It’s summer in Europe! We have been planning a road trip through Europe ever since we moved to Holland. The plan was to drive to the various climbing crags around Europe and intersperse that with sightseeing as well. After we bought our Renault Kangoo in April, this plan became more concrete and we finally embarked on our journey last week.
It started with loads of packing – making sure we have our essentials for the next 2 months in the Kangoo was not easy especially since we have limited space and had to fit our climbing gear, crash pad, camping equipment, food, clothes etc. When it comes to a nomadic lifestyle, less is definitely more. There wasn’t much planning on specifics involved for the trip since we now have the luxury of time and an instant roof over our heads (van and tent = home). All we knew was there’s going to be a fair bit of climbing and driving involved. The rough idea was to head down through Germany towards Switzerland, make our way to France and Italy and somehow back home in Netherlands by September. Of course, we had a list of crags to visit including Magicwood, Ceuse, St. Leger, Chamonix, Finale Ligura etc. This feels like an adventure already!
And so we drove south towards Switzerland with Magicwood as our first stop, this was also where we met up with W (a good friend and very strong Singaporean climber) and made a few new Swiss and German friends. The weather was not on our side as our drive was awashed in pouring rain the entire journey. Magicwood was also having a bout of damp and gloomy days.
Magicwood feels like Jurassic park upon entering with it’s looming cliffs, towering pine trees and numerous waterfalls. Our rest day drive to Chiavenna, Italy was also especially scenic as we went through the Spluga mountain pass, witnessing snowcapped mountains and vast aquamarine lakes on the way. Switzerland has the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen.
When the skies finally cleared in Magicwood, off bouldering we go! Seems like high season here as we met several World Cup climbers including Shauna Coxsey, Juliane Wurm and Jan Hojer. We also climbed with a Japanese climber, Tomoaki who at first glance is a mild and unassuming young teenage boy until he kicks ass on everyone’s projects. Watching him flash 7cs and send an 8a+ in just a few tries (all within the same day) reminds me of the one thing that cannot be trained in climbing – talent.
Unfortunately in the midst of our adventures, the van broke down and had to be sent to the workshop. Yesterday, A flew back to Singapore for a week of visiting, thus I now roam Switzerland solo for a bit. The train journeys are breathtaking as I find myself surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lush fields of wildflowers and grazing cows. After parting in Zurich, I took the train to Basel, a Swiss city bordering France and Germany.
Travelling without a fixed itinerary can be nerve wrecking at times since I’m at the mercy of expensive hotels if the backpackers hostels are filled up. (200CHF/night vs. 30CHF/night) I have been quite lucky thus far in Europe and had no problems securing a bed in a dorm. By now, I’ve learnt that as a budget traveller, anything goes. After all, the hostels in Europe are usually clean and well-kept – I have a roof over my head, a warm bed, hot showers and sometimes even a simple breakfast is included in the price. Most times, fellow travellers I’ve met are friendly and have good ‘room etiquette’ since they have been travelling solo for quite abit as well. The ‘highlight’ of this leg? Staying in a mixed-dorm with 4 other guys who formed a symphonic snoring orchestra in the middle of the night. (somehow I turned out to be the only girl in the room). Well, it’s 30CHF after all, can’t complain much.
Today, I bought a ticket to Colmar, France, having heard much about the quaint little town 45mins from Basel. The place does not look like much upon alighting at the Colmar train station. A short walk into the old town however confirmed the positive travellers’ reviews – it looks straight out of a storybook!
I’ll be exploring more of Basel tomorrow and then its off to Zurich and down south to Lugano, before meeting up with A again. Our next bouldering destination will be right smack among Switzerland’s beautiful lake and alpine district (Interlaken, Jungfraujoch). Till then!