Then she and I went on holiday. We had decided to drive to the south of France. The reason for the mega drive was that it meant we (I) could take surfboards. I'd planned to stop half way, which is roughly Font, so we got the chance to check out the Andy Jennings mega gite - the House. Its good. Got loads of potential, but also would cost loads of money to realise it fully. Did climb for about 30 minutes at Isatis. Saw squiff in the car park, he didn't see us, mainly because I ran off in the other direction to avoid saying hello. The house (as the andy jennings thing is called) is brilliant. Highly recommended.
Here's a wee pic of fontainebleau palace with the moon over it on the way down :
The bit getting to font was by far the worst bit. The roads around Paris are predictably busy. When we got south it was quite a different proposition. Dull, efficient, costly French autoroute. This part of the journey took 7 hours. Nothing to report - 'cept we saw a Lotus Evora :
Found cap de l'homy easily, and it far surpassed our excpectations. Picture a massive pine forest that stretches for miles in every direction until it meets a line of sand dunes and then the beach. Cap de l'homy sits just inside the forest on the edge of the dunes. To the beach was perhaps 300 metres. I thought that a municipal campsite would be a bit shit - as a council owned facility in the UK surely would? so, we were suprised and delighted at how clean, efficient and well run things seemed to be. Nice toilets (for a campsite), good showers, and most of all - amazing location. We hadn't taken a tent, instead taking the option to rent a canvas bungalow thing. Think like a little chalet but made of stretched canvas. There was a kitchenette area, all crockery and a little hob provided, beds for 5, bedding - everything you would need, and perfect to avoid having to travel with camping gear. The only thing it could have benefitted from was running water. You could fly drive here and it would be fine. If you came in season you would even be able to hire boards, so perhaps thats an option for next time.
Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was to check the beach. Incredible. It runs for something like 200 km from biarritz at the bottom up to the gironde at bordeaux. And, where you join it at cap de, you can see no signs of development - theres no high rise buildings, its just forest and then miles and miles of beach. Brilliant. We were tired and hungry and there was this terrifying, body smashing shore break scene in front of our eyes. Normally theres a flat fun bit with kids in it next to the beach, but not here - here, the sea rears up into an angry six foot monster inches from the shore! here is a picture not showing that :
Waves are generated from the action of a storm out at sea. The wind across the surface of the water starts a wave, which if it has space to travel before it comes ashore organises itself and becomes something called groundswell. In a sea without much room for this to happen (such as the North sea) this doesn't have time to happen, and what you are surfing on is probably windsea. I.e. the wind has created teh waves where you are surfing them. The difference between windsea and groundswell in surfing terms is that the latter is big fat powerful organised lines marching out across the ocean, and the former can be just chop! When aforementioned swell hits the land, the sea floor forces the bottom of the wave to slow down, but the top isnt so restricted - it goes faster, which means it overtakes the top, and rides up out of the ocean - which creates the shape and peak you expect to be able to surf on. Here in france the beach is both steep and made up of this gravelly sand conglomerate which means the waves take on a hollow tube shape - and pack a mean punch.
So, we have a problem. To get to the waves you want to be in you have to get past the crushing jaws of the shorebreak. The technique seemed to be to pick the biggest, gnarliest bit, get as close to it as you dared, and wait for it to detonate right in front of you, then dive over the back and hope to be sucked out beyond it! However, you also had to paddle. To rely only on the undercurrent was to be sucked into the death zone! This meant you would get into a loop where it would suck you into the worst possible place to be, knock your feet from under you and then explode on your head!
Anyway, I eventually do get out to the waves out the back but wherever you paddle to they move away from! or thats how it felt. And, there's this massive cross shore drift. So, sitting on your board with your view fixed on something on the land you move laterally quite fast. Speaking to Gav about this when I got back, he explained he would walk up the beach against the direction of the drift (north), paddle out, catch a few as he went and then go back in and repeat. This was sort of what went on, but to be honest it was quite a lot of hard work, and I have ridden better waves at Scarborough!
For the next three days I surfed and surfed until my triceps and back felt like I had been trapped in Tom Randall's cellar with Pete Whittaker and an array of rubberware. I was almost pleased when it went windy and rubbish. We went to Hossegor and Biarritz one day which was nice. Rained unfortunately, so didn't wander as much as we might have done. Talking about Scarborough - Biarritz is a bit like a posh Scarborough. I.e. its got a faded grandeur thing going on.
The next day the weather is as bad and we go to San Sebastian which is just over the border in Spain. Lovely. We really really liked it here. Normal sort of town stuff then a really cool network of amazing medieval buildings the foot of which are all tapas shops. Only, being the Basque country its called pintxos. Everything is out on the counters, so you can see what there is and pick what you like the look of, which is handy because they speak basque, which is sort of spanish, but with more x's. Monday and its still shit at sea, we do a bit more touring about, buy a hammock and loaf around. At least the sun is starting to come out (just accompanied by nuclear wind).
