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.

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

Trapped in Trieste

We left Osp around 8am since we knew we had a long drive to Hvar. It was going to be about 6 hours to Split and then we had a 2-hour ferry ride to the Island. We arrived at the Croatia border at 9am and pulled out our passports. Got stamped and moved to the next window. The police woman behind the glass asked for our passports again and then the papers for the car. We handed her our passports and then the insurance card from our international insurance. No, she said, the papers for the car. I went into glove compartment and pulled out the registration and handed it to Steve. She repeated that we needed valid papers and that what we gave her was not correct. We figured that she had just never seen them before and was confused. She pointed to the date and we realized that we had just handed her our expired registration and our current registration was not in the glove compartment. WTF! She told us to go to Customs and then pull over to the right into a parking area. We pulled forward 3 feet to a guy dressed as an officer. Steve:"Are you the customs officer?" Guy:"What?" Steve:"She (pointing back) told us to go to customs. Are you the customs guy?" Guy:"What?" Steve:"Are you customs?" Guy:"yes, go park"

He motioned for us to go and park.  We parked and hurriedly searched every place where the document might be. We looked on the license plate and sure enough the sticker was valid but the registration was nowhere to be found. Another officer, male this time, approaches the vehicle.

Officer:"do you have anything to claim?" Steve:"No" Officer:"your car tested positive for substances. Do you smoke? Steve:"What do you mean?" Officer:"Our system shows that your vehicle has substances." Steve:"What?" Officer:"Your vehicle is positive for substances.Tell us now and we will charge you small fine but if dogs find more, you will be arrest." Steve:"What kind of substances?" Officer:"Your vehicle is positive for substances. Tell us now and you will be charged small fine." Steve went to the side door and pulled out his half empty bottle of Scotch and I pulled out the two packs of Indian cigarettes. Steve:"That is all we have." Officer:"We will bring dogs to search your car." Steve:"Okay, fine. Whatever you like. We don't have anything."

The officer then walked away and the female officer came back.

Officer:"You do not have papers for the car, so you must go back." Steve:"Okay, when we come back will you take a copy of our registration?" Officer:"No copy. Must be original." Steve:"Okay. Thank you."

The officer directed us into the opposite direction and boom, we were back in Slovenia.

Flustered and incredibly bummed, we began to drive back to Osp. We had no idea what to do at that moment; all we knew is that we needed Internet to get in touch with Steve's parents to see if the registration was back in our papers at home. At this point it was 11am, meaning that it was 2am in California, so there was really nothing that we could do now.  We knew there was no Internet in Osp, so that wasn't an option. We figured that we could go to Lbuljana, the capital of Slovenia to the embassy but it was Saturday and they weren't open or we could go find Internet in the next closest city, Trieste, Italy. Proximity won out and we headed into the sinewy, matrix of Trieste centrale for a fruitless journey of Internet searching.

Not Psyched...

Still Not Psyched...

Alice, our trusty GPS, failed to bring us to the local bibliotheca. She took us instead to a church immediately outside the center of town; I guess she figured that we needed some angelic assistance. A waitress at a local cafe told us to that we could get free wifi at Terre de ropa...we pretended to understand her directions and we headed back into the matrix.  As we began driving, Steve exclaimed "McDonalds", we had forgotten our trusty wifi connection in France and that all claimed that the golden arches would always provide free wifi.  We plugged in McD's to Alice and she began directing us...to the middle of a highway! Yet upon our arrival to Alice's bunk destination, we looked over and saw a large sign Torri d'Europa. We quickly realized that this was the place that the waitress was talking about all along...we found a parking lot a few blocks away from the sign. It was a mall but supposedly it had free wifi, so we just did not care. At this point it was about 2pm and we knew that we just needed some info. We tried to sign on but to no avail  we saw there was a McD's on the 3rd floor but again, no internet there. It looked like the supposed "free wifi" was bullshit.  I decided to ask the people at the Vodafone store; I figured that they would know.  They told us to go to the 3rd floor, near the cinema and that we should be able to log on from there. We walked back up to the 3rd floor; there seemed to be free internet but We could not figure out how to log on, as a Userid and password were necessary. We headed back down and I stopped back in the Vodafone store and explained that it still didn't work (using broken English and hand gesticulations with a couple of Si, Si's and Grazi, Grazi's thrown in). I think that they felt bad for me; one went into the back with my iPad and typed in a Userid and password for their network, the network in the Vodafone store.  That is what we used for our Internet for 90% of our time here. Torri d'Europa became a second home for us in Trieste.

We found a campsite, the local climbing crag here in Trieste and contacted Steve's folks with the unfortunate news and the hope that the registration was indeed in our important documents box and was truly left by accident...

-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...

