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souvaris tour diary

Monday 12 April

After such an opulent sleeping experience, we struggle a little to extract ourselves from our splendour, but then we catch the view from the windows of the Alps surrounding Martigny, and soon everyone is wide awake and drinking in the sights. We soon pile back into (what seems like a relatively shabby and smelly) Doris, and drive over to the local train station to meet up with Christophe and his friend Aline, pausing only to narrowly avoid a head-on crash with a car trying to turn into a junction we were pulling out of. Ian is at the wheel at this time, and a quick 6-1 vote decides that he's banned from ever driving Doris again. Ian looks perplexed. We look relieved at not having to risk our lives in quite the same manner ever again.

We stop in at another inordinately expensive café, and inadvertently manage to avoid paying for our breakfast, before moving onto the most breathtaking sight of the tour: a huge waterfall on the side of a mountain, on an incredibly clear and warm day. We are lost in wonder and scamper around excitably like small children, catching glimpses of rainbows in the spray, and trying not to break an ankle or slip into the water on the wet rocks at its foot. Stu and Jim also persuade us to stage the only official Souvaris press shot that will ever be taken, atop a seven-foot-high rock in front of the waterfall. This is just ridiculous, and hilarious, but absolutely amazing. We are all high as kites on nature, and the tour has just turned into the best holiday ever.

Soon after managing to persuade ourselves to re-enter the murky depths of Doris, we alight at the foot of a mountain which features a church carved into one of its sheer sides, and it soon becomes clear that Christophe intends us to negotiate a somewhat steep and windy staircase in order to reach it. We look perturbed. Jim looks enthusiastic, the dastardly (smoking) health freak that he is. We attempt it. (Smoking) Dan almost passes out once we have ascended the summit. Nice view (coughcoughcough), he manages. I go to take a piss in the holy toilet, and smack my head like a good 'un on my way out. We enjoy the mildly thin air, lizards flicking in and out of bolt-holes, and (to some) a good cigarette before we descend again, to venture unto a supermarket to get some items for dinner, where Simmo repeatedly admonishes me for spending a fiver on some salami. But being a damn veggie, he cannot taste said meat, and it is well worth the moolah. We also buy what is reputed to be horsemeat, but tastes much the same as any other meat. Harrumph.

No matter, we head over to Christophe's parents' house, where we are treated to a hearty meal, and Simmo gets to chop at a piece of wood with an axe whilst we all try and hide. After meeting aforementioned parents, who faintly remind us of Vincent Gallo's folks in Buffalo 66 if the film was actually about how great they were, we all drop Aline off at the station, and drive over to Lake Geneva to idly skim stones and chuck bits of wood like the young hooligans we are. It's another awesome sight, but by now we're almost taking these Alps for granted. Plus, dark and mist is encroaching on our wonderful views, so it's time to hit the pub and sample some ludicrously expensive/authentic Swiss beer with our final francs, in some gesture of solidarity with Switzerland's bizarre and somehow disturbing opulence. After quaffing such richness, we bid adieu to Christophe, and begin a journey over to Dijon, where we supposedly have beds at a suitably dirt-cheap hostel waiting for us.

It would be my personal happiest hour of the tour that followed, where we pummelled ourselves with Sleep's mighty Dopesmoker album at healthy volumes as we ascended to 1500 metres above sea level on our way back to France... hmm, increasing light-headedness leads to greater appreciation and enjoyment of the greatest stoner rock song/album ever made. Who would have thunk it?

A fairly nightmarish journey actually then ensued, as we do our first bit of extensive driving in the dark, and Simmo finally goes mad on the edge of Dijon and won't stop playing his old Yamaha keyboard which is battery-driven. It finally reaches a point where we stop, throw open the sliding doors, prise the damn thing from his clutches, and confiscate its power source. We then return it to him, and he continues to play it unplugged. We then have a fairly nihilistic time at 1am faffing around in central Dijon looking for this damn hostel, which turns out to be in the town's dodgiest area, and we are assured that Doris will be on the receiving end of rocks and bricks from local kids if we dare park it anywhere within the area. On the eve of returning the damn over-priced thing to its owners, we declare Fuck That, and go for broke on trying to find somewhere else appropriate to stay (and to our meagre funds) or contemplate all seven of us sleeping in the van tonight.

Luckily, we hit jackpot on Hotel Formule 1, which ends up costing us something like £3 each for the night. Sure, it looks like a gaudy cartoon version of THX1138 inside, but it has beds, showers, and a place to stash the Beans. Plus, it's in a complex of hotels and the car park is secure, so we thank our good fortune and bed down for the night.

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