Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Soniettes

We woke early to head out rafting.  Kevin decided not to come.  Matt and I headed out in search of sandwiches and sunscreen but there was nothing open.  Even starbucks wasn’t open at 7:30.  One of the hardest things to get used to is how nothing seems to ever be open out here.  We finally give up and catch a cab to the rafting meeting site.  (ack 6.50 fr just to sit in the cab.  Yikes, that is like 5$)


We get to the rafting spot and it is basically just a cargo container parked next to the lake.  The guide, David is there.  Since we were only two, he strongly recommended something called hydro speeding.  Basically, we didn’t have enough people to go rafting.  It looked like we were the only people coming.  He said he needed some time to get the equipment ready so we wandered looking for breakfast.  Still nothing open.  We did finally find a little Spanish coffee shop w/ croissants and chocolate croissants out on the table.  Mmmmm chocolate croissants… they also sold a couple of Panini type sandwiches.  Nothing veggie so matt was out of luck but I picked one up.  We even stopped at the Shell station and there was just nothing useful for him for lunch.  Aah well, tough being a grass eater.  B)


When we got back it looked like David had rustled up a few more players for the day.  There was one British guy, Richard, that lived near Geneva.  He has lived there too long.  When asked what was nice about Geneva, his answer was “You can get out of it easily”.  Nice guy though.  Also with us was a buddy of David’s and a girl who spoke very little english.  I think the guy just comes out to play if David has room in the car. 


Chatting w/ Richard, I looked up and realized we were about to cross the border.  I almost always carry my passport on me when I am traveling but I decided that I didn’t want to take it rafting or leave it in the car while rafting so I left it in the hotel.  It is too late now as we cross the border into France.  Oh well.  Hope this doesn’t come back to bite me in the ass.


We cruise through the French countryside for a while.  Lots of farms of unknown types.  Very pretty countryside.  Swing into a French bakery in a small town.  I picked up a better sandwich.  Mathew asked for a vegetarian option and they first looked at him strange, then repeated “vegetarian” but w/ a French accented sneer and said no. 


We continue on and head up a valley that reminds me of a greener version of taos canyon.  Eventually we pull over, and start getting ready.  David gets ready to take the car to the end point and says that we shouldn’t leave anything valuable in the car, it isn’t safe.  Considering the other option is to bring it into the water w/ no waterproof gear, I would say it isn’t safe w/ me either.  I later see that he hides his stuff in the engine compartment.  All the stuff was fine but it was a bit late to bring that up.


Eventually david returns from dropping the car and we get into the water in full wet suits.  The water is pretty damn cold.  Through the day, each time we “pull over” to the side of the water I realize my hands are just shy of numb.  Wouldn’t be doable w/o the wetsuits. 


Hydro speeding basically consists of rafting w/ no raft.  Instead we each get a helmet, flippers, a life vest and a fancy boogey board.  Made of hard foam and about 6 inches thick, it has a space to put your arms inside up to the fore arms.  The idea is that you float down the river after this thing and hopefully it hits the rocks instead of you.  When you pull yourself up high on it, it covers down to about my hips.  Extended it just covers my arms.  Apparently faster is when you are extended. 


David gives us a short tutorial.  Basically, stay as flat as you can, boulders are waiting just below the water to kill your knees, let the water do the work, and then he taught us how to flip ourselves over if we capsize.  These things are really hard to control but I figure I would get better at it quickly.  (but I never really did get the hang of steering). He showed a few hand gestures.  Rock, OK, and paddle hard that way.


Now we were ready to get going, but first we get to do a cliff jump.  The “cliff” is really only about 20 ft up but when we get to the top it looks a bit sketchier than I initially thought.  First off, we aren’t really at the edge, more like the peak.  Second, extending through the area we are to jump through about half way down is a small sapling.  David goes first and goes right through the sapling.  He planted both feet on it and knocked it out of the way.  Great.  Matt was up next, then me, then Richard.  At my turn, I was more worried about being able to jump far enough to clear the rock we were jumping from than the sapling.  Or the landing.  I jumped far enough but landed awkwardly in a bit of a sitting position.  Heh, this is a bit more wild than your standard American “adventure” day.


