18/7 at 23.30 I arrived back in Gent.

It feels all very normal.
Like my year of traveling just happened overnight.
But to me this year feels like I have lived 10.
I haven’t changed, I’m still the same. I wasn’t searching for anything, but what I found were good and loving people, friends everywhere. And amazing nature all around. And I’ve got a lot of evidence to prove the good in mankind.

I’d do it again anytime.

This is sometimes recognisable, but not completely:
(Thanks Frederik)

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Late at night I arrived at Marlons place in Annecy. He was a warm and welcoming guy.

1 flight from Forclaz in the morning, relaxing at the imperial beach in the afternoon and another flight in the evening. Marlon and me walked in the city enjoying some of the performances for la fête d’Annecy.

2 flights from Planfait in the morning, 2 flights (long flights, autonomic flying amongst over 20 other paragliders) from a busy Forclaz in the afternoon. And I met Ilya and Elena, my friends from Moscow, Russia in the evening. Marlon joined us and we watched the amazing trapeze performance at la fête d’Annecy at night.

The plan was to go do a hike and fly today, but our instructor had a flat tire this morning so by the time he arrived it had gotten too late for that. Marlon and me had a picnic at the lake for lunch and then I took the bus to cruseilles, where Filiep, my covoiturage was picking me up to drive home.

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Climbing in Argentière-la-Bessée

Driving to Argentière en covoiturage. Talking and listening French again to my driver (and guide, haha) Arrived around noon. After a little nap I hitched to where the others were, Mont Dauphin. Happy to meet them again. Climbed 3 easy routes and went back. The last one was one to forget asap.

Ended up climbing a lot in Vallouise with Jasper. 6 easy routes. 4x 5c, 1x6a, and a 6b not to be proud of. But still very happy with the day. My favorite kind of climb. With little sharp horizontal holds.

A very cold day. I went to Argentiere to buy a new opinel knife. Then Robrecht and me joined the students to rocher du baron, but soon we went to join the other free climbers. They were at Les Ayes. We sports climbed there for a while. Some harder routes. I lead a 6a and seconded a 6b at once. Nice! But ooh soo coold with that icy wind…!

Jan and me climbed an easy multi-pitch of 2 and exercised the rope technics, knots and commandos. Then it started raining so climbing was over. Some of us decided to go to Briancon for shopping and swimming. I bought new shoes and enjoyed the sauna and hammam in the swimming pool. I needed the heat and the relaxation.

Jules, Maarten, Jan and me went to the same place for a multi-pitch. Jules and Maarten teamed up for one and Jan and me teamed up for another. We did one with 6 routes. It was a nice one and it was well secured. After the second pitch we threw a bag with shoes down because we carried too much weight. On top we rejoined Jules and Maarten and rapelled down together. We searched for the bag with our shoes for almost an hour to then find it close to the carpark. Someone must have seen it and taken it there.

Sunny day. Best day of the week. Multi-pitch with Maarten close to Briancon. It was one with terraces. 5 routes. Some nice parts, some stupid parts.

Rainy day. We went shopping in Gap. I bought me a rain jacket and a soft shel, exactly the same as the one I lost in Auckland.

Climbed in Vallouise. 2 6b’s amongst others. I was happy.

Rest day. No climbing.

Last day of climbing. Sports climbing at Rocher du Baron, close to Briancon. I tried a 6c, succeeded, but it was more like a 6a. The other 6c I tried was really nice, but too hard for me. Then Tim dropped me at the train station of Briancon, where my covoiturage to Annecy was going to pick me up.

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Marseille-Calenques and Hyères

Beginning of the school holidays in Belgium, and my return back to Europe.
I woke up in Istanbul. It was a beautiful sky. You could already feel it was going to be a warm day. We woke up early enough. No airport rush this time! It was only a shame the windows of the boat were dirty… So taxi-boat-taxi (shared with a suiss guy) and there I was. Again a meal on the plane. A good one. And landing in Marseille. Did i already tell i liked the queing in the “eu citizens” line? 🙂 Already feels like home! And then the smell!! South of France! So recognisable and so like nothing else in the World! It smells like the summer holidays with my parents when i was little.
I took the metro to a square and drank a juice while waiting for my CS host Loïc to come home. I met him in the evening. Then we had dinner together with four of his friends in an argentinian restaurant. Exercising my French. Nice for a start.

Next day I walked around in Marseille. I found “le marche du capucin” very fast. And loved it. All those colored fruits and vegetables, deliciously smelling, and their Algerian vendors trying to talk you into buying. Lovely atmosphere for me. Then I walked to “le panier” neighbourhood, small streets up a hill, saw the cathedral near to the harbor and walked by the fort next to the sea.
In the evening there was a CS meeting, a picnic at the beach. I bought some of those Algerian Ramadan delicacies and brought then with me. I met and spoke with a lot of locals and travelers and my French was getting better, but it also exhausted me. Still I took a dip in the Mediterranean just before heading back home.

