seek drive climb

Simplify our lives, meet new friends, climb new crags. Go Goose Go.

Barcelona

After our week in Buoux, with the final day ending in rain, we decided it was time to move south to Spain and get to the better weather. We broke the trip up into two days again, as the Goose can only handle so much driving at a time (yes, we are still having our over-heating coolant issue; we have learned how to deal with it by driving around 80kph and always carrying coolant and distilled water with us). I found a campsite, using the ACSI website (the off-season camping card for Europe), which has proved to be quite useful when we can't find wild camping or when we know that we are going to arrive late in the evening and will have no time searching for wild camping.  The campsite was in Narbonne, a town on the southern coast of France.  Had also done a little bit of research on the town and found that on Sundays, there was a terrific food market that was a must-see for foodies, according to TripAdvisor.

Our beautiful campsite in Narbonne

Overall, Narbonne was a must-see, as the town was not even close to being on par with the small towns and cities that we had encountered during our travels. The campsite was horrible as well. Since it was off-season everything looked pretty downtrodden. i am sure that in the summer this place is bumping but in November, it was all pretty bleak. We did get our own bathroom though...strange place...

The one upside of Narbonne was the market. We headed out early and parked at the end of the outdoor market, an outdoor flea market that flooded the Quai and walked through to our true destination, the indoor food market.  Somewhat similar to the Embarcadero market (for you Bay area residents), the market had a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, patisseries and small restaurants. In the front, there is a wonderful spicery with fresh spices from all over. We even got to taste the spices prior to buying them.

Later that morning we left Narbonne and headed for straight for Barcelona. The drive took about 5.5 hours. We had a rough estimate of the address, along with some pics and a phone number, but of course, in Steve and Corinne traveling fashion, our phone minutes had expired and we didn't make sure that we knew exactly where we were going. Antonio, our Airbnb host, had not left the exact address, figuring that we were going to call or email prior to arriving.  So, knowing that in France, McD's was our internet savior, we asked Alice to find us one. We found one approximately 2 km away, but alas, no internet. Luckily for us, I found a wifi connection at the bar/pub next door, asked for the password and skyped Antonio's cell. A female voice answered, which turned out to be his ex-wife Margarita. As it had turned out, Antonio had had a heart-attack a couple of days prior. She assured me that he was going to be fine but had to stay in the hospital while we were to stay at the house but that she and her sons were going to help out and accommodate us at the house. We never got to meet Antonio, which we were looking forward to, but Margarita, her twin sons, Rafael and Santiago, Rafa's Brazilian girlfriend Daiana, live-in friend and helper, Roger, along with Antonio's 101 year old father made our stay incredibly warm, comfortable and welcoming. We highly recommend this house to anyone planning on staying in Barcelona. The house is unique and only twenty minutes from La Rambla via the green line. The rooms are spacious and inviting and the company is unforgettable. We loved it!

For our first night in Barcelona, we wanted to go out for food and see some music. After doing some research, and talking to Rafa and Santiago, we decided to head into the center and grab some fresh pasta from Tucco and then make our way over to 23 Robadors for some live flamenco. Unfortunately, it being Sunday, Tucco was closed but luckily, there was another fresh pasta restaurant a couple blocks away. The meal was delicious and inexpensive. We then headed over to the Raval district for the flamenco show. The club was tiny and we had to stand in a hallway with a small view of the singer, guitar player, dancer and percussionist. We watched two sets of the show, though the show continued long after we decided to return home. No matter what night of the week, Barcelona is active all night. At this stage of the game, I can only handle so much nightlife. We returned to Gaspatxch via the metro and began planning our big day of sightseeing.

We arose to a delicious home cooked breakfast at 9am and began our perusal through the world of Gaudi. Though I had been to Barcelona six or seven years prior, I was excited for Steve to visit all of the wonderful sites and structures Gaudi created. Our first stop was Park Guell.

Next on the agenda was La Sagarda Familia. This was perhaps the most stunning piece of architecture we saw on our travels.

Some HDR photos of the amazing interior of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

We had a pretty aggressive plan and attempted to visit both Casa Batlló and La Pedrera but when we arrived and discovered that the cost was 15-20€ per person for each site, we changed our plans. We had already spent quite a bit in the city and been to many museums throughout our trip and we felt that spending money on food was more on the agenda than spending more money on museums. So, we continued to walk toward the center and find a nice lunch place. Of course we wanted to have some recommendations for where to eat, and luckily we walked directly passed the apple store and everyone knows that the apple store is a great place to mooch wifi. We got a great recommendation via yelp to a small restaurant in the outdoor vegetable and fruit immediately off of La Rambla. Unfortunately, after twenty minutes of waiting for some seats to free up, Steve and I hit our top frustration level and had to move on. Fortuitously, there was an amazing Crepe master around the corner to supply us with the necessary sustenance that we both so desperately needed. He included spinach, goat cheese, onion, tomato, and oregano wrapped in a beautifully made crepe that was absolutely delicious (Steve had the jamon as well, the delicacy of Spain that I have had to forego during my pregnancy :( ).

After lunch we continued to walk through the maze of central Barcelona, attempting to head into the gothic area. Exhausted from all the walking, we decided to stop in a square and grab a coffee before meeting my old colleague Laura Nuñez.  Laura and I taught at Lick-Wilmerding together, we started the same year and both left two years later after realizing that theschool just wasn't the right fit for either of us.

Laura has been living in Barcelona for the past four years, working at an international IB (International Baccalaureate) school. This is her fourth international school, as most of these international school jobs last for two years and then you move on. Her previous locations have been: Mexico city, Paris and Milan. She now speaks French and Spanish fluently and additionally has a good grasp of Italian. Teaching has taking her all over but not surprisingly, she misses the bay area; she is always considering working in SF again and bay area education would be lucky to have her.

Laura took us to more of the gothic sites and introduced us to her neighborhood, where we went out for a drink to catch up and then to her local favorite tapas restaurant for dinner that was absolutely delicious.

We awoke Tuesday morning to another wonderful breakfast thanks to Rafa and Daiana. We packed up our things and began our journey to Albarracin. Our trip to Barcelona was absolutely perfect thanks to our wonderful hosts and Laura. We were sad to leave but also excited to get back to the mountains and to do some bouldering.

Daiana, Rafael, Roger and Corinne

Post from the Past : Reunited with the Goose

The following is a post lost in the annals of the blogosphere...enjoy: After our lengthy and eventful busride (a guy in in the back got busted for smuggling hash!), we arrived in Plüderhausen tired but glad to be close to home. We had told Kaddi's folks that we would be there close to 8:30pm, as our bus was originally supposed to arrive in Stuttgart at 7:30pm and we figured about an hour for our travels to Plüderhausen. BUT we didn't get in until close to 11pm and despite our incredibly tardy arrival time, as we literally threw the crashpads off the train, Erik, Kaddi's father walked toward us with a big smile and a warm welcome. Once we reached their home, Cristal, Kaddi's mom welcomed us into their home with hot mushroom soup and fresh baked bread. This welcome was indicative of our entire visit; every meal was amazing, fresh from the garden and homemade. Cristal used the Thermomix for practically every meal; this amazing invention chops, dices, blends, purees and even cooks. Unfortunately, they do not offer the Thermomix in the states. It is unfortunate as I truly think that it makes cooking easier. I may be able to get one in Canada, thus bypassing the 220 to 110 volt issue. We ended up staying with Cristal and Erik for two nights and then made our way to Geneva to go see our new friends, Stephanie and Morgan, whom we met in SA.

