Jochen the cyclist
Jochen, his wife and his 12-month-old baby girl are on vacation here in Sicily, and they're travelling round for a few weeks in their campervan home. I met them this evening at Sabbiadoro, where they were camped near my tent. The couple are mad about cycling: they've brought their racing bikes down in the campervan, and are getting in a few hours each day; in the past (i.e. pre-baby), they've done such ambitious cross-country cycle trips as the famous Carretera Austral (in southern Chile); and they currently own and operate a bike shop, in northern Italy where they live (they're both originally from Germany).
This evening — after I'd finished cooking, eating, and washing up my humble dinner of "boiled rice with Sicilian cucumber and just a hint of canned tuna" — Jochen and his wife invited me into their campervan, for a few glasses of wine, and for a nice evening chat. We ended up talking for hours — mainly about cycling (for which we share a passion), and about travelling in South America (which we've all done extensively). They're a real quintessential "adventure sport" couple: as well as cross-country and competitive cycling, they're also into skiing, mountain-climbing, river rafting, hiking, kayaking, and whatever other intense recreational sports you can throw at them.
Jochen told me about how he's into cross-country skiing in dangerous, avalanche-prone areas, where you have to go in a large group, and where everyone in the group has to wear a personal tracking device (preferably GPS-enabled), which allows you to be found and dug-out by your peers, in case you get suddenly buried by an avalanche. He described how on one such adventure — in the Himalayas of northern India — they lost an Australian adventurer in the group, who got buried by a particularly large avalanche, and who they couldn't dig out in time before he suffocated. Is that the craziest thing you've ever heard, or what? I mean really, what the hell is the attraction of skiing in an area with such a high risk of avalanches, that your life is forfeit without (and still at risk with) having a tracking device on you? Psycho, German, mountain-obsessed weirdos.
It was a really pleasant evening, hanging out in Jochen and familys' cosy little campervan. They put the baby girl to bed when I arrived, and she stayed asleep for most of the time — she's very cute, and she seems quite well-behaved as well. They were very generous in sharing their delicious, local Sicilian red wine with me: I've barely drunk any alcohol during this bike trip, and I didn't want to go overboard tonight either; but I did have enough to unwind, and to guarantee myself a really solid night's sleep. On top of all that, it was just a huge relief to be able to have a proper conversation in English — I don't think I've really talked properly to anyone, since I left Rome 2 weeks ago! It's such a rarity to find fluent English-speakers down here; and I don't speak nearly enough Italian to actually connect with the locals. So tonight was a great opportunity for some long-overdue real social interaction, which I've been largely deprived of during my lonely trip around Sicily.