Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Days 35-39: Flying kites in the rain

Apparently, this place sells nice bikes.

I did a 7 mile mountain bike ride on my road bike to grab these photos.

=] Everyone had been telling me that I'd been so lucky to have missed the rain for the majority of my trip. A group that I met from England actually told me that for almost a full month of their trip they had just been sitting in their van waiting for the rain to stop. And now, well, I'm in Arco and it's raining hard. So common were the storms on this beautiful lake.

I have had some very good fortune here though. I met Inez from who has let me stay with her for three nights. She is from Argentina. It's hilarious how we communicate. She speaks to me in broken English and I speak to her in broken Spanish. We've had fun with one of her friends trying to make the best of the rainy days.

It's been hard to stay here and not climb though. Arco is surrounded by huge walls of climbable rock. This is the only city that I've ever been in to celebrate with such vigor a climbing championship that's not until 2011!

Arco is at the northern tip of the beautiful lake Garda. The regularity of the wind makes wind surfing and kite boarding quite popular. I've signed up for some kite boarding lessons and I'm now waiting for them to call Inez to tell us that there is good wind! I can't wait!! Rain or not, I'm going to give this all I have. I've wanted to learn how to kite board ever since Danielle Boromisa got me hooked on the sport by taking me kite skiing back home in Colorado. The guys who took my money for this kite boarding lesson also snapped this photo. Then, they dropped me off in the water only to leave me without instructions. They drove the boat away while I sat in ice cold water pondering what to do. I'd seen those crazy video's of kite boarders flying through parking lots and decided to become a statistic. I moved the kite into the power of the wind and let it rip me through the water. Although I couldn't get up on the board, I had a blast.

After two full days of rain, I couldn't take the temptation to climb on my finger that is not ready to climb. I went to some overhanging cliffs to look for partners. I met some really cool folks and got to climb in Arco on a beautiful day.

Mike and Kathy have an adorable child named Maya. This was their first day climbing as a threesome. So when Maya started crying, they were happy to have me around. It's funny how meeting a family like this can make me long to have children one day. They were so cool!

Days 33-35: Finale Ligure and the immense gut bug

France tried to keep me. The trains were all jacked with delays. Luckily, I ran into Maria and Liddo (sorry if I misspelled your names). Maria spoke Spanish and Liddo spoke Italian (which meant that he actually knew where we needed to go). With Liddo as our guide, we coordinated our efforts through a language jungle of broken Spanish and bandaged English. It was so much fun to have them share in the craziness.

If you're living in Milan, the news of some celebrity shopping at Prada might peak your interest as much as good weather in Finale Ligure, but it's unlikely. Finale Ligure receives a lot of athletic traffic from Milan as it's only 3 hours away. There's a good bit of climbing as well as mountain biking in this seaside town. Finale Ligure is a darn cool place.

Unfortunately, I was incredibly sick for the 2 night, 3 days that I stayed in Finale Ligure with the following symptoms: cold chills, intense night sweats, really fun flu symptoms that included not being able to eat anything that would stay eaten for a few days. While experiencing cold chills in the warm sunshine, I forced myself to go climb this tuffa latent beauty (6C+) just so I could claim that I'd climbed in this athletic oasis. Gosh darn it though, after the send I was so freaking exhausted that I almost couldn't hike out. I'm glad that my friend Francesca met me there because she certainly helped bring me back to health. It especially sucks being sick alone, you know? (So thanks Francesca!!)

Francesca did so many nice things worth mentioning. The highlight was when she actually went down from the hotel to holler at these drunk and unbelievably untalented singers who were blasting karaoke in the street until 3am. The result was that she actually got them to shut things down after she reminded them that they were legally only allowed to broadcast such noise until 2am. Laying immobile and shivering in my bed, I couldn't think of a kinder person than Francesca.

Our second night we found an agritourismo that was perfectly peacful

With Francesca's kindness, I was on the mend as we left, but still sick with the flu. I hadn't biked or climbed anything worth mentioning for what feels like way to long. I wanted some adventure badly I started to make plans for Arco.

Days 30-33: Bus smoke, Calanques Junks, and Ceuse Peeuse

The bus ride from Barcelona to Marseille involved several exciting events. First, this gal carrying a toddler decided to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom, which made the bus driver furious. So he pulled over the bus and for about 10 minutes scolded her with many instructions as to how to avoid such stupidity in the future. I felt like giving him a high five as he walked back to the driver's seat, but I restrained myself because several angry French people thought that his tirade (entirely held in Spanish even though the French folks were requesting that he speak French) lasted too long. Verbal fights about the bus being cold and then fierce verbal battles about the bus being too warm brought me flashbacks from scenes out of Gladiator. The driver endured the brunt of all these complaints and frustrations. When I arrived in Marseille, I felt like crap from all the stress.