Tuesday and the surf is back in business. I run to the sea first thing and have a look - looks good, so I go and get suited up. Decide to ride the mini mal, as its not big, and this board means I can ride it on anything, and as surfing hasnt so far been very successful on this trip I feel like I would like to actually do something. Get a couple of ok rides, its 10am and I think I will go in and walk up the beach (see earlier drift thing). Speak to a french couple on the beach, and then pick a flattish spot to get in the water. Get back out and get an ok ride. Pleased with myself I start paddling back out. NOw, I dont really know how this next bit happened. Not sure whether I was on the way out, or had caught a ride and pitched into the water or something, but I end up in the drink and not on my surfboard. I am swimming back towards it (I think), then it gets lifted up and flung tail first at my head. The fin at the back of the board goes right into my left eye socket. I don't know this, but that's whats happened as will become obvious. All I know is that my eye doesn't work and that it hit me hard. I know I have to get in quickly. I want to know if I can see, and as I take my hand away from my face there's blood on it. I can't see if that's all there is, and I am in the water, so perhaps its been washed away - but there's not much blood and I am hopeful that's a good sign. Eyesight is foggy on that side, perhaps its just watering or something? god, I hope so. Things feel wierd, and the paddle back to shore feels epic. I get in, retrieve my flip flops and start walking out. I feel quite sick. See the French couple again and show them. Although they dont speak english, I hope to be able to gauge how bad it is by their reaction. They don't help, as she nearly faints, and he seems to think I should find a doctor.
I make it back to the tent and zip open the door. The honey monster is in the bedroom and I say 'Could you come and have a look at something for me?' then she sees it and is like 'Oh Shit!' etc etc. First mistake - we go local doctor. He can't see us until 1400. He says go straight to hospital. We do that and get xrayed, cleaned up and generally inspected. All of this takes about three hours. We are thoroughly miserable. And, as noone speaks english, and we dont speak French theres a lot of gesticulating going on to make understood. But, staff are very nice, facilities seem very good. We get told we have to come back tomorrow to see the surgeon and that I will be having an operation. I assume that this is just getting lost in translation, that they dont mean operation and surgeon, but doctor and stitches.
They didn't. They meant operation, they meant surgeon, and they meant operating theatre. 0830 the next day and I am shitting my pants. First I meet the surgeon. He does eye exam. You know when they are going through the motions and you cant tell whether its good or bad? then when theres a lot of interest and focus on something specific? well thats what happened. He puts some drops in to dilate the pupil and sends a nurse back with more of the same every 15 minutes for the next two hours. I have one massive eye, one normal one. I can see through it, but it hurts and keeps watering. He comes back and finishes the eye exam and says 'I sink you are verry lucky guy', and explains I should make a full recovery - there will be no long lasting effect, and that he needs to do some stitches, which he will do in theatre because he wants everything to be very clean. I think that sounds reasonable and am delighted that things are going to be ok. I feel pleased to have had it all checked by the top dude and know that its gonna be allright.
Now I get anaesthetic drops in my poor suffering eyeball. A very slow hour passes and my tension levels are high. I get taken down to theatre, made to put on the paper pyjamas and then lead in. Its a proper operating theatre. I lie down. Its cold. I am shaking. He says not to be nervous and that it will take no more than 30 minutes. He straps my head to the table, and tells me not to move. At this point he says 'So, you know you 'av zee two er... ow you say? wounds? oui?' oh? say I, 'yesss, one in zee eyelid, one in zee errr, conjunctiva? ow you say, errr - eyeball?' WHOA! no, i didnt know that! i knew I needed stitches in my eyelid, and thats what I though we were doing, but this eyeball business is news to me. Oh well i think. Committed now, and in the best hands. He seems to know what he's doing. An emotive thing your vision though eh? Especially having experienced 24 hours of 50% reduction and didnt like it. In for a penny in for a pound I say and he looks back blankly. THen starts ze work.
He explains that of the whole procedure, that the injections and the clamping of the eyelid will be painful and wierd respectively, and they are and it is. Then he places two stitches in my eyeball, and four in my eyelid. The ones in the eyeball are suprisingly painless. The actual prep is worse than the doing. He tells me to stare at his microscope light which, being terrified, I am glad of something to focus on. Having stitches in your eye is like watching someone stitching on a piece of glass just above your eye. It doesnt hurt or feel wierd or anything, but I suppose thats the anaesthetic. Anyway, the whole thing is over mercifully quickly, and i could hug him for saying I am gonna be fine and for fixing me up. We drive back to the campsite and rest the rest of the day in the sunshine. I feel fine, just a bit shaky and have only one eye. I can take the bandage off the next day though.
I must say - props to the wife for remaining calm throughout, and also for picking up the driving around to and from the hospital. She'd never driven on the continent and was a bit worried about it, but as she said after about a mile - 'if you know how to drive its actually very easy'! and of course, for looking after me during and after. Thank god for the honey monster.
SO, a day later, and the recovery rate is fast. I am feeling exponentially better and I take control of the driving back to font. This is a long day, but we make good time, and I even get to climb at Isatis and burn some Germans off - with a terminator eye! We eat at Pizza Mimi, and the next day I drive us to the eurotunnel. IT all goes well, but when we get back to blighty we are sick of being in the car and the remaining 5 hours home feels slightly desperate.
its been a good trip, even inspite of the little mishap, and yes - i will be surfing again. What happened here was a really wierd freak accident. Noone I have spoken to has ever heard of anything like this happening to anyone else, and I am just glad that I can still see!