[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst and foremost, it was a weekend away with friends. The kind you only half plan, forgetting your toothbrush and taking only your canvas shoes, damp from beginning to end. The kind that leaves a smell of firewood on your clothes and where a breakdown is inevitable, your attention much more focused on your driver’s enthusiastic stories than on the fuel gauge. We only had one certainty; we wanted to climb, once again, the Auvergne volcanoes, neglected since the time of childhood school outings.
But what we weren’t counting on was meeting, a week before our departure, a young man with a carrying voice. The kind capable of telling hour-long stories, standing on a bar table, to an attentive and beaming assembly. That day, his story was about his childhood country, where he grew up and ultimately regretted leaving, the Vosges. After having detailed at length how he had cut open his leg with his bike’s crankset coming home from the bakers the day before his 8th birthday, he enumerated the characteristics that made his ‘French Canada’, as he kept calling it, a wonderful place – dense forests populated by Europe’s highest spruces, numerous lakes, each one more majestic than the other, and protected valleys where cows graze in peace.
Even though regional patriotism offers very little valuable information on account of its poor objectivity, this guy managed to convince us. All the more since none of us had ever set foot over there. Our weekend had abruptly changed with our itinerary, and it was becoming far more interesting. The unknown presented itself to us in many different forms. First, we were going to discover a brand new place, but also, and above all, the trip we had initially planned would make room for the hazards of discovery, and for the uncertainty of a near future where anything could happen.
After having filled our trunk with supplies to last three days, and entered our destination in our GPS, the dice were cast. Our future was no longer in our hands and, by definition, we no longer had to worry about it. Peacefully, we let ourselves be led by the soft feminine voice emanating from the dashboard, across the roads sinuating through the hazy mountains and embracing the thick fir trees. Those trees revealed a remarkable particularity. No signal could get through them, forcing us to completely disconnect, for our greater good. We arrived at Longemer Lake at nighttime and, after having walked around it, we chose to go down a dirt track, which invited us to settle down, shielded from the world, in the very depths of the woods.
At dawn, before the sunrays managed to peep through, the calm of the forest morphed into a galloping symphony. Its inhabitants awoke, whistled, sang in unison, like an orchestral formation with a thousand instruments impossible to identify. We slipped on our heavy jumpers, downed mugs of steaming coffee, and we were off again. For the next two days, we lived to the rhythm of our most primary needs. A stroll down a stream, a basic campsite, a few clinking beers and pork chops from a regional producer grilling on a log fire. That was it, our definition of ‘cool camping’. A simple adventure, frank and sincere, in which you jump with both feet.
‘Happiness is sometimes hidden in the unknown’, as Victor Hugo used to say. Why not go to meet it? Why not give in to the intoxication of fate more often? Why does living in the simplest of ways propel us above everything else? Are ephemeral moments necessarily the most powerful? So many questions that would remain unanswered. We hit the road again in silence, as if to take advantage of one very last moment of reflection. ‘You have arrived’. And the GPS brutally brought us back to reality.
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