Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: German border to Metz

Lock at the Mosel
After my hour long short visit to Luxemburg I was finally in France, a country I will be hiking through for about 1,5 months now. The first few days I am following the GR 5F which follows the river Mosel. Unfortunately, I could also call these first few days "hiking the Mosel bike path".... This stretch of the Mosel is heavily populated and heavily industrialised, so there is not much single file trail on nature ground, but a lot of pavement. At least the pavement is bike path and not a busy road. Still, this is not the most idyllic hiking I have ever done. On top of all that the Lorraine is not the most scenic area of France either. When I hiked through nearby Alsace last year, almost every little village was so pretty and pittoresque that you could have made a movie there. But here in the Lorraine the villages look more like Eastern Europe than like France. Drab 60s concrete apartment building blocks in the middle of nowhere. When I hiked through Rombas the trail is routed through little alleyways, but some Arab guys were so obviously dealing drugs there that I had to hike a detour around it on roads and still felt uncomfortable. That is not what I expected from rural France.... Even behind the scenic river Mosel the nuclear power plant of Cattenom is looming in the distance.

Mosel
Still, the views onto the river Moselle are very pretty and there are a lot of free goodies along the trail: First of all there are the blackberries. They are everywhere and they are ripe now. I am eating a lot of them and still cannot get enough. Next there are plums. There are plenty of plum trees along the trail and although they are not all quite ripe yet, some are and provide a change from the blackberries. Some pears are edible already, too. But the amount of plum, apple and pear trees gives me a lot of hope for the weeks to come. I will probably eat a lot of fruit.... But this is the advantage of hiking into fall.

Another advantage of hiking in fall is the lack of ticks. I have been tortured by ticks on my trips in spring when I had to pull off dozens of ticks every day. Now there still is the occasional tick but they are not a big problem - thank God for that. Since the start of my trip the weather has been exceptionally good, almost too hot. I have been hiking in 30 plus Celsius weather! But now, alas fall is setting in. The  forecast is for a lot of rain and the temperatures are dropping. Still, I am hoping for some sort of Indian summer.

Fountain along the trail
But beside my physical aches and pains I also have encountered several gear problems. I have already mentioned my GPS problem. Tracks are not or not properly displayed on my GPS. I had hoped to have solved the problem with a hard reset but alas it has happened again. I can live with the problem as I know that a hard reset can resolve the matter but it is not a good feeling to know that your GPS is not functioning properly. My biggest concern though is my pack volume: As this is a winter trip I am carrying more stuff than normally. The weight difference is only about 1 kg but the difference in bulk is  the problem. It mainly stems from two items that deviate from my normal setup. Instead of my normal 3 season quilt I am now carrying the Enlightened Equipment Prodigy 20 quilt. And although I have bought a special compression bag for it it still takes up much more space than I like it to. The other unusual item is my sleeping pad. Instead of my  normal TAR Prolite short I am  now carrying a full length Prolite Plus. Again this pad is quite bulky but at least it was much more comfortable to sleep on with all my aches and pains. The rest of my equipment is more or less the same I always carry but these two items alone fill up my GG G4 backpack which has become very difficult to pack. In fact I am dreading to think that I will have to carry food for several days in it. So far there have been resupply options everywhere and I had to carry food for 3 days maximum. And still this has been a bit of a challenge to pack it properly. To make things worse the backpack has already ripped. I know from experience that the sewing on the Gossamer Gear products is not the very best, but when a seam ripped after only 2 days I am now considering to buy my next backpack from another company. I still like the GG G4 design and its price, but I start to think that they might have a quality issue. I will now spend part of my rest day repairing an almost brandnew backpack....

Camping municipal in Metz
And rest day it is for me, the very first on this trip and I am spending it in Metz. I had originally planned to bypass the city but again my hiking friend Werner had given me the right inspiration. He mentioned the campsite in Metz and this has been a brilliant piece of advice. I usually would never pay to stay at a commercial camp ground but this "camping municipal" is a rare exception. First of all it is right in the centre of town. Within 10 minutes you can walk from the camp ground to the famous cathedral. Plus it is situated right on the banks of the river Mosel and is therefore quite idyllic. In the morning ducks have woken me up chatting right next to my tent... But the very best is the price: For a hiker and a tent it is only 6,40 EUR per night! Considering the prime location this is an unbeatable price and I did not even bother to look for couchsurfing. There even is free wifi! As this is Tuesday all the museums in Metz are closed forcing me to do - nothing! At least almost nothing as of course my blog has to be updated (done now), my clothes have to be washed (done already) and gear has to be repaired (not looking forward to that....)

And then tomorrow, when the forecast predicts rain for the whole day I will start hiking again.....

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