Though our stay in Plüderhausen was relaxing and needed, we were so excited to jump back into the Iron Goose and continue traveling the way that we originally intended. We couldn't wait to get back to our home on the road, where we are able to camp in the wild and go wherever we choose.

Reunited!

We wanted to take our time during our drive, so we decided to stop in Constance, next to Lake Constance, as recommended by Erik and Jochum, a close friend of Christy, that we also met in SA. The drive was beautiful. We arrived in Constance and a guy on a scooter gave us a thumbs up; though this was not the first thumbs up that we had received but this one turned to be a bit more significant. After parking and taking a walk toward the lake, a man came up to us and began admiring the Goose. It turned out to be the same guy that we saw earlier on the scooter. He was so excited and asked us if we needed a shower or wanted to go get a beer. He gave us his card and told us all about his Syncro group, made up of nineteen Syncros in the town of Constance. They were having a BBQ that weekend and would love for us to come and join them. We really wanted to stay but knew that we were expected in Geneva later that day. It was Friday and since Steph and Morgan work during the week, we wanted to be able to spend the weekend climbing with them, so we had to decline the invitation. We wished we had created more flexibility for ourselves so that we could begin taking advantage of these random encounters, as you never know who you are going to meet on the road when traveling in a Westy. The VW Westy community is a good one and we all tend to join together no matter where in the world we encounter one another.

Geneva: A city we could live in

Our friends Stephanie and Morgan live in the center of Geneva in a one bedroom apartment on the second ( but what they call the first) floor with their dog Tao; an expat pooch from West Virginia. Since they knew we were driving around Europe, they invited us to come see their home in Geneva while we were traveling. We knew that we loved Switzerland, having already visited the Italian and German regions, so we went visit them for some climbing in the French Alps. We arrived on Friday evening, which happens to be Aperitune night. Morgan created this get together on Friday nights, where a couple of friends head over to his house and have drinks and share music. The catch is that the music that they share must be a song that no one else has heard before. It is their way of discovering new music together. Another couple came by and we all hung out, had drinks and food and listened to music. It was a delightful way to spend the evening; it felt more like being back in SF, except for the fact that everyone was speaking French most of the time. Later that night, we headed to a concert a couple blocks away from the house. The opening band played old gypsy tunes and classic Russian, Romanian and other eastern bloc music.

Though we went to the show to see the main band, by 1am, they still hadn't come on and we were pretty exhausted (Steve was actually getting sick AGAIN) and needed to crash. We headed back to the apt, where Steph and Morgan had moved their loft bed to the floor due to my "condition", making getting in and out a little easier. So thoughtful! We were incredibly comfortable and I was truly thankful that I didn't need to make a ladder descent in the dark...

We were hoping to go climbing the next day but like many other days we have experienced here, it was going to rain, so instead, Steph and Morgan showed us around Geneva. Since it was Saturday, the city was bustling with activity. We took the metro and headed toward the lake, the central attraction in Geneva, for lunch. We ate right on the lake with a view if the Jet d'Eau Fountain, a 140 meter geyser that shoots out of the middle of the lake. You can tell that during the summer the area is packed, there are beaches, separate swimming areas with diving boards, boating areas and the like. It reminds me of Lake Tahoe in California, but perhaps a bit smaller.

On our way back to the house, we bumped into some friends of theirs who told us about some bike comp taking place in town. We had nothing else to do, so we decided to go and check it out. In the center of town, there is a large open space, where they host a variety of activities. It is next to the skate park that the city just built. The bike comp was a type of freestyle, bmx biking on different obstacle courses. These guys were pretty incredible to watch...

Later that eve, we headed over to a small Ethiopian restaurant. A food that we missed dearly. We often forget how much the bay area has to offer, especially the food; it is so easy to eat well in the bay area and boy, do we miss it! The restaurant was an everyday apartment converted into a restaurant. Morgan explained that these types of small businesses, just like their climbing gym (more on that later), are considered non-profit or small-profit, so do not fall under the same laws as normal businesses. These small businesses can operate without being taxed and are encouraged. Tt is a way for small businesses to make enough money to cover their expenses. These businesses are not looking to become bigger and more profitable, they want to remain small and cover what they need and nothing more. Dinner was absolutely delicious but of course the price tag was very different than in SF. The dinner that we ordered included a meat dish, so it probably would have cost $50 for the four of us, but alas, in Geneva it cost $68. Switzerland is quite expensive but as Morgan explained to us another day, people make more money, so in the end, it is all relative...

The next morning we headed to Chamonix to climb. What an amazing place! After taking the train to the top with a beautiful view of la mer de glace, we hiked a little ways down to do some bouldering.

F*** alpine, we're going bouldering

Morgan and some of his friends had already discovered and cleaned off a new cluster of boulders in the canyon, that included a very special compression problem that Morgan was dead set on conquering. Steve was excited to climb on the granite boulders; since most of the problems that they cleaned off were tall, 6b or above with sketchy landings, I was in charge of taking pics and watching from the sidelines. I need to be careful with little Crankenstein now, no more falling, so only easy climbing for me. With their efforts combined the boys managed to send the new compression line, an instant classic. While Steve grabbed the first ascent, it was a team effort for the beta and all the boys sent. Morgan later named the problem Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds with a mutual agreement on 7b+/7c grade. Nice work guys!

Morgan setting up to clean the new compression line

Cleaning...

The beta hunt begins

Lots of chalk is showing up

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_DRLiQpoNw&feature=youtu.be;rel=0] ..and the ascent.

Both Morgan and Stephanie had to teach on Monday, so we just hung around the house attempting to figure out insurance and other admin that we needed to accomplish prior to our return home. That night we all headed to their gym. Yes, they are part owners. It is a co-op, one of these small businesses that makes enough money to upkeep and slowly make it better and better as the years progress. It is a true training gym, not quite like Moritz's gym in Nürenberg, but it is purely for those training to get better. Steph coaches the climbing team there on Monday evenings, others coach on other nights. Monday is Morgan's night to feed everyone who is working there that night, so we all headed over there and he cooked a feast, which included huge globs of melted cheese cooked in what looked like a grill cheese sandwich maker. The idea is that you melt the cheese then drip it onto potatoes. It is somewhat similar to fondue, called raclette. Not the healthiest meal but he did include fixins for salad on the side that he had picked on his friends farm outside of Geneva. We continued to hang out there for several hours, drinking beer (of course, there is a bar) and fraternizing while people climbed and congregated throughout the night. This gym is a pretty special place; it is more like a club, they even host bands several times a year and special events that include climbing hard boulder problems as part of the activity. Everyone there drinks, smokes and enjoys, without the interference of cops or authorities. We wish there could have a place like that in SF, but it would have to be underground and in the end, would probably be busted or shut down anyway...