Musee D'Orsay in a day

Due to the incessant rain, Ginny, Daniel and I decided to go into Paris instead of climbing. We drove in and checked into a hotel for Daniel, Ginny and Marykate, as Ginny and Marykate were to spend the next day shopping in Paris.

We arrived in Paris in the afternoon just in time for lunch. Daniel walked us through the fifth arrondissement toward the sixth, slowly making our way from the hotel to the Musee D'Orsay, the goal of the day in Paris. We stopped in a semi-touristy brasserie and had a small bite, served by an adorably sweet and young French waiter.

We then made our way to the long line outside the museum where we parted from Daniel, as he had some other sights in mind to see during the rest of the day. Ginny and I waited for maybe 45 min before gaining entrance; Ginny picked the only line that did not move for 10 minutes. We waited very impatiently while listening to announcements that the museum would be closing in an hour and fifteen minutes. Feeling rather rushed, we tried to figure out what we could see in such a short amount of time. We saw an advertisement for a new Degas exhibit, but we had to pay extra, so instead, we wandered through the first floor paintings, which included paintings by Millet. We had been by Millet's house in Barbizon the day before so this was a nice continuation of our Font experience; it seemed quite fitting. We then headed for the Impressionism exhibit on the fifth floor. I wanted to take the stairs; I had not for two days and any exercise that I could get was welcomed. As we headed up the stairs, we decided to stop on each floor along the way to. IWW the other exhibits. We saw some very cool Norwegian and Finnish furniture, paintings and plateware from the late 1800's. They were pieces that I normally would not go to see but I was so pleased that we did. Once we made it to the fifth floor, it was already closing time, so we speedily viewed some Monet, Manet, Degas etc as we headed toward the exit.

Though the visit was not as long as I would have liked, I can only handle about two hours in a museum before I am completely exhausted. The price is also cheaper later; it only cost €6.50. It was a short but sweet visit. I am glad we are returning on this coming Monday!

Au revoir! Corinne

The Goose rides again!

This morning we set out for the train station to make our way to Chatham. Once there a taxi took us to the docks and we began the inquiry for the van. It was suppose to be unloaded and waiting in a warehouse, but the van was still in it's shipping container. Mark at the shipping company informed us it would only take twenty minutes to locate and unload the van. True to his word the container was brought in and the van rolled down to greet us in no time. The excitement quickly wore off when we discovered that the van would not start. We had feared this may happen. Firstly the battery had not been disconnected, per instructions from the shipping company state side, and against our better judgement. Secondly, when the van gets below a 1/4 tank and is parked at steep angles (or out at sea for 26 days) the tank can release some air bubbles into the fuel line. The tank was actually more around 1/8 and upon inspection the clear fuel line leading to the injection pump was completely void of fuel. Luckily we had dealt with this once before and knew the solution. Crack the injectors and and try to start the van. This would hopefully pull the air out before entry to the cylinders and allow fuel to flow. We setup to do this, but after a few seconds of cranking realized the battery did not have enough juice to crank the van long enough to start. After hooking up the battery to a forklift we tried again. This time the van cranked well, but the fuel would not pull through. The tank was too low. Mark, being a true English gentlemen drove me (Steve) to the petrol station. I bought two five liter jerry cans and filled them with diesel. Once back at the docks I emptied one jerry into the van. We tried again to no avail. I knew to get fuel to pull into the injection pump I need more than just power the pumop could provide. It would have to be gravity to the rescue. I disconnected the fuel line from the fuel filter and jammed a funnel into the end. Another chap from the shipping company started to pour diesel into the fuel while Corinne cranked the van. The van spurted and choked, whizzed and spat; fuel sprayed from the injectors. Unburned diesel spewed from the exhaust and finally....the van did not start. I cursed and spat. We tried again. More fuel down the funnel directly into the injectors and after much sputtering and fuel spraying all over myself and the poor fellow helping me, the van came to life. We tightened down the injectors, pack the van, shook everyone's hand and drove directly to a petrol station and filled up with diesel.We grabbed some terrible sandwiches from the petrol station and hit the road. After about an hour of driving we arrived in Dover and found our way to a camp spot atop the white cliffs. Thanks for the camp location Jed! After taking a stroll to see the cliffs, sheer vertical chalk-white walls, we traveled back into town to the Swingate Tavern. It was live Jazz Thursdays. The psyche was high. We ordered Yorkshire Pudding with roast, decidedly British, and Chinese stir fry, decidedly...not. The Yorkshire did not compare to my moms, but it nevertheless, hit the spot. The jazz music was surprisingly good and we stayed for a few hours. Tomorrow we head for Calais via ferry. France, here we come!

-Steve

The shipping yard. The van is inside the container!

FREEDOM!

Booyah! (or so we thought)