seek drive climb

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

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. :)

We made it!

We arrived on Hvar Island on Friday, May 25th after a two hour ferry ride from Split. We had one night left on our timeshare reservation but we planned to stay at Hotel Timun for a few nights more to get a rest from camping. We didn't really need it but we wanted to go with our original plan and stay in our little studio. The timeshare was 3/4 of the way down the 100km island on a somewhat terrifying road, in my humble opinion; Steve did not feel that the road was bad but I think that it is a much different experience when you are the one driving. The road literally drops off on the sides and sometimes next to a cliff, no shoulder at all and the road barely fits two normal size cars, let alone our van and a passing work truck...

[wpvideo 9wlUKkoD] Some of the roads..... [wpvideo VIBUc6N7] and the tunnels

For our first day/evening on Hvar, we had a mission and it was to chill out. After all the craziness in Trieste, Italy etc, we needed some time to just sit and stare at the ocean and that is exactly what we did. We arrived at the hotel at around 6pm, we went up to the studio, unpacked, took much needed showers and watched some Game of Thrones. It was heavenly.

The studio served its purpose for the four days and four nights and then we decided it was time to head out on the road in the van once again. Finding free wild camping in Hvar is a bit of a mission. There is plenty of paid camping for vans, but they amount to glorified trailer parks.  We hunted for free camping every night after our first four nights. The first night we ended up staying on a road to a climbing area in Milna, near Hvar Town. As we drove up the road, we noticed the road getting skinnier. Steve jumped out and hiked further to see if it was worth it. There was a great clearing at the end of the road but the actual road had a portion that just seemed a little too thin for the van...so, we had to turn around, which was a mission but we found a bit wider area of the road and made our 23 point turn...we then just decided to park on the road but there was waist high greenery on either side, which meant everything stayed in the van...when it is raining or in this type of situation, maneuvering all of our belongings while still in the van is quite a challenge; we first attempt to move anything that we can into the front, then we pop the top and start storing things up top. When we have some room outside, our food bin and our crash pads go outside...this time, all was in...cooking dinner was a bit of a challenge. Luckily, it was an easy pasta night...since the spot was only seconds from the road, cars and headlights were a constant throughout the night.

The next night was a little bit better as we found a spot down another dirt road. It was immediately next to a farmers plot of lavender. It was a bit quieter with only three or four cars passing by us throughout the day and night and this time, we had some room outside...ahh, a bit closer to paradise, but barely.

Our third night of "wild camping" was a bit more adventurous.  We decided to head of to the south side of the island closer to Vela Stiniva. We found a road that seemed to head down to the beach. Unbeknownst to us, the road was a bit forlorn the closer we got to the coast. At one point, I gasped loudly and practically grabbed Steve as it seemed like we were going over the edge. Of course, that didn't make the drive any more relaxing...but the road was small and steep with crazy switchbacks.  At the end, we reached a house that seemed to have been abandoned but did have locks...we just weren't sure but since we drove all the way down, we decided to stick it out...I mean what is the worst thing that they could do? Kick us out...then we would just drive back up...we stayed the night with no interruptions but how relaxing can it be when you just aren't sure whether or not someone is going to kick you off...however, this night was even one step closer to paradise, despite the oven that was left to rot 10 meters from our parking spot...

For our last night of wild camping we went back to one of the areas that we had seen previously on one of our drives. We had saved it as a favorite on Alice (our GPS). We called it Camp Ponds, as it had two manky ponds on it but was actually a pretty little camp with tons of buttercups. We figured that it was on some farmer's land but hey, every little piece of land on Hvar is owned by farmers...we were parked for about 20 minutes in a nice level spot, when we heard a car. We weren't far from the dirt road so we figured it was just someone driving by...Nope. A guy pulled up in his truck, opened the back and started his work. Steve said hello but got no response. The farmer said nothing, just started planting his seedlings etc. This was at 8pm.  He continued working until 10pm. During this time, we made dinner, ate dinner and began to get ready for bed. After his two hours, I guess he was satisfied because he packed up and left...never said a word to us, and actually whistled while he worked! Who knew that farming was a nocturnal occupation...

The first climbing area we visited was Vela Stiniva, only a few kilometers from the studio. Of course on Hvar that meant windy, slow, often one car width roads with the imminent danger of oncoming traffic around every bend.

The village of Vela Stiniva

Stiniva was nestled down in the base of one of the many coves on Hvar. The limestone cliffs surround the small town on both sides then open out to the ocean. Development is limited mostly to the eastern facing crag but the potential for the area is very promising. The crag is known on the island for the best concentration of hard routes. Our first climb was not so great but our second was absolutely stellar and to this day, probably our favorite route of the entire trip. It's name is Lavande (lavander, one of the main crops of the island) and it is a 6b+; it's holds are easy on the hands and the moves consist of  continuous laybacks switching from side to side. The rest of the crag provided great fun for the next two days, but a bit more difficult than Corinne would have liked...

