Monday, 31 December 2007

Home Sweet Home

"I know of no sweeter sight for a man's eyes than his own country" so said Odysseus, relating tales of his native Ithaca. Homer has a point, I think. The best part of going away, for me, is coming home. Coming home after 3 1/2 months away has been quite an experience.... and I haven't got as far as the office door yet! Having thought about very few things while we were away, it has been a shock to remember how phrenetic my "usual" life is.

Dover harbour - darker, colder and wetter than we left

Since September brain power has been concentrated on what there is to eat, where to sleep, what there is to climb and whether or not it's going to rain. That's not to say I've thought exclusively about these things, but I'd left behind the everyday paraphernalia of washing, washing up, phone calls, post to open, deciding what to wear, worrying whether my hair is a mess (ok, so I didn't worry much about this before I went away or while I was away, but suddenly now it seems important!) etc etc. Revolting as this may sound, we even stopped worrying about how often we showered - everything we had with us was also unwashed. Alarm bells only started ringing when we realised that everyone we met smelled of washing powder....

The luxuries of home are as luxurious, if not more so, as I had anticipated: my own bed, a hot shower and clean clothes. My tan is fast washing away as a result; I have had it pointed out to me on numerous occasions already that it might not be tan after all, it's just dirt! On the flip side, I've realised exactly how little "stuff" one needs, even to lead an exceedingly comfortable middle class existence. I've started to clear out various cupboards, signed up for eBay and Freecycle, and am trying very hard to avoid post-Christmas sales (reasonably, though not entirely, successfully).

For those of you who like statistics, or who might be thinking about a similar trip, here are some numbers:

We were away for 93 days during which we drove 5264 miles, climbed 155 sport routes and tackled 160+ boulder problems. We climbed for 71 of those 93 days.

We spent 9 weeks in a tent, 5 nights in hotels, 4 nights in a gite, 1 night in a refugio and 15 nights in the wendy house.

The whole trip cost me £1802.12, which includes bank charges and commission.

Caroline ate 2.75kg of Nutella and bought the entire stock of rice cakes from Intermarche in Laragne. We have eaten unprecedented quantities of butter, rice and potatoes, made our own chips, sampled some strange cheeses and not poisoned ourselves once. We've had 3 hangovers between us and drunk our way through about (I reckon) 250 teabags.

It cost us £168 in petrol to drive the 1654 miles from Finistrat (near Benidorm) to Edinburgh (including one night in a Formula hotel) using the toll motorways through Spain and France. The tolls cost us just under 140 Euros.

We climbed indoors yesterday. That was a shock. I feel like a complete fraud saying that I did 7b in Siurana when I got spat off 6b at Alien Rock. I have no strength at all, I feel weak as a kitten, which seems daft having spent so long climbing outside. My excuse is that I haven't been climbing steep stuff outside, and all the lead routes at Alien Rock are overhanging. I forsee a lot of training in 2008......

Diff climbing the drilled wall near Torello

To sum up, I should have done this trip years ago. It has been a tremendous experience and we've had a lot of fun. I would do it again tomorrow without hesitation. There have been highs and lows, but it's all part of the fun. It's hard to maintain the motivation and enthusiasm to climb every day for so long, when the usual home comforts are missing. There is no prosaic routine to put the exciting things into perspective. I also found that being surrounded by like-minded climbers makes it far easier to explore one's limits, to push oneself and to attempt things that one might otherwise shy away from. In other words, it's difficult to generate all your own psyche! I am rapidly coming round to the idea that everyone should take some time out from whatever they regard as normal. Removing the clutter of things we take for granted (hot water, bed, clean clothes, to continue with the theme....) has given me a better idea of what is important to me, has put things in perspective a little more. "I can see clearly now the rain has gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that blind me. It's going to be a bright bright sunshiney day."

Chilling out in Font....happy days :-)

Dave Mac on A Muerte (9a) at Siurana

I'm gradually catching up with the routine stuff I've been evading for three and a half months, including adding photographs to previous blog posts which had none, opening a mountain of post and washing all the clothes I took with me. It's nice to be back in my kitchen, and I promise I'll make some more brownies soon. I know you've been missing them! I'm now looking for the next challenge, which might be as simple (!) as moving house. In the meantime, if anyone out there is thinking about a long trip I've only one thing to say.

Do it.

Happy New Year :)


Ian said...

I still remember my 3-week, 3,500-mile, 11-country trip round europe in a old land rover.

Yes: go for it...

Niall said...


Welcome back to dreary old Scotland, where's the weather's pish, the rock is cold and the bolts are rusty.

Look forward to seeing you again at AR2

Happy new year!