I realise I’ve been pretty terrible at this blogging business recently. I hope nobody has been worried about me or anything. Sorry family! This is a very different form of traveling to anything I’ve experienced before. I have little to no control over where we’re going and a very limited say in how long we stay anywhere. However with great power comes great responsibility, so in this case the opposite is quite liberating. This is honestly the easiest trip I’ve ever done: Yannek our chauffer and budding human encyclopaedia knows where we’re going, how to get there and what Napoleon was up to there a few hundred years earlier. It’s mildly depressing to be starting my third year of a history degree, but still have nothing on someone two years younger than me. I should probably be more concerned by this than I actually am… In terms of actual living, staying alive, I don’t need to concern myself too much either. Alex manages to turn their busking money (often surprisingly lucrative considering their four song set list) into food for us all via a combination of a lot of hours spent in supermarkets, comparing the price of SuperU’s kg of chips with that of Leaderprice, coaxing the van’s dodgy hobs into action and using pretty much anything to make the result taste a bit more exciting. Ever had pasta with a can of lentils and sausages? Neither had i… We drive in the van, cook in the van, eat in the van, drink in the van and sleep in the van. It’s our portable, comfy cocoon and I might cry a little when I have to leave.
This adventure, despite it’s relatively safe setting (what can go wrong as close to home as France?), has possibly been my biggest spontaneous gamble yet. I first met Alex and Yannek in Chefchauen, Morocco around two months ago, where I was impressed by their story and the breakfast Alex and Dougan (the crazy, long haired American hitch-hiker I travelled with for a little while, if you are an avid enough blog fan to remember that far back!) cooked for us one morning. I was intrigued by the idea of traveling around Europe in a van, especially when I found out that Alex had never been abroad before setting out for a year and a half with very limited mechanical knowledge, no idea of what it would be like and a tendency to get sunstroke. I would have liked to travel with them from Chefchauen, but was interested in going to Al Hosema with the other boys, so I said my goodbyes and thought little more of them…. For a week or so anyway. At the point, the wonder that is facebook informed me that they were in Portugal. By now, I was staying with Geoff in Spain and had run out of time to stick to my original plan of traveling back via land and see and had booked a flight out of Porto. We were all going to be in Faro at the same time. We ate burgers, finished off a few too many beers and made drunken plans to meet up again soon. I’d fly out to meet them mid-August. Why not?!
So I did, and here I am, one of the best decisions I ever made (other than originally going to Morocco of course, without which none of this would have happened) . In fact, without alcohol none of this would have happened as I booked my Marrakech flight drunk too (didn’t tell you that did I Mum, sorry). I’m not sure what the moral of that story is really?
Anyway, I hope this makes up for a little of my silence. Until yesterday, we’ve been enjoying the sunshine (except first thing in the morning when we wake up clawing our way to fresh air), jumping off high things into rivers and admiring the incredible scenery in South-East France. Picking up hitchers is always interesting, especially Matthew, a middle-aged hippy who invited us back to his house in Circ de Archiane which was probably the most amazing place we’ve seen, surrounded by massive rocky outcrops. He might be my new idle… This sunny bliss continued until we reached the ugly city of Genoble, where we lost a day confused in what looked like endless council flats, expensive supermarkets and sweating in the van. The next morning we woke up to find the battery dead and after some pushing and shoving, tried to explain to the nearest Frenchmen what the problem was. What followed was a very long wait in the middle of nowhere. Even half an hour would have been painful before breakfast. Trouble comes in threes, so I didn’t let my guard down. Then came the rain …and the leaks. Our portable, comfy cocoon turned into a enclosed sprinkler system. Everything was getting wet. The storm was so intense, I managed to have a shower in it (trust me I needed it!).
The weather is still bad, but we have mostly contained the leaks and they made enough money busking in Chambery yesterday that we have food for the time being. We’re heading to Germany now, the land of plenty (as far as sausages are concerned anyway). Life will be easier for them being able to speak the language and having friends to visit. I don’t envy them sleeping in here all winter though…