The world's tallest campus board

Though it rained almost everyday we were there, we attempted to get out of the house. On Tuesday, we headed to CERN, the European organization for nuclear research; it houses the largest Hadron collider. We walked through the two exhibits, read, listened and attempted to absorb as much info as we could. This is where the créme de la créme of the intellectual elites do their research. Even the internet was invented here...

Corinne and the Atom Smasher

The first WWW web server

Since Stephanie and Morgan are both math teachers, I hoped that this would be an opportunity to watch teaching in another country. Though I had planned on doing this in several places while traveling, I had yet to do so, as we were never really in places long enough for me to inquire (except for SA, where I just wanted to climb more than work). On Thursday, Stephanie set it up so that I could go and watch a class that was actually taught in English. The kids in these classes were year four, seniors, and were the best of the best, when it came to mathematics; not only were they in a top level class, a mix of Calculus and vector analysis, they were also willing to learn in English, which was NOT their native language; for most, English was their second language but for some, English was their third. The class was run as a normal lecture class, much like a college class, where they attempted to absorb as much as possible. It was a two hour class with a ten minute break in the middle. They had class four times a week. Though the teacher may have had a plan for hw, all of that changed when the students were asked how to prove that the smallest set of vectors that had certain characteristics was the null set. They guessed that the answer was null set, but when their teacher asked them to prove it, they were baffled. So, that became their homework, to prove that the null set was the smallest set. No grumbling, no arguments, they just accepted that they were to attempt to prove it. It was a pleasure to sit in on a class where kids actually enjoyed being challenged and actually, yearned for it. I realize that not all classes are as special as this one, but it does inspire me for the future.

Due to the rain, we were only able to do one more day of climbing in Geneva. On Thursday, we headed to another spot that Morgan and his friends had discovered. It was an old granite mining area, that unfortunately was too hard for me but proved to be a pretty good afternoon for Steve and Morgan...

The view from the boulders

Morgan and Steve preparing for a climb

Stephanie and Morgan were the most amazing hosts; we couldn't have asked for more. Though we were vacationing in Geneva, we also needed to complete a lot of admin...insurance, tickets back home, decisions as to where to have the baby (east coast vs. west coast), plans for shipping the van back, etc. Though we would rather not admit it, it was all a bit stressful and having a home in which to broach these decisions, made our lives so much easier. These two made it very relaxed and we can't wait until we get to see them again. In fact, we should be seeing them very soon, as they are planning on meeting us in Fontainebleau in late October. It will be great to climb with them once again...we are anxiously looking forward to their arrival.

Of course, we hope that we can return the favor when they come to climb in the states. ;)

-C

Time to spray

Epic sunrise at the camp

Rocklands has exploded over the past six years. It went from a relatively unknown far away climbing destination, to a seasonal epicenter for the world's hardest crushers to come and lay down the bouldering law. The average visitor climbs hard 7s or 8s and for the three months of the high season, climbing becomes the main topic of discussion and the primary activity of every visitor in the small farm town of Clanwilliam. Obviously this can become obnoxious as not all the climbers eat, breath and sleep the sport. Some of us try to pull down hard but would rather have fun climbing, visit with friends, and braii our brains out. However sometimes, one can't help getting caught up in the hullabaloo of hard climbing. :)

Since we were going to have close to seven weeks here, we decided that it would be best to start out very slow. We began climbing half days. That way we would save our skin and be able to enjoy getting outside and climbing most days. We both knew that rest days were key and that there was no reason to trash ourselves no matter how excited we were.

De Pakhuys campground in the evening

Resting and taking it slow worked out very well for both of us. We both came with some projects in mind. Things from the previous seasons that we had tried and wanted to complete; as well as lines we had not tried, but had inspired us before and wanted to give a shot.

Corinne and Charlie, the resident crag dog at De Pakhuys, on a rest day

We arrived mid season and it was colder than it was last year, which is both a blessing and a curse. This year our down coat and hats became a permanent part of our attire. The actual climbing was far better this year but we missed being able to chill out in the hot sun during the afternoon at the campsite. As the season progressed the temps slowly warmed up during the day and within the last weeks we managed to get a pretty nice tan. ;)

Life in Rocklands is rough

The biggest downer this season has been Steve's ability to pick up every virus that passed our way. He was sick half the time that we have been here. Something is seriously wrong with his immune system in this country. Before we got to South Africa, he hadn't been sick once, but here he was sick all of the time, which put a damper on the trip. Eventually he kicked the what we coined the Rocklands Plague and managed to get back into climbing the final weeks.

As has been the theme of our journey so far, the weather went from damp and rainy to warm over the season. When Steve wasn't sick, chances were it was raining, so the amount of climbing was less than expected in our seven weeks. That said we managed to send many of our projects, climb lines we never intended to do and Steve managed to add a number of first ascents to a few sectors around the northern Cederberg.

Corinne on Bullet Proof at Plateau

Steve knocking out Shosholoza before a hold broke this season...

Corinne sending here long term project Girl on our mind at Plateau, Photo Courtesy of Morgan Boiss

When we first arrived we met up with our good friend and Rocklands legend Scott Noy; the very man who convinced us to come back to ZA for the season during our visit in Freiburg.

Scott crushing Witness the Sickness at the de Pakhuys

Then a few weeks into our visit some of our friends from San Francisco came to Rocklands for the first time. Will Wolcott, Colin Trenter and Jen Szeto arrived in late July and joined our small troop. The psych was high and much sending ensued.

Will Up Top at Roadside

Jen and the 5 crash pad stack. Ready to send.

She used em all on Creaking Heights at Roadside.

Colin in crush mode on The Rhino

Will on Pinotage at the Sassies

After hard days of pulling on the bullet hard orange and gold sandstone we would gather back at the campsite and visit the De Pakhuys bar. Built early last season, the bar has proven itself both a blessing and a curse. It brings together the climbing community during the cold evenings for story and beta swapping. It can also turn your future climbing day into an unintentional rest day...or two.

Bar night - Scott, Val and Thys

Other evening we gather around the campfire and braii and chat; hopefully about anything but climbing. Though some nights we can avoid it and may go out for a night session with headlamps.

Our campsite in the evening

Night session on Koevoet (crowbar)

Another season in Rocklands has come to an end. The destination has gotten a lot of bad press this year because of potentially inflated grades, access complications and over crowding. While these issues hold validity and certainly need attention and discussion, I think some visitors overlook the other aspects that make this place a magical little corner of the world. It remains a special place to hike, explore, meet new friends, visit old ones and take some time to live life at a different pace. I want to give a big thanks to all the wonderful people of Clanwilliam and the hard working folks behind De Pakhuys, Alpha Excelsior, and Traveller's Rest. Without them life in the northern Cederberg would not be the same.

