A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

3 months already?

monkey view
Gibraltar monkey
Our last few weeks in Europe have been a bit of a whirlwind. We ended up in Gibraltar which is definitely not Morocco but was actually more interesting than we expected. The rock has a history of battles for ownership and strategic importance in other conflicts which have made it a rather unique place. We walked to the top of the rock which has an amazing view of the Mediterranean. Also on the rock is St Michael's cave, which is a natural limestone cave with huge stalactites and cave formations. They think this is the cave where Neanderthal man was first discovered and that is referred to as the gates of Hades in Roman  mythology since at the time no one knew if there was a bottom and the formations are quite trippy. It reminded us a bit of the gaudi architecture in Barcelona. They even given musical performances in there. That would be pretty cool! After the natural cave, we walked to the other side of the rock where the siege tunnels are. The British built a total of 33 miles of tunnels, starting in the late 1700's and continuing on through WWII. The tunnels were initially to get to a point on the rock and mount a cannon where the defenses were weak. Another interesting quirk to Gibraltar are the monkeys. They were brought over at some point from northern Africa, and they say that the British will leave Gibraltar when the monkeys do. So of course the British want to keep the monkeys there, and have even brought more over when the population was low and feed them still today. They are interesting to see, but a bit strange.

st michael's cave
St Michael's cave
gibraltar bontanical gardens
Gibraltar botanical gardens
After Gibraltar, we decided to make our way back to fontainebleau. The forecast wasn't great, but it was promising enough that we hoped we could get in a few more days of bouldering. On our way back we stopped in El Chorro (but didn't climb) the gorge is amazing and we wanted to check it out and spend one more day in the sun.

el chorro gorge
El Chorro Gorge
Once we got back near Paris, our first stop was Versailles. We had bought tickets when we were first here before realizing that the line wrapped 3 times around the front courtyard and we couldn't handle the thought of a 2 hour of more wait at the time. We guessed that in December, there would be much fewer people and were fortunately correct since we walked right in with no wait this time. Versailles was quite spectacular. It showed all the excesses of the french monarchy at the time and you could understand why the people of Paris were so upset at the time that all this money was being spent on the palace and they were starving. The marble work was probably one of our favorite parts. We've never seen so much beautiful marble in so many different colors.
versailles cathedral
Versailles cathedral

After Versailles we were a bit concerned as the forecast for Fontainebleau had changed to one nice day and 3 rainy days. We were quite discouraged about the prospect of sitting in the rain for our last few days here and were wishing we had stayed in Albarracin longer. We ended up getting 2 1/2 good days of climbing in, it rained at night a few times and drizzled one afternoon, but our last day which looked the worst ended up being a beautiful cool, sunny day. We went to the very first area that we climbed at here, 95.2. It's a sunny open area on a bit of  a hill so we knew it would dry quickly. We found that many problems were a lot easier this time around. We think it is more that it was about 20 C (75F vs 45F) colder this time around which helped a lot with the friction. Maybe we've gotten a bit stronger as well :) We had a great time on some of our favorites from before and checking out some new ones in that area.

We're heading to a hotel near the airport tonight for our flight tomorrow. It's hard to believe that three months has flown by so quickly. It was been an amazing trip that we will never forget. We spend Christmas with Cassie's parents in Portland Oregon and then head down to Bishop California for at least a month, maybe two. So enjoy your holidays and we'll be posting more sometime in late-December or early January.

red problem
fun red problem at font
cul de chien area
the roof at cul de chien

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The world's fastest trip to Morocco.

Yes, we are in gibraltar. After a humbling attempt to go to Morocco, we realized that we still have a lot to learn about travelling and always having a back-up plan for if things don't work out as planned.

We arrived in tarifa 3 days ago, scoured out the ferry and bought 2 open round trip tickets. Found a campground nearby with a beautiful beach and got everything prepared to catch the first ferry of the day at 9:00am. After a nice quick crossing, we arrived in Tangier with plans to take a bus to chefchauen as soon as we could. We found the bus station with some difficulty and while we had stopped at a couple atm's along the way which we couldn't get money out of for some reason, we weren't too concerned until we learned the bus only took cash and we had a total of 5 euros and 30 US dollars on us. We tried 5 more atm's and spoke with a few bank personel trying to find out what was going on. Even now, we still don't really understand why we couldn't get money, one bank told us there was a connection problem and others said they didn't have an agreement with our bank, key bank, another bank told US mastercard and visa aren't accepted in Morocco (probably a language translation issue). On top of this the whole rest of the developed world outside the us uses a chip and pin system in their credit card which is much more secure than our magnetic strip system and this has caused us minor problems in Europe, but we've always been able to get money. So since few places in Morocco take credit cards and we weren't even certain the card would work, (our visa has failed to work a couple of times) and the fact that we couldn't get money from an atm and we didn't have enough cash of any currency, we decided our safest option was to return to Europe that day since we had our return ticket already. We figure our total time exploring this new continent added up to about 3 hours, most of which we were either lost or looking for money.  We decided to drive to gibraltar to fulfil our need to get out of the schengen zone for 2 days.

Not quite the trip we were planning, but no harm was done except to our egos and we've learned some good lessons about the need for backup ways of getting cash and carrying more in the first place. We've learned a ton about gibraltar too, tunnels, monkeys, sieges, pubs, and all. And yes, our atm card works just fine here. Plus we got to visit the UK, without actually going there.

Tomorrow we leave gibraltar to start making our way back to Paris, probably stopping at el chorro along the way.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Clue #2

Scotland and Tangier are both good guesses, but you'll have to try again. Here's another clue.

Guess where we are...

Here's some pictures to help you figure out where we are right now.