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Report - Paris Catacombs 1/2 Sept. My thoughts.

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by Syme, Sep 5, 2007.

  1. Syme

    Syme 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Nov 6, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Others here have recorded where we went and what we did. Instead I will record my observations and thoughts on the place. Some might describe them as the illiterate scrawls of a Sudanese goatherd, or the mad ramblings of a mental patient in some Hieronymus Bosch like nightmare. But its the first time in ages I have got around to posting a report so that must count for something.

    One of my favourite location types is underground spaces - which is probably why I am a caver. I have to admit that what I have read left me wondering what I really should be expecting. Was it all just graffed up tunnels where bolshi artists sculpt their work underground because no one wants to see it in the posh galleries of the surface?? What's it like being under Paris for 30 odd hours? Certainly as a caver I was accustomed to being underground for extended periods. I was used to being wet and cold and tired. I was used to depending only on what I was able to carry on my back and being part of a dedicated team where everyone was valued and had something to contribute despite their experience (apart from OT only one other in the group had been there before). Yet in contrast to this, I also enjoy the solitude and detachment from life's worries that being underground gives. When I look back at the trip I recall myself working my way to the front and setting a good pace. Sorry about that guys if it looked like I was hogging it. But there is something quite right about your light stretching off down the corridor with nothing but receding walls and blackness ahead. Blackness which could hide any number of surprising and exciting secrets!

    For me the most intriguing aspect of the trip was the history. Urbex to me is as much about the history of a location as it is about the infiltration. Ok the knowledge of being somewhere I am not supposed to kind of appeals to the naughty boy in me. I have explored in Australia, New Zealand, the US the UK, Canada and now I was going to start on Europe. I was excited about that. But this was also pretty unique in that I was going to be exploring something man made, but older than the power stations at Niagara, older than the North Korean drug ship, older than all the asylums, older than anything I had done. Older in fact than my entire country.

    Even the most cursory read of the history of the catacombs indicates that they are old quarries, partly dating back to Roman times. I loved the fact that some of the tunnels we transited could have dated from thiss period. These structures could predate my entire country by more than a dozen centuries. I could imagine the miners. Most likely slaves to Rome. Possibly once proud Gallic warriors laid low by the legionnaire's whip. Long dead. The pick axe and chisel marks inn the cold stone the only indication of their toil and passing. Nearly two thousand odd years later the stone remembers them, with these tunnels testimony to their existence in a violent and dangerous world. I was slightly humbled (but only slightly, when you have an ego as big as mine, slightly is the best one can manage). No such memorial of my passing will be so long lasting.

    We also spent some time in the ossuary. All those bones (now mainly femurs and a few broken skulls, because the skulls and choicest specimens have long since been stolen to adorn some satanist's mantel piece or become some stoner students bong holder). Those bones belonged to men and women, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, lovers. Now lying in discarded piles scattered and crushed by explorer's feet. Upon reflection there is something disrespectful and well just not quite right about that.

    On a different note, I was curious to see how I would find the Cataphiles. What would they think of a foreigner coming into a world they must surely regard as theirs'? Yet nearly all those I engaged with, despite the sometimes towering language barriers were very welcoming and in fact proud of what they had and even prouder that I had heard of the Paris Catacombs on the other side of the planet and come all the way round to see them. We met some more guys later in the chamber where we had camped for the night. While one in a set of stylish double zippered overalls gave OT some valuable intelligence another quizzed me on where we had been and what we were planning to do. He then said "You want me make smoke?" Confused and thinking he was talking about the wacky t'backy, I politely declined saying I don't do that. After some more confused jabbering he produced a coke bottle with some powder in it. "It sugar and (insert something sounding like sodium chloride here). You get it in supermarket. It make smoke. You want me make smoke? I love make smoke".

    Err no thanks. I made it clear in no uncertain terms that I was fine just a hangin' in my hammock, enjoying the shadowy flickering of the candle light. He seemed disappointed and said he would make it later. I thought fine do it where you like I don't care. Just don't do it here. True to his word, he "made smoke away" and the first we saw of it was when one of the group with Paulo said "Is it getting smoky in here?" Sure enough it was. A burst of photons from my torch showed the smoke wafting along the corridor and over the portal to our little and reassuringly clear sanctuary. It was quite thick what I imagine they would have seen at Paschendale...we were told it was not toxic. By the time it had filled the chamber I could not see OT standing near his hammock six feet away! Oh yeah and if you put Frenchies concoction in the microwave it will "explode it". I just wish I could understand what the second ingredient he said was!

    I will conclude with some random observations:
    •Hammocks are really really comfortable and I highly recommend them.
    •A sleeping bag AND a hammock is an even comfier combination.
    •Self heating meals from Blacks are very average but when you are hungry who cares?
    •The stonework in some of the tunnels that replaced the quarried sections is absolutely gorgeous!
    •I still hate graff. No matter how good it is.
    •Most of the French people I met above and below ground were lovely people, but they will still be the butt of my jokes. Sorry guys old habits and all that.
    •French food (even supermarket sandwiches) is fantastic. Superior in freshness and flavour. I will be making a special trip to France just for the food.
    •Paris trains have really big wheels. What's up with that?
    •The beer was very expensive and not even French, but after 30 odd hours underground who cares? It was cold and wet.

    'Nuff said I think except big thanks to OT and the other members of the team. And to the friendly French blokes we met down there.
    #1 Syme, Sep 5, 2007
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2007

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