I stayed an extra day at my couchsurfers place to visit the calenques today. And it was lovely. I took the bus to luminy and started walking until I reached a belvedere, a viewpoint. And from there I walked in the direction of sormiau. I sat at the calenque there, reading my book, taking a swim and let myself get dry by the sun. I hitched back to marseille.
That evening Loïc took me up the hill (the red mountain) at Cassis on his motorbike, riding so fast that I was sending prayers to my gardien angel, promising never to agree with something like this again, and we watched the sunset on the hill, accompanied with some beers. And that was a precious moment. Maybe even worth the thrill.

Spent some time at the house, just reading my book, finishing it. And in the evening I tried covoiturage. I shared a car for here to hyeres. My next CS host. We shared my bottle of wine with his friends on the hill. He was going to go canyoning tomorrow, and amazingly, there was a possibility for me to join! I didn’t have to think twice! Next adventure!

I totally became alive while canyoning! I enjoyed it sooo much!
Amazing people, fantastic equipment, and a lovely little river.
Tired from it all, the canyoning and all the French, I went to bed rather early. I had to get up early as well to catch a “covoiturage” to argentiere la besee.

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Istanbul in transfer time

30/6 The usual rush to the airport! Flight to Istanbul with Turkish airlines. I’m very happy flying with them. I even had a meal on the plane. I didn’t expect that…
Arriving in Istanbul without luggage is a relief. Traveling without it makes it so much easier. Mertcan awaited me at the bus stop and walked me to the center. He had to teach some Lindy Hop dance classes in the evening, so I explored Istanbul meanwhile. Many people, very cosy atmosphere, fruit stalls, roasted nuts stalls everywhere,… And so many mosques!
In a flash I visited the grand bazaar market, the haya Sophia and the blue mosque that isn’t blue. It’s nice to walk around in Istanbul. Tired of walking I went to see Mertcan teaching Lindy Hop.
We went to the house he shared with his friends and talked and drank a little wine, but I quickly fell asleep.

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Koud! 29/6 At 5.30am i arrived in moscow. I made my way to Alexanders house, where I woke him up, and we had a coffee. Then I decided to go rope jumping with Ilya, another couchsurfer I contacted before, for paragliding and climbing. The rope jumping was fun, but it took a lot of time driving to the place and setting up the ropes. We also had bbq there. Shashlik :).

After coming back by train, Alexander came to meet me again and we slacklined in a park for a while. And then he walked me to the theatre to watch a folk ballet show. When that was finished, we explored the city, tried to climb some stones from time to time, and made our way to the red square to see the kremlin and the famous cathedral with all the colors. At home we drank a beer (Belgian style brewed) and talked some more. It was late.

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Kazan, in het land van de Tataren

Terrasjes da kennen ze in Rusland toch nog nie goe ze…!
(De mensen vertrouwen het eten op een terras niet)

Wat een stad. Een Europese stad. Eergisteren sprong ik lachend over de grens, maar vandaag is het “voor echt”. Alles is hier vree opgekuist, vree modern, rimpelloze asfaltbaan,… Tis écht opeens azie niet meer. En waar vind ik eetkraampjes op straat met van die broodjes patat? (Kartofjel 🙂 )
…Veel is te “danken” aan de “universade” die hier vorig jaar plaatsvond. Beetje zoals de olympische spelen, maar dan van Rusland. (Denk ik) en daardoor wordt er even veel geld in de stad gepompt en wordt ze opgelapt. Maar… Als je dan een paar straten inslaat dan kom ik toch gelukkig nog een oneffen voetpad tegen en roosters met lage ramen eronder. Pfieuw!
Ho(s)tel gevonden, heel modern en proper.
En dan mensen gecontacteerd via couchsurfing om samen naar het festival in het Kremlin te gaan. Gulnaz was een heel toffe Tataarse. En iets later ontmoetten we ook Maria (local) en Alissa (US).
In het Kremlin liep ik rond met mijn Mongoolse t shirt, en dus iets later in gesprek met een Mongoolse student 🙂 grappig.
De muziek was leuk, maar het begon kouder te worden dus zijn we in een cafeetje iets gaan drinken en eten. Daar was ook een optreden. All good!

Vandaag veel rondgewandeld in de stad, een oude Tataarse wijk bekeken, een niet alledaags “museum” van het socialistisch leven binnengeweest. Het was een huis vol met ouwe rommel, of, beter gezegd, een interessante verzameling ouwe spullen. Ik denk als je speelgoed herkent dat het wel nog toffer is. Wel leuke postkaarten.