I hiked for a mile to meet a familiar face. Clothilde was once a visiting professor at Mines with an office next to mine. She allowed me to stay in her place as a refuge.

Clothilde set me up to climb with some of her friends at the Calanques, but we ended up climbing some slab in a light rain. =] I put the draws on the scariest 11d of my life at this place. I have no plans to return to do the harder routes.

[Mental photo activity: imagine a flat piece of granite like rock that sucks and insert it here.]

I sort of gathered that the climbing in Marseille was not my style, so the next day I rented a car and drove 2.5 hours to Ceuse. Now this was nice: during the drive through the beautiful countryside of southern France, I was continually accompanied by large fields of colorful flowers who were receiving a tango lesson from the light wind. I watched the flowers being wildly dipped into the green grass, but I'll ask Shelton to confirm that these were tango moves.

After the slab, I could hardly contain myself as I was approaching Ceuse. Towering high above the valley, the cliffs of Ceuse just beg you to hike to them as they are unmistakably visible from almost any point from the flowering fields below. So as soon as I arrived at the campsite, I parked the car and bursted up the trail. The burst lasted for the entire long, long hike. And when I say long hike, I'm not joking. This bad boy cliff is straight up hill for 45 minutes or more.

As soon as I arrived at the cliff, I people started offering me belays even before I would ask! [For me, this experience was much better than showing up to Rifle without a partner - anyone feel me there? I love Rifle but I think we need a cultural revolution out there]. Anyway, I got to climb almost immediately. Three climbs deep, I sent my first Ceuse 12a, not without complications though.

Ceuse sort of seems like a mushroom to me. Similar to a mushroom cap, the cliff band is almost perfectly round and much of the climbing starts vertical only to tapper off as you get closer to the top. Now I have not tested this theory, but apparently most mushrooms are poisonous and will make you sick. Ceuse was a cap that I should not have tasted. The climbing generally has crimps and slopping pockets (except for one good wall), which stole my health. On that 12a, I was pulling on a mono crimp with my left middle finger when I heard it pop. It was so loud that my belayer heard it! It seriously sounded like a nerf gun shooting a ball by the force of compressed air. Ceuse is a poisonous mushroom and my ruptured pulley can prove it, but the view from the cliff is worth the hike.

I had planned to stay in Ceuse for two days, but the finger injury made that pointless. So I did the long hike back down to camp and drove during the night to reach Marseille. When I arrived at Clothilde house, I realized that I had reached my France synopsis: I saw a small part of this country and it didn't really make me want more. I thought that I might go to Fontainebleau, but I couldn't bring myself to stay. Hence, I was on my way to Finale Ligure, Italy in the morning.

Days 28-29: Barcelona HOSPITALITY shoots Gaudi

Cristina and Ferron took hospitality to an entirely new level! I met them through my friend Francesca (from Milan). They turned out to be two of the nicest people on the planet! They had a hip flat in downtown Barcelona with a chill patio scene. Our midnight meals were something that we enjoyed together.

Cristina and Ferron were aslo incredibly helpful in pointing me towards Gudi's wild architectural achievements that fill this town with some curiously curvy creations.

[video to come]

Before my trip even started, people were warning me about pick pockets on this street filled with crazy performers:

[video to come]

The colorful eye candy in Barcelona's fresh market's was no match for the flavors that this food catered to my pallet. Yum!

I left Barcelona wondering if I might one day study Spanish near this town. I think that it would be quite possible to study here for three months (and of course, climb in Rodellar as much as humanly possible).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Days 22-27: World's best climbing

If monkey's had wings, they'd certainly use them here. The mighty forearm pump that these tufa latent walls manifest is just ridiculous! To date, I will go on record to make the following claim: Rodellar is hands down the best place to climb in the world. This route, El Delfin, proves it:

Despite the fact that we climbed for 5 days straight (no rest days, just lots of love for this place!), Di found a way to get her crush on:

The mid day siesta was luxurious at the many oasis spots along the shore line of the river that flows through the canyon of Rodellar.

The great thing about traveling with Diana was that she made sure we did Spain with style.

Our style didn't go to far though. Here was our daily lunch routine:

The dogs in Spain were as strange as our chorizo.

When leaving Rodellar, we made the most room we could with our new friends Stephan and Makenzie. Holy cow! Four people, four climbing packs, a carry on bag and a bike were all crammed into the Mini Cooper for 3 hours. We felt like clowns.

On the way to Barcelona, we took a huge detour. We stopped to visit a museum of one of my favorite artists, Salvador Dali.

After seeing my friend off to the airport, I think that I already miss Di!

Just to warn you folks back in Denver, she's traveling for about 28 hours straight due to some flight issues...please give her a foot massage or something upon her return. She also likes chorizo...a lot!