Monday morning. After a coffee Kathrin, Urs and I load the van and venture South from Rhine valley. The San Bernadino pass is our concern due to the heavy snowfalls last week. Thankfully, the road is free of snow and ice. Beside the road, snow piles up metres high. It feels like driving through a gorge of snow. Down in Ticino spring is ready it seems. The climbing areas of Finale Ligure are our first destination. On the way, we get lost in Milano. Italian drivers can be very impulsive on the highways as we can see multipe times. No wonder some of the worlds most famous sport cars come from here. Next we cross the flat wide Po delta, and arrive by dusk in Finale. Due to the heavy rain, we quickly decide to stay in a guesthouse.
When the landlady Cristina starts to pile up ham and cheese and eggs and several self-made cakes for breakfast, it becomes obvious why friends of Urs strongly recommended this place. The three of us spend at least an hour feasting. Not much to do since it is still raining... Cristina hands us Grizzu, and funny dragon hand puppet that our friends left here last time. We decide to stay another night.
By lunchtime we venture to Borgo town and get us new climbing shoes. The rain has stopped, time to hit the rocks! After crossing a swollen mountain creek bare feet and ascending through a pine forest we arrive at the wall. Up here we have splendid view to the surrounding rocks, distant white peaks and the Mediterranean Sea below us. Time to climb. Limestone, holes with good grip - ideal conditions for both newbies like Kathrin and me and experienced climbers like Urs.
New day, new luck. Sun is shining, and a young climbing couple from Germany joins us for breakfast at Cristinas. After some shopping in a supermarket we drive up a steep and narrow road to another climbing area. There is a free parking lot next to a picnic place, where other climbers already stay. About half an hour we walk through woods and flooded meadows to the rocks, and spend the entire day climbing. Urs has to do the lead climbing for Kathrin and me, then we try our best to get up the crags top rope. "Why do you gasp? I can still tickle your feet" and other encouraging insults make us laugh a lot, and get up higher too. Walking back through the gnarling woods at sundown with tickling fingertips. Reality. Cooking and campfire.
The coastal highway to France was cut through a pretty hilly area. Dozens of tunnels and bridges we cross. Part of me daydreams about the challenge to cycle the ups and downs on the old coastal road. We bypass Monaco and Nice, take a minor road near St. Tropez. The landscape is flat and pretty with flowers, shrubs and trees in full bloom. Late lunch break on a sunny beach. The water is ice cold. The narrow coastal road winds through forested hills with great some outlooks now. By nightfall, we are back in the rocky hills of the Provence to camp on a lonely mountain road. White frost on the van and the meadows welcomes us in the morning. There is another big driving day along the touristy coast line in France. Flat land, hotel towns, roundabouts. We arrive in Spain by nightfall, and camp in Llanca on a basic campground with hot shower. Paella and wine taste great in town in town after a cool hike through 5 metres high reed fields.