En ook vandaag: ik vond de markt!! Jaja, goed verstopt maar toch gevonden. misschien wel de interessantste van de reis. Vrij groot, en vanalles te vinden. Ook gedroogd fruit en zo. En de lekkerste samos 🙂

En als laatste het poppentheater nog snelsnel gaan bekijken. Per metro er naartoe. Mooi! Jammer dat ik geen voorstelling kon zien. Hier wil ik ooit nog terugkeren. En dan: de gebruikelijke race naar de trein.

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I arrived in yekaterinburg early in the morning. I had to wait one hour untill the metro started working. I tried to sleep a little on the hard metal chairs in the eating area. And it worked, at least, I rested.
Then I took the metro to prospect kosmonavt, where Alexey picked me up and walked me to the appartment.
Arthur was his roommate. Still waking up. After a while he drove me to the monastery a bit further out of the city. Most buildings were just recently built or even in construction. All in wood, the churches and towers. Finnish wood :/ This is the place where tsar Nicolai and his family are buried. So there are lot of sculptures and pictures of the family. I read that some church even has an icons of the tsar.
We had lunch in freelance cafe back in the city and then Arthur went to work and I walked the city walk, following the red line, taking pictures.
At 5pm we met again at his office. I was gonna be interviewed about my experiences and thoughts about Russia and the Russians for Arthur’s company Roomple and another company ULC. Stressy for me, talking in front of the camera!
After that he showed me the weather station hill and another monastery for women. And then we picked up Alexey and drove to the Asian/European border line. I liked that. It was very symbolic for me. I am really going home.
Than we shopped for groceries and Arthur cooked a delicious diner. They didn’t allow me to pay.
It was a very long but incredibly interesting full day, I slept like a baby!

Sitting/lying in the grass at the riverside, drinking chocolate in the Scottish pub, walking back home with music in my ears. My head in one dimension, my body in another.
I spent the last hours together with Alexey, and then (russian gentle men’s manners) he walked me to the train to Kazan.

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The story for the climbing community of Krasnoyarsk Stolby

Thanks to the Facebook page Krasnoyarsk Stolby, I was able to contact the climbing community there. I asked if there was somebody who could join me/ guide me on my climbing trip to Stolby. And Alex arranged for a climber to meet me on Sunday.

I met Sergei and his future wife Gella(?) at the bus stop. They are the kind of people with whom you immediately feel you are in good hands. Or perhaps it’s my intuition. But anyway, it never let me down. We got to know each other some more on the bus to Stolby. And when we got off it appeared that we would have enough time to get to meet each other since the walk to the rocks would take about two hours. I’m not the person who does a thorough research before going somewhere, so it was a surprise for me. But one I didn’t mind, I like walking in the nature. Why talking I realized that they are both very active and sportive people. They do sky running. Covering more than marathon distances running uphill on mountains. Crazy! I also learned that Sergei already has climbed in Europe, in France, and that he actually is a really good climber and that I’m lucky to have him as a guide.
Meanwhile we arrived at the pick nick place. We filled our water bottles at the spring and ate a little before heading to the rock. Once there, it was first a little “free climb” to get to the starting point, and from there Sergei prepared the rope. On the way a lot of climbers and other people greeted Sergei and Gella. It looks like a nice and friendly climbing community there!
The plan was that Sergei would climb first, I would climb in the middle of the rope and Gella would climb last and clear the route. While Sergei was climbing up, a couple of real local Stolby climbers, free climbers, doubled us. It was amazing for me to see that even the older generation does these things! In Belgium it is the older generation that would warn us not to do things, while here they gave the example! They must think its silly to climb this route with a rope, but I couldn’t imagine me doing it differently…
The climb up was not really hard, but it was interesting for me. I haven’t climbed on granite a lot, so every new experience is welcome. After the first pitch I looked at the view, took a deep breath and I entered another state of mind. The one that enjoys nature in all possible ways. Meanwhile I realized that the Belgian rules for climbing and setting up an anchor are much stricter then in Russia. It’s probably part of the Stolby free climbers mentality?
The traverse in the second pitch was really nice as well. Walking on the ledge high above the ground level… I liked it. And again I enjoyed the view. The sun was enjoyable.
The top was the best ofcourse! Some wind there to cool down, and some sun to heat you back up 🙂 After Gella arrived we made a picture of us three on top of the Stolby. I forgot the name but I’m sure people will recognize it.
After climbing, my guides showed me the other interesting Stolby, grandmother and grandfather and so on, and then it was time to walk back. All of us were very tired and the road back seemed never to be ending. We were all happy to be on the bus that would take us back to Krasnoyarsk.
It was a perfect day for me. I enjoyed Krasnoyarsk and it’s nature to the fullest! I’m very thankful to my caring guides, and to the whole climbing community in Krasnoyarsk to make my Stolby adventure memorable!


