Thursday, October 20, 2011

Encore Chamonix

What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks disappearing? - It's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. ~Jack Kerouac

Crazy ventures, there were a few. And now life took full circle. Almost a year after I had come there for the first time, I arrived once again in a place where I had the time of my life. Burning with anticipation from the very beginning of my hitchhiking there, I got more and more excited as the kilometers passed by. In leaps and bounds at the beginning (despite quite late start at 11, at 1 I was almost at the Swiss border, thanks to a driver who picked me up in a town just 40 km away from my starting point), dragging a little at the end. Surprisingly it took some time to get a ride to Martigny, with most of the traffic heading the opposite direction, and from there to Chamonix. N'est pas un problème pour moi, I tenaciously waited until somebody would stop and take me to the place where my memories remain the same way I got there one year ago. 

One sign that took me all the way to Karlsruhe.

This one brought me to Bern early in the morning.

I slowly started bursting with excitement when I saw the vineyards of Martigny, the sign "Dès la frontière 21,5 km," when I drove up the switchbacks above Martigny, which reminds me of taking off every time I do it, when I passed through every other village after the border: Vallorcine, where we got stuck due to an avalanche in December, Argentiere, which I mistook for Chamonix when I passed it for the first time, Les Tines, the destination of two hitchhikers we gave a ride, Les Praz, which seemed more cozy and peaceful than Chamonix; and finally Chamonix itself, where an extremely friendly elderly lady touring France in her green van dropped me off at Place du Mont Blanc. 

Martigny, almost France

Is there anything more awesome than being able to lie down after more than 24 hours of sitting and standing? All thanks to...

...Hélène, in her late sixties; thousands of kilometers in France alone in her van.

A simple happenstance place where I found myself not having anything else interesting to do over the winter. And now, when I read my second blog entry (click here to view), I have a feeling that such events don't happen by chance.

What else could I do than bring forth these memories, hidden in landscapes infested with mountains, exploding fall colors and tiny 18m² in Les Houches; all of them calling for attention?

Since the Sun whimsically does what it does, I had to be patient until I could feel like in Provence again.

This randez-vous ends around 11.

After this, even without a shirt... can enjoy the best view from above!
There was a time to meet friends. There was a time to be foolish...

How to be a douchebag on the slope...

How to stay extra safe on the slope...

...and time to do useful things...

How to make an Icelandic hat even warmer or "this time it's not me who's playing with the needle." only the time that I move into some warm and snug apartment and seeing snow-capped mountains become the order of the day has to come!

Friday, October 7, 2011


The beautiful été indien of last weeks didn't wait for me. Instead of >20 degrees I found clouds and rain. It's not easy to change temperatures reaching 30 degrees every day for such cold weather.

But much more than this, it's more difficult to change this:

...into this:

...or this:

There's still no pavement on my street! Well, it is there, but it ends right in front of my house.

One thing that surprised me was exorbitant prices of public transport.

Warsaw has surpassed everything! Even in Paris single metro ticket costs only €1,70. Not to mention that you don't have to buy a new one for every transfer. Here for 2 transfers on the distance of 15 km you have to pay around €2,50.

No hitchhiking this time. In order to save time and not risk getting very cold on my way to Poland (I had mainly summer clothes with me and only some for slightly colder weather) I decided to take a plane. The search for lowest fare was enough to drive me crazy within minutes. When you hitchhike, you start when you want, end where you want. Nothing will happen if you stray a little. But here you have to go through tons of bullshit before you find the best fare and you have to do it long enough in advance to make sure you actually have it! So I found a flight from Beauvais to Warsaw, and I swear, I have enough of flying for the rest of my life. I was at the airport on time (thanks to some help from my covoiturage driver who works there) but still wasted so much time. There were delays and we had to wait for so long for the boarding, which started at the time when the plane was supposed to take off. After the landing in Warsaw we had to squish in a shuttle that took us only 50 meters further. Walking that distance would take less time than squishing passengers in this tiny bus. On the top of that, the guards at BVA thoroughly combed the luggage for any forbidden objects and took away some of my possessions I deliberately tried to smuggle. Not anything really important or irreplaceable but still enough to remind me that choosing any cheap airline and taking only hand luggage will give you lots of headache packing it.  I even wondered whether my plastic spork would attract their attention, it has the knife-looking part in it! Fortunately no more flying on my way back to France, so I could take a cistern of liquids and the best equipped Swiss army knife, if I wanted to, without anybody telling me "it's forbidden, it's forbidden!"

Good time in Paris once again. Very short, but nicer than my previous stays there. My carpooling driver (originally from Marseille) told me the French of the north are more cold and distant than exuberant southerners. These exceptions that occurred to me in just 2 hours of my stay there proved the rule. Some elderly dark-skinned men stopped me on one of the streets in African district and we had a short chit-chat in French and in a little bit in Polish, but it was not me who said anything in the latter language. Then on my way to metro station an Indian guy stopped me, took me there and opened the gate for me using his monthly ticket so I didn't have to use mine. Then in Créteil I first stayed at the metro station and read my book waiting for the morning when I would go to the airport, but after some time one guy who passed by named Mikko offered me to wait in his place so I stayed there, without sleeping too much, but at least it was cozier and warmer then at the station.

And now I have 2 more night in my comfortable Polish bed, a few friends to meet and very short time where I have to squeeze as many things as I can before I leave for France again. That's my home now, there's my place. Chamonix, Les Houches, Lagnes, Roussillon, carefully chosen by the gods to attract events of specific significance. Soon...