Cheers -Steve

A little more video spraying:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ5gFSQ8wys&rel=0]

First ascent of The Power and the Glory at Big and Roof

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShULNKKm9zA&rel=0]

First ascent of Crankenstein at 8 Day Rain

Singing, Dancing and Climbing

Near the end of our trip, Thys set up a day of climbing with some of the local kids who attend Elizabethfontaine Primary. The idea was that a group of climbers would go out with the kids, spot them and get them psyched on climbing. There was even a TV crew coming to film some of the kids with the climbers.

Our international group of climbers included Sandra and Yves from Switzerland, Kaddi from Germany, Jen Szeto and myself from the US and Marinus and Rebecca from South Africa. The kids natively spoke Afrikaans but also had a very good grasp of English, so communicating was not a problem.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0TV1FDidCU&rel=0]

Future crusher

Most of the kids hadn't climbed before but there were a couple who had been out a few times before and were quite good. But the kids were not just interested in climbing, they wanted to listen to music, sing and dance as well.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2mi1y4Bag4&rel=0]

Singing...

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA1i1g5XhIc&rel=0]

...and dancing

We hung out with them for three hours and everyone had a blast. I hope to see some of still climbing the next time I visit South Africa.

-C

The whole gang. Can you find me?

Golf Day

Exactly a week after Rockstock, de Pakhuys and other Clanwilliam businesses hosted the second annual golf day. On a beautiful Saturday, about 40 climbers decided to take a rest from the rock and compete against each other on the golf course. Our team, the PorkNeck Putans, were last year's champs and we were determined to win again. (Corinne was not part of the original team, but she and Shannon replaced Kieran, who was not in attendance this year) Paul Raad, our Lebanese/South African assigned "golfpro" was sure to win again, as he is a top-notch player and with Ricky on our team, there was no way we could lose.

"How do I do this?"

The master and his disciple

Shannon hammering it off the tee

Our pro, Paul Raad

Bakkie bar break

Eventually Corinne got the hang of it

The two top men at work

But lose we did. Though Ricky and Paul both played a beautiful game, there were others who played well AND had better handicaps, thus we came in third. Third wasn't so bad; we all received free brick oven pizzas from de Pakhuys which all of us enjoyed, excluding Paul, as he doesn't live close to the camp area and coming to the campsite bar and hanging out with a bunch of climbers isn't really his cup of tea.

The winning team. Our friend Daniel on the left

The team that actually played the best game thanks to semi golf pro Jackson in the blue

Fortuitously, almost a month after golf day, we also received the first place winner's prize, free dinner at Muisbosskerm, as the winners never claimed their prize except for Daniel and we refused to let a free all you can eat fish dinner go to waste. Thanks for the hook-up, Thys!

Our day at the fish buffet

Until next time. C and S

Holy Backblogged Batman!

We departed from South Africa yesterday afternoon and are on our way to Madrid. In six weeks of climbing, exploring, meeting new friends and visiting with old ones we managed only two updates. Obviously a bit more happened during our holiday away from our Euro holiday. We attempted to defend a championship, sent projects, put up new boulder problems, had visitors from SF, forgot what it was like to eat green vegetables, and have some very big news. Stay tuned as we sort out text and photos.

Cape Town to Rocklands - A 21 hour tour

Since we booked our flight to South Africa so late, the only flights that we could buy with miles were business class. One way economy to SA from Germany is 30,000 miles but biz class is 45,000. After much deliberation, we figured why the hell not. We then would have to pay for one of one way tickets back to Germany, but hell, flying in on biz class was worth it. We left our van with Kaddi's parents in Pluderhausen and then trained it to Frankfurt via Stuttgart. The train rides were a bit epic, as we had both our crash pads and one large bag each, not to mention one small backpack each (our carry-ons). It took three different trains to get to the airport and on two of those we couldn't even sit down; the bags and bouldering pads wouldn't fit down the aisle.

Much to our chagrin, we arrived at the airport 5 hours before our flight. Not realizing that we could have checked in early, we waited for 3 hours in the airport "lounge" area with our bags. The German airports are very efficient and next time, we now know that you can check in many hours earlier and then hang out in the business class lounge right next to your flight. Stupidly, we waited and then thought that we had to go to the lounge in a completely different terminal, as that was what the airport guide said. So we rushed to the other terminal, so we could eat (the cost of the food in the airport was outrageous, so we were waiting for our free food in the lounge). We went to the lounge, stuffed our faces, each had a drink (Steve had three) and headed for our flight. It took us almost 20 minutes to get from the lounge to our flight and then upon our arrival we realized that there was even a nicer lounge right next to the gate. Why the hell doesn't the airport guide/map say that?! Well, we ended up getting more food and more drinks and then getting on our flight, which was one of the most comfortable flights we have ever taken. We had full on beds next to each other. Steve slept the entire flight. He never sleeps on planes. I am sure that the fact he was allowed to have endless Scotches prior to the flight may have helped but the fact that he was able to stretch out made the flight much more bearable for him. I am not looking forward to his attitude when we have to take Turkish airlines back in economy...

We arrived in Cape Town at around 12noon; the infamous Justin Hawkins picked us up right on time. Justin lives in Cape Town, so after heading to the shop to pick up some items like coffee, etc, we headed off to his home. We were then greeted by Lisa and Tristan. Lisa is Justin's new lady friend that he met on the set of his last job (Justin is a cameraman). They were working on the set of Strikeback in Jo'berg; a new HBO series being filmed here in SA. Tristan is Lisa's precocious 5 year old son. Lisa was frantically packing when we arrived, as we were all heading to Rocklands. They were going for ten days but we were about to start our seven week stint in bouldering heaven. Lisa is not a climber and though Justin used to be a climber, he now heads to Rocklands to party and get away from the hum drum life in the city; Rocklands is his escape from reality. The five of us were going up to the Cedarberg range in Justin's VW Golf and since we needed to bring tons of crap for camping and Rockstock (stay tuned), we also had a trailer that we attached to the Golf. After an hour or so of packing, we all piled in and headed off.

Ready to Go!!!

When Justin had first picked us up at the airport, he apologized for the condition of his car, well, not the condition really, but he warned us about the bumpy ride; it seems that the rear shocks were not really working anymore. At his point, we should have realized that dragging a trailer was probably a pretty bad idea. About an hour and a half into the ride, the rear driver side wheel started making some noise. Steve jumped out of the car and ran along side to see if there seemed to be anything wrong. He saw nothing but we decided to do some shifting with the weight and moved Steve to the front, and Lisa and Tristan to the back. We figured maybe less weight might just do the trick. Ten minutes passed without further noise but then a couple of us smelled burning. Justin quickly reassured us, all was fine and kept pushing on. Two minutes later a white car pulls up aside us, frantically beeping his horn and pointing down, we all look over and in the reflection of the car, we see fire. It seems that our rear wheel was shooting out flames. Justin immediately pulled over and yelled for water, we poured water on it and put the fire out but the disk brake proceeded to glow bright orange for a few seconds more.  We all got back into the car to catch our breath. Tristan was still sleeping, on top of the wheel that had just been on fire...