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Krasnoyarsk, the very center of Russia

20/6 Julia made quark with sour cream for breakfirst -a first for me- and even had me made a tiny little lunchbox for today. (I’m being so well taken care of) and accompanied me on the bus to the river. From there she went to work and I had to take another bus to arrive at the Fan Park, from where you can enter Stolby np. I sat at the river in the sun for a long time, and then took the chairlift up and hiked to the rock formations. A small 2h hike go and back. The weather was changing during the walk. It was time to go back and enjoy the dinner Julia had already prepared.

21/6 On this very hot and sunny day Julia and me went to “Green” (зелёныи) festival on an island in the big river (Енисеи) that runs through the city. Svetlana was working there for the radio station. They had a stage and a band was performing there. A band to remember, Limbridge. The biggest event was what was called the “holly”. People could buy a handful of powder-paint, they all assembled in front of the stage, the music plays and in one certain moment everybody throws the powder in the air and he sky fills with colors. Satisfied senses. The rest of the festival wasn’t that much about music, it was more about games and trickery and curiosities. In the evening I went to the cinema to see “How to train your dragon 2”. In Russian unfortunately, but I still wanted to see it, I needed to watch a movie. It was too long ago. And I liked it.

22/6 Afgesproken met Sergei om te gaan klimmen in Stolby vandaag. Een fijne gast. Ik moest al glimlachen om hoe hij me zijn lief voorstelde. “This is Gela, my future wife”. Hoe vaak hoor je dat in Belgie? Het engagement van Russen in een relatie is toch heel anders hoor. Na de busrit moesten we 7km bergop wandelen. Daar was een waterbron en een winkeltje en een speeltuin (met stalen slackline). Na een kleine eetpauze wandelen we nog iets verderop en daar was de multipitch. Op monoliet graniet rots. Makkelijke route, die daar eigenlijk vooral free geclimbed wordt. (Free climbing is klimmen zonder touw, zonder bescherming dus). Het stikt daar van de local free climbers (ook oudere mensen) en af en toe zag ik daar -niet verwonderlijk- van die grafzerk-bordjes. Maar op mijn vraag heeft Sergei vandaag zijn touw mee. Het was nog steeds Climbing Russian style, maar toch al met veiligheid. Na deze rots wandelden we met ons drieën nog langs de andere bekende Stolby. Babushka en dedushka Stolby en zo meer, met hier en daar een klein klimmetje in de broeierige hitte om boven te komen en daar wat koelende wind te vinden. Sergei en Gela, twee toffe jonge mensen. We kwamen terug op het pauzepunt en na herbronning (letterlijk) vatten we de wandeling terug aan. En die leek maar te blijven duren… We waren allen moe. Op de bus terug moest ik weer glimlachen. Gela was in slaap aant sukkelen en Sergei ging daarop naast haar zitten zodat ze haar hoofd op zijn schouder kon leggen. Hoe liefdevol! Thuisgekomen wilde ik een paar uur slapen voor de voetbalmatch België-Rusland te bekijken, maar mijn wekker besliste daar anders over. Het volume stond op stil. Dus het langverwachte voetbalkijken zat er niet in voor mij. Naar t schijnt was het toch saai 🙂

23/6 Een lange stadswandeling met fantastische gids Julia. Die me op enkele merkwaardigheden wijst en me een paar verhalen vertelt. En die veel tijd heeft gestoken om in de gsm operator winkel heel de farce met mijn gsm die niet meer werkte, op te lossen. We aten ook heel lekker in “yoga bar” En s’avonds: op de trein!

24/6 Op de trein. Eerst naast een Babushka die vrij snel moest afstappen, en nu naast een mama met haar zonen, muziek van haar gsm klinkt nu gratis en voor niets voor haar en haar zonen en mij tesamen 🙂 Zij stapten uit niet lang daarna en ik had alle plaats van de wereld. De airco werkte niet in mijn wagon, wat in de namiddag toch echt wel te veel werd. Maar de madam van de restaurant wagon was zo vriendelijk dat ik er direct weer buiten was. In een andere wagon, waar ook veel lege plaatsen zijn, vind ik nu verkoeling en kan ik wat lezen. Ik denk dat een beneden bed niet voor mij is weggelegd want tot tweemaal toe is er iemand óp mijn onderbenen komen zitten, waardoor ik natuurlijk wakker werd.

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