David coached us through the first rapid.  Go to the left of the big rock.  Do this by floating out into the current and letting the river take you around.  No problem right?  Well, not so much.  The river decided to fuck w/ me.  I was only a foot or two right of where the front runners passed but it was enough to send me around to the right.  After bouncing off the rock I was basically going into the class III rapid feet first.  Bad choice.  I try to flip around and manage to flip over.  The right is a bad way to go and I take a bit of a shot on a rock and swallow a good bit of water by the time I fight my way out.  An inauspicious beginning.  “I told you to go left”, david says as I try to catch my breath. 


I did get a bit better at it.  Took a couple of hard shots from rocks to the feet but the flippers were actually good protection.  It was a bit like jet moto actually.  You really just crashed through the water and tried to get the board inbetween you and the rocks.  It was a good bit of fun.  I wasn’t letting the river do enough work apparently though b/c I was exhausted by the time we pulled out down the way.  At least I had all my equipment, Richard lost one flipper but we managed to recover it and Mathew lost both but recovered one.


We dried off, changed and snacked on our baguettes.  Eventually we packed up and headed back.  Was holding my breath at the border but we went right through w/ no check.  They made the car not three cars ahead of us pull over for a check but they let us through.  Whew, not going anywhere w/o that stupid little blue book again.


Kevin met us at the hotel, he had bought a watch and some swiss army knives which means he is going to have to check his luggage.  The other thing he wanted to get was chocolate so we grabbed some more Lebanese falafel and headed over to a shop we found at the train station w/ good prices.  Kev bought a shitload of chocolate.  They say they are open tomorrow so I figure I will just blow the rest of my francs on the way out of town.  I did pick up a bar of absinthe filled chocolate though.  Yummy. 


Kevin went back to drop off his chocolate and matt and I continued to the jazz park.  We took up a spot near the cool swing (still no opening, those kids really like this thing).  We promptly fell asleep in the park.  After a good nap we headed up to “Old town” proper.  We wandered through town and found some cool sites.


Stopped for a spaghetti dinner.  Just before we left, a hen party showed up (british for bachelorette party)  They were loaded.  Only a few of them spoke English.  They were in high spirits but just sitting down to dinner.  We were going to watch the futbol so we made plans to meet them afterwards for clubbing. 


Now at this point, I was fucking exhausted from exploring and rafting but there was really no way I could say no to going clubbing w/ a group of 10 local Swiss chicks.  Kevin didn’t see it this way and left at halftime to go back to the hotel.  I swear I think he just doesn’t like to have fun.


It was at about this point that I fucked up and deleted my first attempt at this write up and all my notes.  Luckily I had sent off Thursday’s writeup but I had mostly finished Fridays as well in the park.  But I hit the wrong button and it was gone.  Stupid piece o crap bb doesn’t use the deleted items bin nor does it even sync the drafts w/ our exchange server so it was completely gone.  Aaargh!


Anyway, the game ended and we went back to the spaghetti place.  Then Soniettes were just finishing up (the hen was named Sonya, she was dressed as pipi longstocking, or Fifi Grand-something-in-french as they called her).  We joined the party and made what small talk we could w/ their limited English and our nonexistent French.  We lost a few of the girls when we left the restaurant and we lost a few more before the club but we ended up at the club w/ a small posse. 


I would never have found this club.  Inside some labyrinthian office maze, the one girl led us to some guys and a velvet rope.  30 francs each gets us in the door w/ two drink tix.  Matt and I scrape together our 60 w/ about 2 fr to spare (there are not nearly enough ATMs in this town.)


The club was completely empty when we got there at midnight.  I think there were about 5 other people in the whole place. We got a drink and found prime position.  After we danced for a while I realized the place was filling up.  It was a slightly cheesy club but a varied racial mix and a lot of really hot women.  We eventually lost the Soniettes.  Matt and I left when the music went way Egyptian on us.  By this point my body aches I am so tired.  But I am glad I went out, it was a fun night.

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