We figured out exactly where we were, 24 km south of  Picketberg, and Justin then proceeded to call tow trucks. He got in touch with one that was about 40km north of Picketberg and then we waited. Through all this, everyone still remained in good spirits; it was a situation that we all just accepted and dealt with. No stress, no whining (well, maybe a little bit about the cold, as our down jackets were packed away in the trailer), and laughter; it was all a bit ridiculous and an almost expected experience when you are with Justin Hawkins. While we waited for the tow truck, Justin posted our situation on Facebook, hoping that someone would take pity on us from de Pakhuys (the campground in Rocklands where we were all headed) and come and pick us up. Yet, it wasn't just us they would need to pick up but the trailer as well, so we needed someone who had room and a trailer hitch. Though there were endless comments about our situation, nobody could come and save us, so it looked like we needed to figure out another way. The tow truck arrived after an hour and fifteen minutes. He put the car on the flatbed and hooked the trailer onto the back.

FAIL.

We were all able to smush into the cab of the tow truck and off we went to Picketberg, the closest town where we might be able to get the car fixed. Once we reached Picketberg, we headed into the Tourist center/Spur/Truck stop. The tow truck driver wanted to make sure that he dropped us off in a safe area, as the plan was to sleep there, for we arrived in Picketberg at 9pm and there didn't seem to be any other apparent options. Justin, Lisa and Tristan were to sleep in the car and Steve and I were going to sleep in our tent next to the car, on the only grassy area to be found. Steve and I had bought one of the 2 second Quechua tents from Decathlon in Germany but we only purchased a one person tent, as it was to be our gear tent.

Luckily, we were parked right next to a restaurant, namely, the Spur, so the next step was dinner. We sat in a table close to a window so that we could keep our eyes on the trailer and the car. The Spur is a large chain here in South Africa that serves basic fare, burgers, toasties (grilled sandwiches), taquitos etc. The food is decent enough for a chain but I guess the adverts are amazing; no race is left untouched. They don't seem to care who they piss off and sometimes, their adverts have been banned from national TV.

After dinner, we decided it was time to set up camp, at least for Steve and I... We fished out the tent, sleeping bags and bouldering pads along with our down coats and proceeded to set up our tent on the only spot of grass. Luckily for us, that night was one of the coldest nights on the western cape, so no hanging out, we just crawled into the tent and attempted to sleep. Since our tent was a one person gear tent, it was pretty small, when Steve was fully stretched out, the opening of the tent hit his chest, so when I say we crawled into the tent, we literally did, one at a time and proceeded to sleep in spooned fetal position, as that was the only way that we were going to fit in. Once asleep, the night wasn't so bad, we were warm enough and pretty comfortable on the pads.   Throughout the night, people passed by, made noises, yelled, screamed obscenities etc, but overall the night went well, except for the necessity to pee in the middle of the night,as getting in and out of the tent was an epic struggle.

We woke up early the next morning and headed to a small breakfast cafe also located at the truck stop. Justin then went out on a search for a mechanic; he figured that the best way to find one was to ask the locals around the stop. Ten minutes later, he was driving the car over to a local mechanic two minutes up the road. 40 minutes later, Justin was back and ready to hitch up the trailer and get on the road. According to Justin, the mechanic put the car up, grabbed pieces off another old car and switched out the disk brake and something else and said we were good to go. It cost 650 rand for the fix ( about $80), whereas it cost 1000 rand for the tow (about $130). Off we went and arrived two hours later at de Pakhuys campground in Rocklands no worse for the wear but 17 hours later than first expected along with an amazing story...

-C

Döner Macht Schöner

Germany is known for it's beer. Bavaria is know for the high concentration of breweries in it's region. Nürnberg is know for the highest concentration of breweries in all of Germany. Germany is know for it's high concentration of limestone crags. Frankenjura is known for the highest concentration of hard limestone crags in all of Germany. Nürnberg is 40km from Frankenjura. Sounds good, no? We were to arrive in Nürnberg the evening of the Germany and Italy match in the Euro Cup. Unknown to us, Moritz and Julia were planning to go watch the match at a public venue. Due to poor planning and construction on the autobahn, we arrived later than expected. Moritz greeted us outside when we arrived in "Little Istanbul" or as what he called the southern ghetto of Nürnberg. Yet, as far as ghettos go, the area was more like the outer sunset in SF than Hunter's point. Due to the amount of Turks in the "ghetto", this area could also be considered "the home of the Döner", the German version of a burrito, insofar that it costs €3 and is a cheap meal that is quite suitable after a hard day of climbing.

Steve met Julia and Moritz in Rocklands last year. Moritz is almost as tall as Steve and they are both obsessed with climbing hard and training hard; they are like two peas in a pod. They climb at about the same level and are able to use similar beta; Steve truly enjoys climbing with Moritz.

We arrived in Nürnberg on a Thursday, as we planned for a full week in the city; we wanted to have a German garage check the Goose. We figured that if anyone would know how to fix the van, it would be a German, being that Goose was born in Germany.  We were still having our coolant issue and we just can't figure out how to fix it ourselves. Steve has been religiously reading forums to help him problem solve but it seems like the more he reads, the further down the rabbit hole he goes. We ended up bringing it to a garage, called N&M, on Monday, explained the problem (well, not all of it but most of it) and they found that part of the radiator was clogged and that the temp sensor for the water temp was old and needed to be replaced. When we picked it up on Tuesday, Goose was definitely acting better but still after a 45 minute drive on the autobahn, the minute we slowed down, Goose's temps were rising again. Not to the level where he is about to overheat, like before, but definitely reading temps above normal, but since it wasn't heading toward the super high temps, we thought maybe, just maybe, they had fixed our issues. That was until Saturday when we headed out to Frankenjura with Julia and Moritz and began to overheat. Once more Goose was acting up and all we could do was unscrew the cap on the expansion tank to release the pressure that was preventing the coolant from flowing. The coolant is getting stuck in the overflow and then cannot push back through to the expansion tank because of the pressure inside the tank. We have no idea why the pressure is building up in the first place. So,a week after our first visit to N&M, we went back and thoroughly explained our issues. The mechanic listened to us but decided that he had absolutely no idea what was wrong. He claimed that it shouldn't make a difference whether the engine was idling or being pushed at 80kph, it would overheat either way, but when he ran the engine all day, it resulted in no overheating and perfect coolant distribution. He kept it for another day, but found nothing wrong. Thankfully, he didn't charge us for his efforts. Once again, we were frustrated and annoyed, as we knew that our coolant problem was going to be a continuing thorn in our side.

We were psyched to head to Nürnberg to visit with Julia and Moritz but we were also psyched to hit Frankenjura, another climbing destination known for it's short, steep but often run out routes. Unfortunately, between our car and the relentless rain during our ten day visit, we spent more days in Nürnberg at the apartment than out on the rock.

We arrived on a Thursday, spent Friday in town sorting ourselves out and headed out to Frankenjura Saturday morning. We received a message that Kaddi, her brother Christian, and some friends were going to be climbing as well, so we headed out early to meet them at Kalte Wald. Though the weather was pretty warm, this area stayed pretty cool and had a nice array of routes from 6a to 7b. There were a couple of really fun 6a's and a great 7a called Stracciatella (sp?) that I enjoyed, while Steve, Moritz and Kaddi worked on a couple of 7b's that seemed to serve them well.  It was a great day and we were excited to see what else Frankenjura had to offer.

