“Diverted traffic! There we go”, we turned accordingly for another little yellow sign, hidden behind a bush like an Easter egg.
We had been part of this diverted traffic for over an hour, a result of splitting all other traffic from the freight lorries in the somewhat incredible ‘operation stack’, in which 5 and a half thousand lorries were currently using the M20 as a sort of car park, in what must be the worlds most expensive game of Tetris.
Initially, we were a little miffed to see are crossing delayed until 3:30am, but after considering the lorry drivers who had been in Folkstone for days, our situation didn’t seem so bad, and we just got on with it.
By the time we stopped for the night, just south of Calais, we’d been on the go for 12 hours, leaving Nottingham late afternoon on Wednesday. Why had we left two days late? Well, I’m not a superstitious man, but it seems we’ve had a run of fairly bad luck recently. It started with the van breaking down just weeks before our departure date, on a state of disrepair that left Stefan no option but to shell out for a other vehicle – a Renault Clio with just enough room to take our 2 months of gear and food.
This then helpfully broke down the second it reached Nottingham, presenting Stefan with no real information as to what was wrong other than ‘an electrical fault’ and forcing him to limp it to the garage.
Naturally, we decided to the most effective way to deal with the situation go to Cambridge and get drunk. 5 days, 24 beers, a bottle of rum, and £400 later, the car had been repaired. We then began our very own version of ‘operation stack’ as we attempted to fit 4 ropes, trad climbing kit, a boulder mat, camping stuff, and 2 months worth of clothes and food into a 3 door Clio, and leave enough room for extra baggage.
As we threw the last bag of cams into the boot and nervously started up the engine, a small black cat walked out in front of the car. It stood there for a while, looked into our souls and then continued on its way, neatly crossing our path. Like I said, I’m not a superstitious man, but there becomes a point where you have to accept that the universe may be dropping you hints.
Eventually, we emerged from the tunnel, flicked over to the right hand side of the road, and continued on to our first destination – our ‘warm-up’ climbing area, if you will.
The notoriously tricky and strenuous boulders of Fontainebleau.