked anyhow.

View from CampCamping spot next to the Fort Walls

I actually felt sorry for them, it was very pieceful before we arrived, at least we could not destroy there view!

We manoeuvred the vehicles in to position then, set our selves up for the night. It was still light enought to allow us to go and explore the fort.

Coming from the UK it was surprising that we were able to roam freely in the fort. It is clear that some do not respect the fort as much as we did, there was plenty of graphitti and rubbish inside the fort. We spent about an hour looking around.

Is it spooky?Proud of her self!Room 44On top of the fortFrom the draw bridge to the court yardThe draw bridgeOur camp site


The view from the camp was super. Stretching towards the Italian border and Fort Central, we could also see Tende far below and Fort Tabourde and Fort Pepin in the distance, giving an appetiser for what would be comming in the morning.

For dinner we had a simple vegetable pasta, lots of beer and kept warm as the sun disappeared over the mountains.

Simple dinner

Using the binoculars we were able to spy on the sheep and a lone hand gliding camper at Fort Central.

We decided to take an early night, but... At about 2300 we were woken by a load rusling and a bit of a commotion, we had made a "school-boy" error. We left the rubbish out in a black bag. This of course had been found by a fox who seemed a bit brave for the wild. Needless to say, our rubbish was everywhere and I was running round in my boxers chasing the rubbish and the fox! Half way down a mountain freezing in boxers is something I will always remember.

While we are on the subject of rubbish. I personally found it really appalling that the land scape was scarred with toilet paper and other rubbish. If you take a dump, take the paper with you and be considerate where you dump. As they say take only photos and leave nothing but a foot print.

Anyhow once we had delt with the rubbish and the fox, if was off to sleep for a pleasant but cold night.

Fort Central

We woke to a spectacular view. After breakfast and coffee, we packed up and headed towards fort central. It was surprising again for us to be able to look around. We spent about an hour scouting around and then explored the track towards Fort Pepin. We found that the track was closed due to a land slide, apparently the local authorities do not have the budget to restore it.

After coming to a dead end we headed down to Tende via another thousand hair pin bends, where we used the local pool for a shower and a very pleasant swim. We also got a few more supplies.

Sentry PostIt's hereFort WallsLooking back to The fortGun pointsInner buildingsLooking up from a lower floorDriving through

I have uploaded the GPS track, if you would like to get a copy please click here.

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