After a full day of climbing, we went to do what everyone in Bavaria does at the end of the day in the summer and headed down the road to the Biergarten. The beer in Bavaria is varied and plentiful and ALWAYS tastes good, except maybe the smoked beer, which Steve says tastes a bit like drinking bacon. Not only are there varieties in beer but there are also varieties in non-alcoholic beer; they even have several types of alcohol frei hefeweisen and they were all fabulous. Thank you Bavaria!

After the biergarten, we all were pretty hungry. Moritz knew of an awesome restaurant next to a pig farm but unfortunately, they were having a private event, so we headed to another place in the sweet little town of Pottenstein, right in the center of the Frankenjura region. Noone had been there before but it turned out to be one of our best meals yet. Steve and five others ordered the schäufele, while I ordered another smaller pork dish, as I had had the schäufele two evenings prior and I couldn't finish it the first time.

We were told that the schäufele was one of the best folks had ever eaten; it was pretty fantastic, the rind was perfectly crisped and meat just fell off the bone. We all rolled out of the restaurant after our huge, hearty meal and went looking for a place to camp for the night.

Though Moritz and Julia headed back to the city, the rest of us camped out in one of the very few bouldering areas in Frankenjura.  At around 10pm, it started to rain. We all sought refuge in our respective shelters, Kaddi and Christian and Wupi (Christian's dog, who is a mix between ewok and a wookie) sleeping under a cave with a couple of hard as nails  boulder problems. The rain continued throughout the night, along with a lightning and thunderstorm. It rained all throughout the morning as well. Despite the rain, Moritz and Julia STILL drove out to meet us, as promised. After several hours of relentless rain, Kaddi and friends decided to head home, as they had a long drive back to Freiburg and Basel, Switzerland. While Moritz and Julia gave Steve and I a quick tour of some other nice climbing spots on the way back to Nürnberg.

We dropped the car off on Monday at N&M. Julia has off on Mondays and being the amazing host that she is, took us around the sites of Nürnberg. Nürnberg is a cool little town; it has a central area which is only for pedestrians and maybe bicycles, like so many other cities in Europe; why aren't there more of these in the U.S.? I can only think of Boulder and Burlington off the top of my head. It is so nice being able to walk around, stop at a cafe, go shopping and never have to worry about cars, lights, etc.

For the rest of our stay in Nürnberg, it either rained or was hot and sticky. Limestone sucks when it is wet and does not dry too quickly in heat and humidity. Though we did have three more days of climbing in Frankenjura, we still have yet to truly experience all that place has to offer. Since we need to go and pick up our van in Germany in September and were promised that Jasper Bote would be there if we returned, we are planning on spending another week or two in Nürnberg to give Frankenjura another chance. Though Moritz and Julia will be in South Korea during our second visit, we will have a new base with Melissa and Jasper on the northern end of the city. But don't worry, there are Döner shops there as well...

Just want to give a shoutout to our amazing hosts, Moritz and Julia. You guys were so amazingly hospitable and we hope that we didn't cause too much strife in your life. When we think back to our stay,  we will warmly remember Döner macht schöner, your amazing training gym, great food, great beer (including alcohol frei), Crankenstein and your incredible hospitality. Thanks again you two and we can't wait to climb with you again soon! -C&S

PS - more posts soon hopefully. :)

On the road to Hvar

When we arrived in Chironico, we still had several hours of day left (the sun does not set here until 8:30-9). We had a list of must hits for Steve and we tried to follow them as best as possible. We started with Doctor Med Dent, which really only had one problem for Steve (Dr med dent) and a couple of mediocre problems for me, and then continued on to another area that was in town.  We had trouble finding the parking that Scott had described but we decided to just park in the center lot where the local folks parked their camper vehicles (there were three campers already parked there).

The walk was short but finding all the boulders was a bit of a mission. We had taken pics of Scott's guidebook with his favorites marked but actually finding them was another story. The first boulder we found was Borderline, which Steve completed easily. The boulder also had a super fun problem on the left for me. We headed toward the other problems that Scott had starred, like Tomahawk and Freak brothers. There was also a great face problem for me in the Freak Brothers sector that I worked on endlessly. Though I did not send that day, I  did send the next! Unfortunately, Steve could not get Freak brothers during our visit (the only problem that he got on that he didn't send); we will be back when he is feeling stronger.

We found the camping that Scott and Kaddi had described to us but when we arrived, there were already two other campers there and it was a pretty small area...we didn't want to block them or invade their space. Luckily, while we were trying to figure out our next steps, the other campers returned from their bouldering sessions. We quickly became fast friends with Simon & Mikaela and Adam & Michelle (all from England) and Adam & Michelle's dog (for the life of me, I can't remember it's name!). We figured out a good parking situation and chatted the night away.

After lounging around a bit in the morning, we borrowed Adam and Michelle guide and headed up to the sectors that were close by. We weren't ready to climb yet but we wanted to do a bit of exploring. These were the sectors close to the water, where the holds were a bit nicer on the tips. Did I mention that after climbing on Sandstone for several weeks, the granite was a bit of a shock on the skin? There were some great climbs and we definitely wanted to return to these areas later. When we returned, Adam & Michelle invited us to climb with them in another area near the town that we had not seen yet and then return to the Freak Brothers area, because we both had some unfinished business there. Overall, it was a good day; good climbing, beautiful scenery and great company. With Adam and Michelle's lead, we camped in another area, which was actually on the way to Slovenia, our next destination.  We are hoping to meet up with them again in Magic Wood on our way back up...they, too, are traveling and climbing for an extended length of time.

The next morning we made our way to Osp, Slovenia, a small town with exceptional limestone climbing and a chill camping spot, camp Vovk.  We spent one day climbing in Osp. Never made it to Misja Pec (known as one of the best crags in Slovenia) and a ten minute drive from Osp. We did not feel quite in shape for the demanding limestone route reading that we experienced in Osp, let alone the more difficult Misja Pec! Due to the warm weather, we did the requisite morning and evening climbing sess's. Though we saw many a folk climbing in the hot sun on that glassy, slimy limestone; I have no idea how they held on, but they seemed to enjoy it. I, on the other hand, cursed and swore at that slippery limestone, having trouble holding on in the SHADE! We knew that this was the same type of rock we were going to find at Hvar, so it was a good place to prepare. The climbing in Osp was quite nice but we may want to hit Misja Pec on our way back, once we both have our endurance and have truly grocked the limestone rock...

