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Adventure Travel

Jun 18, 2018

Meet Alex and Cindy: In Search of “Perfect Spots and Freedom”

Meet a kitesurfing nomadic couple who live and travel in their van, in search of happiness and ultimate freedom.

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Alex and Cindy

The Outdoor Journal had the chance to catch up with Alex and Cindy and ask them a few questions. But before then, if you haven’t met this awesome couple before, make sure you check out their own little video intro below:

How did this happen? How did a guy and girl from France end up living the lives that you do? What led you to this amazing adventure?

It was quite natural in fact, we had a van, and like many people we used to go away for weekends or our holidays. Alex participated in quite a few kitesurfing competitions and we also used the van for that. And then we had done a lot of seasons on the southwest coast of France to escape the winter. This often transformed into a trip of 3 to 6 months. Living this part of the year in our van, the return was sometimes difficult 🙂 So, why not try a full year? We let go of our apartment, and more or less overnight, we did it. 

It’s now been more than 4 years since we’ve been living in our Van and it’s rather nice…

Describe kitesurfing, what does it mean to you when you’re out on the water?

Kitesurfing is possibly, for us, the perfect equation between sport and adventure. Most athletes often train around the same spots, or along a sandbank to achieve their tricks, without ever considering that they have, between their hands, an incredible tool of exploration. We can travel at good speeds serious distances, and go where boats cannot. We can also fly, and that’s magic. So what does this mean? Freedom, maybe, a great tool to escape.

What has been the highlight of your adventure so far?

We try to tell ourselves that we still have time to arrive at the culmination of all this. However, perhaps in secret, the goal is to never reach it, but to always find new things to discover or imagine. However, to try and answer the question, when we find places like the Mauritanian desert, right next to a world class kite spot, there we told ourselves that we found a little piece of paradise. “Sure, there must be another place even better just a little further, so let’s go, to the next stage “, and off we go! 🙂

If you could let yourself dream, which places would you travel to over the next year?

We have a couple of projects in our minds, maybe many. We would like particularly to find virgin places, not necessarily that no-one is aware of, at the very least that no-one has really explored fully. That’s why nothing is ever 100% defined, but we would like to explore European coasts. Around Greece of course, but also Nordic countries which make us dream, their wild coasts full of history. That’s why, at the end of June, we’ll change the entire setup of our small home on wheels, to be best prepared for all conditions.

What plans do you have for the future? Is this a pursuit that you will follow forever?

Honestly, we only plan for the short term, because almost anything can happen. We work a little bit in the kite world, as riders for a brand called Zeeko-kites, but, budgets are small in this industry, so we continue little by little. Apart from this financial aspect, our plans made for always evolving, which we explore based on our ideas.

What advice would you give to people who live the rat race? Who work from 9 till 5 day in, day out, but dream of doing something different and following their dreams like you have done?

If I were to tell everyone to give up everything and just go for it, that would be far too radical and would certainly stop the vast majority of people. But at least try to detach oneself from all these “needs” and these “rules” from time to time would be a good thing. To live a little more simply reveals itself to be an easy and rewarding thing, we find in it many advantages, we see life in another way, people, and all that is around us.

We do not tell anyone to cut themselves off from the world, we would be poorly placed ourselves. One of our goals is to film, photograph, and share our journey on the internet and be followed. But in any case, the less we attach ourselves to things that seem in the beginning indispensable, the more we are better off.

So, we have chosen to live like this, we do not regret it at all, we see new things every day, do not believe in politicians who sell dreams on television, they will certainly not change our lives, the only ones who can, are you and us.

 

You can watch all of Alex and Cindy’s videos on The Outdoor Journal YouTube Page. You can also follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

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Events

Mar 25, 2019

GritFest 2019: The long-awaited trad climbing event returns

Fueled by a common passion, an assembly of seasoned climbers revive the traditional climbing movement just outside of Delhi, India.

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The wind coming off the rock face felt inhospitable, but the air itself gave off a sense of communal joy. After 33 years in absence, the thrill at the Great Indian Trad Festival, or Gritfest, emerged again for a new generation. 

We stood together in ceremony around Mohit Oberoi, aka Mo, the architect of the Dhauj trad climbing era, whose been climbing in the area since 1983. Mo, who continues to inspire many, briefly underlined the cause behind the Gritfest: a two-day annual trad climbing gathering that finally saw the light of day on February 23rd and 24th 2019. The gathering, although one of its kind, was not the first. The first one took place in 1985 and was put together by Tejvir Khurrana.

Read next: Mohit Oberoi: My History with Dhauj, Delhi’s Real Trad Area

“Dhauj is huge and there exists such an amazing playground right on their doorstep”

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the climbing scene in India, Dhauj is where some of the country’s finest climbing began. Located in Faridabad Haryana, Dhauj is roughly between 18 to 20 miles away from Delhi. The region is home to the Aravali Mountains that start in Delhi and pass through southern Haryana to the state of Rajasthan across the west, ending in Gujrat.

