Freesteel Blog » Escape to canyon country

Escape to canyon country

Monday, September 6th, 2010 at 8:49 am Written by:

Deferred Posting. The podcast player was found in Becka’s computer case. Now I’ll have some noises to listen to on the long drive across Europe. Clive lent me his phone for the rest of the holiday to enable me to find out where I was going. We sat around for one last beer in the newly cleaned potato hut with its natural wooden tables and no longer linoleum covered floor.

The night was disturbed by the small brown mouse that had made its nest in our food box earlier in the week. This time it was in the tent, though the fact took some time to establish because it froze and stopped rustling every time we woke up. We cornered it under our old clothes, unzipped the inner and watched it catapulte out like a flying furball. Then it spent the rest of the night trying to get back in. I could see the it running up and down on top of the inner tent.

In the morning we set off from Hilde’s at 9:30 (aleady getting hot) to drop Niel off at Robert The Wonder Caver’s place for his second caving expo of the year (his invite to Vooodoo canyon materialized during the expo dinner). We also deposited 50 kgs of carbide with him that had been mouldering in the potato hut attic since the invention of cheap LED lights. I hassled him to show us his corel draw cave surveys. The boulders he draws are filled-in overlapping polygons, which is a would make it very difficult to implement a feature where is his passages are coloured by anything other than a constant shade of white.

The huge traffic jam on the highway past Salzburg caused us to detour south using our detailed Austria map that includes single track very steep back roads. Becka was unamused that we weren’t getting anywhere fast. We should have stayed in the traffic jam, she said. But I knew exactly what it would have been like if we were stuck there: We should have turned off when we could. No matter what you do the other option always looks loads better. And with this in mind one ought to be able to modify one’s irrational feelings of frustration. I happen to know that a hot sticky 15 hour drive is never going to be fun, so it doesn’t come as any surprise when no one enjoys it. Forehead sweat needed to be wiped off sunglasses every half hour, and no matter how humid it got, the noise of the fan-blower was too annoying for some people to suffer. It got bad at Bern. We were reading from a Swiss map that still had the Wookey’s notes on it telling me where to go to collect the remains of the club hang-glider after Henrietta had rolled the Wookmobile on the drive back from expo in 1989. I was glad to see the back of the flesh eating zombie that Becka had become by Lausanne where she was going to stay at a campsite while attending the European Conference on Visual Perception. Then I headed for the hills to the sound of the 13th year 666th episode of ThisIsHell on the stereo (a four hour radio show from Chicago that Becka would rather chew her own arm off than listen to). I had been looking forward to this all day.

I arrived through the Simplon pass shortly before 2am, and now had to follow the instructions texted to me by Ju:

SS33 between km 129-128 take ss659;crodo. Km 3:Oira. Then L to and thro’ Oira. Keep going, then R to Pinone (sign on floor) lot of bends to Cresta keep going. L when sign R for Scarpparo. Drive to end of road. Caselone. Should find our car. House opposite, up some steps. Canyoning stuff on balcony. Gluck

Now I knew why the guy refused to send them directions in advance, and insisted on leading them there from the main train station so they didn’t get irrevocably lost. There was no exit from SS33 at marker 128 when coming from the north. Italian highways routinely have incomplete junctions making it often impossible to retrace your steps.

After a U-turn I found the Oira road and turned left at the first of three right hand Scarpparo signs (the wrong one). Having gone a few metres beyond it I decided I needed to have another look at it, and reversed up the road, making sure I steered clear of the wall so as not to crunch the bike mounted on the tailgate. It was 2:30 in the morning.


Hmph. Car obviously hit a ditch. Front wheels skidded when I tried to pull forward. It turned out I was on one of those raised roadbeds without a guard rail, and only three wheels were still on the road. If I’d have reversed really fast I could have gone far enough over the edge so that my weight would be counterbalancing the car, and stepping out of it would cause it to see-saw completely over the side. As it was, it appeared to be propped up on one of the axles at the one point where it was doing no damage. How lucky was that?

I phoned all three numbers at my destination. Only Ju picked up. Andrew and Ju woke up and arrived just in time to rescue me from a very helpful Italian couple who had turned up on their way home from a party and were insisting on attempting to tow the car back onto the road, probably bending anything that wasn’t bent already. The right answer was three men standing on the ground beneath the wall, lifting that corner of car onto their shoulders while Ju sat inside and let it roll forward, not too far.

And so began my first canyoning holiday in ages.

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