-C

Fixit in Freiburg

Our last day in Font we decided we would watch the horse races at the hippodrome since we had been sleeping there most nights and thought it might be exciting to see the grounds in action. It was not. The horse races were probably the lamest thing that I have seen on the trip thus far. Perhaps if they ran more than 300-500 meters, it might have been better, but it was the same short race over and over with seemingly no rhyme or reason to the order or the results. I fell asleep, hoping the rain would stop and we could actually climb our last day in sandstone paradise. I awoke to more horses trotting past the van and drizzle coming down in a steady stream. No climbing. That meant shopping at the Super Carrefour. The Carrefours are all over place and are basically your Safeway/Walmart of France. The Super Carrefour on the other hand is like a super Walmart on steroids. This place is huge. Too huge actually. They have two cheese isles and a gardening section with lawn mowers. You can get everything you need but you need a rest day after you're done. Maybe two. Anyway, we went, we shopped, we conquered. Upon our return to the hippodrome we saw Raul and Emilie parked so we pulled up next them and I hopped out of the van. As I made my way around the back of the van I smelled the sweet scent of coolant. I also heard a distinct water flowing sound. I dropped to a knee and saw coolant freely flowing from the engine bay into the grass. I leapt into action, grabbed a stainless steel pot and caught the over flow. I opened the engine bay for inspection and found that the 25 year old expansion tank had finally decided to give up the ghost. The threads on the tank could no longer hold a tight seal. As the pressure from heat builds in the system the tank should overflow to the burp tank but instead was exploding from the top of the expansion tank, which could cause engine overheat and if not monitored, catastrophic engine failure. We were leaving for Freiburg the next day, we had spare coolant and I figured what better place to fix a Westy then in Germany. One last night at the hippodrome and we set off. We had to stop about midway as the van started to overheat. Carrefour to the rescue again. We grabbed 5 liters of coolant and made it to Freiburg.

Freiburg is a college town. The beer is good, the girls are pretty and the pretzels are plentiful. We arrived at Scott and Kaddi's place early evening and enjoyed a a nice meal out after almost a year since we last saw them in South Africa. They live in a small flat with three more room mates in a fifth floor apartment with no elevator. Kaddi graded the stairs 5a. She never forgets anything upon departure.

A small local climbing wall under a bridge near Scott and Kaddi's apartment.

It's a good spot to chill and enjoy company and a German beer.

The next day Kaddi worked on a project for Uni while Scott, Corinne and I went to Gueberschwihr to do some sandstone route climbing. The rock was unlike anything I had seen before. You would start a route on an overhang with small crimps and powerful moves. Then do a technical slab. Follow this with dead vertical lay back crack climbing and finger locks. Finish the route with greasy side pulls and underclings on horrible feet and you have yourself some of the most entertaining routes I have climbed in some time. This could be due in part that the crag is a man made quarry. Either way it was a blast.

The next day Scott and Kaddi were going to Stuttgart for the weekend to set routes on an outdoor climbing wall. The van behaved the previous day when we went to Gueberschwihr so we thought we could take it to Chironico in Switzerland to do some bouldering for two days. No sooner than we started the van did it start to overheat. The cap was on the fritz and it looked like we need to address the problem sooner. After visiting auto parts stores to no avail and getting directions in German we made it to a VW dealer and ordered a replacement tank and cap for €36. The part would not arrive until Monday, so we had two full days to kill in Freiburg.

We filled our days with internet, reading, and eating pretzels, bratwurst and gummi bears while strolling around the picturesque town of Freiburg.

Come Monday we picked up the part and asked if the dealership could install. For €100 in two days, no problem. Forget that, we still wanted to hit Chironico and visit Osp in Slovenia on our way to Croatia. I was not doing 16 hours of driving in two days. After visiting several shops, all booked until Wednesday, one caravan shop, also booked up and calling three more, we were directed to a Russian fellow who also lets you do the work yourself if you like. The job was a simple one, even a DIY, but we needed somewhere to dispose of coolant, so this seemed like the best bet. We went over, and were told to wait an hour. He switched out the tank then took the overflow coolant and dumped it down a drain on the ground...so much for proper disposal. He charged us €20 and we were back on the road.

We left the next day and drove through the Swiss alps to the Italian region of Switzerland and a quaint town called Chironico. It is home to a small but dense bouldering sector with rough granite and thrutchy moves on tiny crimps. It also happens to be one of the former backyard playgrounds of a boulder named Fred Nicole.

Emilie and Raul

After we left our SF friends and the gite in Moigny-sur-ecole, we decided to head south to an area Scott and Kaddi recommended called Petit Bois. Since it had been raining for some time we thought that the weather and the rock may be better the more South we went, since Steve and MK had that experience while Ginny and I were in Paris. Petit Bois was a great area, tons of problems on both the blue and red circuits, and also included Big Dragon, a problem that Steve wanted to get on, which completely suited his style. This was the area where I began to  understand the essence of mantling and smearing.

We didn't arrive there until late in the afternoon but since it doesn't get dark here until 9:30pm, we still got to climb quite a bit. No one was around, so we decided to camp there and see what was up; we didn't yet have the 411 on how to camp for free here in Europe,so we weren't quite sure where we could stay and where we couldn't. After a bit, another car rolled up. An older guy, probably about 52 or so, got out walked over to Big Dragon (Steve had not gotten on it yet) and began to have some goes. He worked on it for about 45 minutes and then grabbed his pad, packed it all away and took off. Guess he was working on his proj...he got through the first two moves before packing up, not bad.

While senior working his proj, a panel van drove up, parked and started playing some techno music. No climbing, no hiking, just techno. We thought this was a bit weird but hey, we were in the small town of Saint-Pierre de Nemours, who knows how these folks roll.  We cooked, ate, and snuggled in for an episode of Dexter. By the end of the show, another van showed up,  we just assumed it was the techno boys again and went to sleep.

We slept well and enjoyed our first night on our own. Steve got up early, as he was eager to get out climbing again. Unfortunately, I woke up with a sore throat and a cough, so Steve let me sleep in. After his first climbing session, about fifteen problems, he decided to wake me up and make coffee etc. he noticed that the car that drove up the night before, was not in fact the techno boys but another Westy with another couple. Emilie, a Canadian Quebeçois, and Raul, who was from Spain, came over to wish us a good morning (our CA plates had inspired them to come by and chat). We chatted for a few moments and then they went off to eat breakfast and get ready to climb.

Steve's second session was with me. We climbed a bit on both the blue and the red circuit. I worked some of the red problems that included mantles and very crappy feet; they were great fun. After 20-30 minutes we were chatting and climbing right along with Raul and Emilie. We went up to work on some reds, whites and a couple of off-piste climbs together; the more crash pads, the merrier! We climbed together for 3-4 hours until the rain started again. After a couple hours, Emilie and I decided to go shopping on their mountain bikes while Steve rested up for his third session of the day.  Raul and Emilie traveled with their mountain bikes so that they could camp for a while and just use their bikes to get around. There were two markets, the Lidl and the Carrefour, .5 mile away from where we were camped.

We got back and unpacked and my cold began to come back full force. I decided to rest, read and take a nap while Steve was ready for his third session of the day; he finally began working on Big Dragon but after several attempts and raw tips, it just would not go. He got to the second to last move (the crux) but today was not the day. More chatting and hanging with Raul and Emilie, then dinner and sleep. Petit Bois had served us well.

It rained that night. Again and harder than previous nights staying there was just not an option. So we all planned on moving on, but agreed that we would meet up later that day or in the evening at the Hippodrome de la Solle for camping.  Raul and Emilie became our new camping and climbing buddies during the rest of our Font trip...