Vela Stiniva cave

The supposed stellar area of climbing, Cliffbase (www.cliff-base.com), was on the other side of the island. We had some intel from an acquaintance of mine but we needed more to find the actual climbing area. So instead of climbing in the morning, we headed for Hvar Town to track down the information. Before our trip, I met this woman Rachel who told me all about Hvar. She originally went to Croatia for three weeks but ended up staying a year. She told me that Hvar Adventure (www.hvaradventure.com)  was the place to go for all of our information needs. We found HA and asked for Pacho or Vese. Diana explained that both Pacho and Vese were unavailable at the moment but if we needed climbing info, Keecho (sp?) could help us out and he was at the cafe around the corner.  We sat and chatted with the HA guides for several hours, where they provided us with info on Cliffbase, in addition to other areas on Hvar, not to mention Paklenica, a national park that we hit on our way out of Croatia, but more on that later.  Hvar Adventure is the bomb; anyone visiting Hvar should definitely check them out. They run trips on climbing, sailing and kayaking and their guides are top notch. Thanks for all your help Vese and for being so accommodating!

Nothing is bolted here yet...WTF?!?!

Later that afternoon, we headed to Cliffbase. There are over 100 climbs in the area, ranging from 5a to 8a, in addition to an area for some deep water soloing.  We went up three pitches and then called it a day, as we had to make the epic trip back to Pokrovnik...We never went back to Cliffbase, as we found the climbs at Vela Stiniva better and not to mention, free; it costs $5 per person to climb at Cliffbase, as it is owned by Miro, a "retired" slovenian physicist, who found this gem and bolted every climb there. Miro provides running water, a toilet and even rooms for those who wish to stay overnight.  Though the climbs were plentiful, we decided that we needed to save our money and that we were happier projecting the climbs at Vela Stiniva...

On one of our last days in Hvar, instead of climbing, I wanted to hang out on the beach. While driving on one of the many, hairy dirt roads of Hvar, Steve spotted a perfect little beach for a visit.

But what really caught Steve's eye was the concave rock that went up over the water immediately to the right of the beach. While I laid out on the perfect pebble beach with some German kayakers, Steve hiked over with his five fingers and chalked up hands to attempt some Deep Water Soloing. Steve spent over 45 minutes scrambling and climbing...he ascertained that the climbs began with a 6a traverse into a small amphitheater with three 15meter routes, all in the 7 grade range. Though he enjoyed the scrambling, he found that his five fingers are not ideal, as the rubber is just not sticky enough and the need for closed toes is essential.

DWS fail / bail

After 7 days on Hvar, we decided to call it quits. The climbing was good but we wanted more and we were truly sick of the amount of driving that was necessary to get from one place to  the other. The lack of truly pleasant wild camping was also incredibly frustrating. On June 1st, we headed north to Paklenica and discovered one of Croatia's true climbing gems, along with half of Germany.

Chains in the rain in Spain....I mean Italy...

Monday morning we woke up having previously discovered the trailer trash of Italy (we stayed at a truly crappy campsite/trailer park, where trashy Italians live on the weekends, which included pools with no water and Pierre, the resident bunny rabbit) We needed to use the Internet so that we could see when our registration was to arrive and to see what was happening with our rental in Croatia, so we headed to Torri d'europa for our Vodafone Internet hook-up.  An hour of web use and then some food shopping at the COOP (the Italian supermercato that was probably the best market we've found since the superCarrefour outside of Font, actually even better) and then off to the local crag in Trieste.

Though it had been raining when we woke up, we had waited for the rock to dry and figured that about four hours of no rain was good enough for the limestone...when we arrived we checked out the crags and the rock was dry, yippee! So we hiked down to the overhanging area since there was definitely a threat of reoccurring rain.

The hike was a bit steep and muddy and included a rope for support. We hiked down and began to look for some good warm-ups when it began to sprinkle.

iPhone topos are a bitch....

Well, we could deal with a little rain but we decided to go to the truly overhanging crag where we would be shielded. The climbing was a bit harder, mostly a rang of 7's with a couple of 6's and a couple of 8's. Being that I was not quite comfortable with the limestone yet, Steve was going to be the only one climbing these routes. We started on La Fontana, a 6c+. As Steve started the line, it began to drizzle once again but since this was mostly overhanging, we were still dry...that is until the 4th clip, where he had to climb over to the head wall and it started pouring. I wasn't able to look up as rain was pouring into my eyes. Steve fell at the 5th clip, having hit a hold that was completely sopping (no grip there), but he was determined to finish the route. Four more bolts and he was done...did I mention that he had to clean it as well, as I wasn't gonna do it in the rain. By the time Steve finished he was drenched and it was consistently pouring. We looked at the other routes and though most of them were dry, the last bolt or the chains were over the lip or in the rain...we decided to pack it up and try again tomorrow...we're stuck here for at least another day until our registration arrives and we might as well take full advantage...our hike out was wet, muddy, steep and a bit treacherous...think Michael Douglass and Kathleen Turner à la Romancing the Stone...wish we had taken a pic...

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.