The Great Indian Trad Fest was long overdue and brought together by Ashwin Shah, who is the figurative sentinel guard of the Dhauj territory. In addition to being the guy with more gear than you’d ever expect one man to own, he is also often caught headhunting belayers, sometimes even climbers. His never-aging obsession with Dhauj is also very contagious. I’m grateful to start my own climbing journey with Ashwin. In my first attempts at belaying, my simple mistake caused him to drop on a 5-meter whipper. It could have been more.

Rajesh, on the left, getting ready to belay, Ashwin in the middle and Prerna on the right

That whipper, in hindsight, transmuted into a defining moment for me. The primal squeal Ashwin let out while falling made me realize the danger of this new passion I couldn’t help but fall for myself. That being said, had it not been for Ashwin’s impressionable optimism to entrust me with his life, Dhauj wouldn’t have held the same allure that it does for me now. Ashwin started contemplating the Gritfest after his return from Ramanagara Romp in Bangalore: a three-day event that gauged the possibility of climbs undertaken during a two-day window.

Read Next: Why the Aravalli Forest Range is the Most Degraded Zone in India

The idea behind the Gritfest is to celebrate a legacy built over the last four to five decades. A legacy that should be preserved for posterity as it has been thus far. “The objective is to think about the future,” said Mo, as he jogged his memory from back in the days. Furthermore, the fest also aims to encourage and educate aspiring climbers on traditional climbing: a form of climbing that requires climbers to place gear to protect against falls, and remove it when a pitch is complete.

Mo leading Aries at the Prow.

Sadly, the fest also takes place at a time when the government of Haryana seeks to amend an age-old act,  the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900 (PLPA), that would put thousands of acres of land in the Aravalli range under threat. India’s Supreme Court, however, has reigned in and we will likely know the outcome in the days to come.

The know-how around trad climbing rests with a handful of members in the community. This also makes the Gritfest ideal for supporting a trad-exploration pivot in the country. Dhauj, also home to the oldest fold mountains in India, has been scoped out with lines that go over 100 feet. The guidebook compiled by Mohit Oberoi documents some fine world-class routes since the early stages of climbing in and around Delhi. With grades ranging between 5.4 to 5.12a, Dhauj has more than 270 promising routes.

The fest kicked off with Mo leading the first pitch on Aries, a 5.6 rating, 60 feet high face at the prow, while the community followed. Seeing Mo repeat some of the climbs he’s been doing for over 30 years was exhilarating to say the least. Amongst the fellow climbers, we also had some professional athletes, including Sandeep Maity, Bharat Bhusan, and Prerna Dangi. The fest also saw participation from the founders of Suru Fest and BoulderBox.

Kira rappelling down from the top of Hysteria with a stengun, 5.10a.

“Trad climbing can be a humbling experience”

While the Gritfest finally came to fruition, I wondered as to why it took so long for it to happen. One of the questions that I particularly had in mind was regarding the popularity of places such as Badami and Hampi over Dhauj. Although the style of climbing varies across all regions, the scope and thrill of climbing in Dhauj remains underestimated. For one reason, I knew that there is a serious dearth of trad climbing skills which makes it partly inaccessible. Whereas the red sandstone crags bolted with possibly the best sports routes in India make the approach to Badami relatively easier.

I reached out to Mo, and asked him to share his perspective on the fest as well as some of the questions I had in mind.

1) Tell us a little about your thoughts on theGritfest?

It’s a great way for climbers to get together and climb, form new partnerships, share information and also solidify the ethic part of climbing, especially in Dhauj, which is purely a trad climbing area.

2) What is it that the current community can learn from Gritfest?

The possibility of climbing in Dhauj is huge and there exists such an amazing playground right on their doorstep, also Dhauj is an amazing place to learn “trad climbing”.

3) Since it was the first installment, where do you see it heading in the future?

I think it will grow to a large number of climbers congregating here as long as we KEEP IT SIMPLE, and climb as much as possible. We should keep the learning workshops “How to climb” type of courses out of this. This should be one event where we just climb at whatever level we feel comfortable with.

4) Why is it that Dhauj isn’t nearly as popular as Badami or Hampi?

I’m not sure why, really. It’s possible that the grades are not “bragging” grades and climbers don’t feel comfortable starting to lead or climb on “trad” at a lower range of grades. “Trad” climbing can be a humbling experience as one has to work up from the lower grades upwards. It is both a mental and physical challenge unlike climbing on bolts. Despite the guidebook, there is a reluctance to going out to Dhauj which surprises me, that Delhi / NCR locals would rather have travelled more times to Badami / Hampi than take a short ride to their local crag.

Perhaps it is about bragging rights. Perhaps it’s about the lack of skills. Whatever the reason might be, Dhauj will continue to inspire generations to come and fests like Gritfest will serve to strengthen our community. Whether you are new to climbing or have been at it for years, there is always something to learn.

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