Emilie and Raul have been traveling for the past two years in their van around Spain and France. Intermittently, Emilie will get a job so that they can continue on their travels, as Raul is in school finishing up his degree in Computer Science. His classes are entirely online, so he just needs to make sure that he has Internet and juice for his computer and he is good to go; he can work from almost anywhere until the end of the semester when he may have to go in for a final. He is able to  live in the van, climb and travel but must also be diligent about getting his work done.  Since it rains a lot in Font, he is able to take advantage of those days and go to the local library and use the SFR Free Wifi.

Raul and Emilie have figured out how to live simply and inexpensively while still eating well and climbing a lot. We learned a lot from them. When Emilie first took me shopping, she took me the Lidl prior to the Carrefour, showing me what to buy at the Lidl because it was that much cheaper; there were still some things that I didn't want to buy there, but overall the Lidl was the place to go. Only problem is there are not many of them. Emilie and Raul also tend to buy a lot more food than we do, as they do not have a full camper but a weekender and therefore have more room; they know what will keep and what is not worth getting but the most important food item that they introduced us to was the chocolate pack from the Carrefour. For under €2, you can get 5 bars of pretty decent chocolate. We plowed through the chocolate in Font...

They also told us about McD's. McD's is the sure fire way to get Internet. Every McD's in France offers free wifi.  They are the only place that you can truly count for getting free wifi, sometimes SFR Free wifi doesn't work but McD's always does. However, we have now found that in Germany, you actually need to buy something before getting the wifi. Once you buy something, you get a sign in  and then you are home free. We have yet to utilize it yet, but it will happen, you can be sure of that.

One evening, Emilie gave us the run down on all of the places that we should go to in Spain, along with descriptions of the type of rocks and climbs. They have been traveling and climbing for a long time, so they definitely have the 411 on where to climb and where to camp. I don't know if we will be able to hit all of the places they mentioned, but we will definitely do our best.

Here is the list of spots that we want to hit with descriptions of the rock and what is good there. We hope to hit them in the Fall, either before or after Font, but we will see... 1. Mont Serrat - great sector in the south "el vermell", "can jorba", on the north side "San Benet"(sp?) - many smaller areas within this place - conglomerate rock - vertical and slabby (sandbagged) 2. Rodeller - limestone - "kalandraka" (Refugio) - overhanging 3. Bruixas - limestone - in Terradets which have sport multi-pitches (very few) many need some additional gear - overhanging 4. Siurana - limestone - slabs and vertical...(sandbagged) 5. Montsan - conglomerate - raco de misa, overhanging 6. Margelef  - conglomerate - everything, has pockets, every grade, vertical and overhanging - other side of Montsan- about an hour away 7. Villanova - good sport multi-pitch - limestone 8. Cavallers- good multi-pitch - granite - good wall for reg sport climbing African wall- good bouldering as well b4 multi- pitch.

Two days before we headed off to Germany to meet Scott and Kaddi, Emilie got word that she was hired by the Canadian government to work on trail maintenance in Alberta. She was off to work for the next 3 months in the forests. Raul still had 6 weeks left of school, so he was going to have to stay behind while Emilie went back to get ready for work. Both were pretty sad that there home was about to split up for a little while but Emilie was already looking to buy a van to live in once she had reached Alberta; Raul would then fly to Canada to meet her and live in the van as well. Once she completed her 3 month contract, the plan was to go into the U.S. and head to Indian Creek in Tennessee; they had been dreaming of climbing there for quite a while. So, U.S. folks, should you want to do some top class climbing with an incredibly chill and skilled couple, hit us up and we will connect you.

What a coincidence that we met Raul and Emilie; they were the perfect couple to meet as we began to embark on our journey. They knew all the ins and outs of van living and how to live on the cheap. There are a lot of differences between our journeys, as our trip includes a LOT more driving and a lot more destinations but we will utilize their tips and our experiences with them for the rest of journey. Thanks guys for helping to make our adventure that much better!

~C&S

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBu94uxH4s4&rel=0]

The vans camped out at the Hippodrome. Got cut short as it started to rain...

Two days in Paris

On April 30th, we had a tour scheduled with Sight Seeker's Delight for a four hour tour along the Seine. The tour was led by the one and only Karen , one of my oldest friends from the Philly dayz. Karen is not only a tour guide but the owner of Sight Seeker's Delight, the number one tour company in Paris on tripadvisor.com. Though our tour did not begin until 11am, we decided to take an early train into Paris and meet Karen at her place prior to the long walk.

We have all survived so long without the Internet or cell phones, but life seems so much harder without them now...there aren't many payphones around since everyone and their mother has a cell phone but when you are a traveler and aren't ready to throw down the cash to keep your cell phone going through other countries, getting in touch with people is a bit of a hassle...luckily, there was a McDonalds right next to the Place d'Italie metro stop, a stop close to Karen's apartment. We went in for a cafe créme and an expresso and used their free wifi. Fred, Karen's husband, picked us up, along with his coworker and buddy Benoit. We arrived, dropped off or bags and headed out to meet the rest of the folks on the tour.

The tour was phenomenal. Karen was as charmingly witty and enthusiastic as ever. There were four of us on the tour and we hoofed it for the complete four hours, beginning at Notre Dame and ending near the Palaces on the Champs Élysées. We walked along the Seine, through the kings church, the courtyard of the Louvre, alongside the Comedie-Français, the Samartaine, and the grand Palaces, in addition to a getting a glimpse and pic of the Opera House. All this and a fifteen minute lecture on 2,500 years of Parisian history while sitting in the famous green chairs at the Jarden Tuileries. Karen is right at home, relaying the stories while always focusing on the irony and/or gruesome details. Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Who knew that a children's tale was all about cannibalism in gay Paris?

After the tour, we headed back to Karen's pad to hang with Fred and Azriel, Karen and Fred's absolutely adorable and energetic 2 year old. Hanging out with Azriel is just the thing that I need to show me the joys of parenthood. "Pud", Azriel's nickname, is the perfect bundle of energy and intelligence; he is an absolute joy to be around. It is amazing that a two year old (well, 23 months) can open an iPad, turn it on and put on the music that he wants to hear. He is already addicted to the iPad and iPhone. Who knows what it will be like in another ten years; I can't even imagine.

On Tuesday, Karen had another tour to give but we decided to head over to Montmartre, the "Soho" of Paris. Since it happened to be May 1st, which is a holiday in France (labor day), Montmartre was packed. People from all over were there, but we mostly heard French. The weather was beautiful, a wonderful respite from 3-4 days of rain. Everyone wanted to hang out in sunny Montmartre and see the best views of Paris from the Sacre Coeur. Later on was another wonderful evening with Karen, Fred and Azriel, with great food, conversation (Fred spoke the most English that Karen had ever heard him speak) and laughs (Pud is a constant amusement).

Karen and Fred were amazing hosts. Everyone should visit them! We had such a great time that we extended our visit and of course, I am definitely planning on going back again...not sure when but definitely at some point and Karen knows that I actually visit when I say I will...

Big hugs and love to Fred, Karen and Pud! ~the big C