Our plan was to go from Nice to Lyon by our reserved train tickets and then continue on to Geneva, Switzerland without a reservation. We watched as the mountains unfolded in front of us and we awaited the adventures to come. What is it about Switzerland that allured me? Chocolate, cheese, watches, knives, banks, the Alps, what didn’t allure me? Switzerland seemed to have it all, but once again my dream world came pouring down around me.
The ten minute bus ride allowed us to see most of Geneva despite the rain that had been falling all day and we anticipated staying on the lake. The Jet d’Eau Fountain, an icon of Geneva, was directly in our sights as we rode to the campground. Geneva is filled with impressive galleries and an array of top-class museums, but I was more than content to just see the fountain as we headed to the campground. I had my share of museums and galleries in Italy; Switzerland was more about the outdoor beauty and adventure.
Pointe a la Bise Campground had it all; once we found the place. It was a 2km walk down a winding hill with several side streets and paths. I was not concerned about the downhill aspect of it, but we did have to walk out of there at some point. We knew that the campground had lots of conveniences including a restaurant, a grocery store, and access to the lake so we decided that we were going to spend the rest of the day there. Switzerland could give us time to catch up on some sleep and enjoy the simpler things like relaxing on the lake.
We were just about to open the door to the tent as a man said to us, “Where in Canada are you from?”
“Nova Scotia,” I said.
“Where in Nova Scotia?”
I was not use to people knowing where Nova Scotia was so I shot him a strange glance and said, “Cape Breton.”
“I am from Halifax, but I have family in Cape Breton,” he said.
“Really? Where about?”
“Wow! We’re from North Sydney.”
The conversation continued for a long time. He turned out to be a fascinating man who was biking around Europe. He had children and a wife, but he travelled alone. Before we knew it, three hours had passed and we were drenched to the bone. The rain didn’t stop, but our desire to stand in it did. We were in no position to invite him into our tent and neither was he. The tent was a $14 sale that I picked up the year before for my younger brother. I thought it was a two-person tent, but it turned out to be a two-person, youth tent. Its dimensions were 6 feet by 5 feet. By the time we got our backpacks in the tent, there was no room to stretch out our legs.
We said our good-byes and wished him well. He climbed into his tent quickly and that was all that we heard from him for the rest of the night.
As I opened the door of the tent, I was beyond disappointed. “No! The tent is soaked. Our bags are soaked. It’s not water proof.” I sighed.
We looked around the tent and noticed the water coming in on the sides and by our bags.
We spent the next twenty minutes trying to soak up the water that was already in the tent while trying to prevent more water from coming in at the same time. It was impossible for the two of us to get changed out of our wet clothes and not touch the tent at all.
“Go and get some paper towel to clean up the water,” I said rather snappy.
“You go and get it. It is pouring out. More rain will get in,” he said harshly.
“Well, we need to do something.”
I started to laugh. As soon as the smirk hit my face, I could see my husband’s confusion.
“What are you laughing at? This is horrible,” he said.
“I have an idea. I have a box of tampons in my bag. Let’s use them to soak up the water.”
We unwrapped each, individual tampon and began placing them over the water in the tent. It was a bad situation, but we were laughing too hard to even care. We definitely could have been on a commercial for tampons!
We are using tampons to clean up water in our leaking tent. This is idiotic. We can never tell anyone about this. This is even too bizarre for my crazy family.
That night, I wondered if I could possibly be any colder. I felt like I was a soldier in the war. The thunder that cracked around us and the lightening that lit up the sky were the guns firing in the distance. We held our packs tightly so they would not touch the walls of the tent. The damp clothes against my body didn’t provide any warmth and we didn’t have a blanket or a pillow for comfort.
The brightness of morning entered the tent around 5:30am. I hadn’t slept more than one hour and my body ached.
How do people get pneumonia? Is it from the weather? Is it from being damp? I wonder how much arthritis I got in these few, long hours.
“You up?” I said.
“Yep. You okay?”
No. I’m cold and wet. There is more water in the tent. I want to leave now.”
“Okay. You run into the bathroom and take the bags. I will take the tent down.”
“You sure?” I said.
“Yeah, just go. It’s okay.”
I grabbed our bags and tried to hurry out of the tent and up the walk to the bathroom. There was a hand dryer in the bathroom and I regarded it as a piece of heaven. I turned it on as I tried to fit my whole body under the nozzle. The heat from the dryer hurt my body as I began to warm up.
Uh… that is amazing. I want to stay here all day. Forget about Geneva. This is where it’s at.
As my husband carried all of the wet tampons to the garbage, a mother and her young daughter were walking back to their tent. The daughter said, “Mommy, why is that man holding all those cotton balls?” The mother looked disgusted and replied, “Just turn your head hunny. He is a sick, sick man.” He was too drenched from head to toe to bother trying to explain himself. He grabbed his bag and changed his pants right out in the open as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
The rain hadn’t let up and the 2 km walk wasn’t going to be fun without a waterproof jacket. Within minutes, I was going to be soaked and cold yet again. I felt discouraged, but not defeated.
I saw a worker walking by and I ran towards her. “Do you have any garbage bags,” I asked.
Her English was weak, but she understood. She handed me a roll of garbage bags and she said, “Good, yes?”
“Very good,” I replied.
I took two garbage bags from the roll and said, “Thank you.” People were starting to get up at this point and two men walked into the washroom. I was ripping holes in the garbage bags and the men looked at me strangely. I just smiled as I continued with my new, designer clothes.
I put one bag over my body and the other over my backpack. I looked ridiculous, but I was dry. Other people saw what I was doing and decided to join me. One couple even told us that they slept on the steps to the grocery store because their tent leaked too. They thought I had a great idea with the garbage bags. The cleaning lady could have made a fortune that day selling garbage bags; instead she gave them to us for free and made our day.
I walked to the bus and sat proudly in my garbage bags as people stared and talked about my outfit.
Geneva may have been a disaster, but I was leaving in style.