Raid of the Alpines - Rab's Place

As the European summer dissolves into the chilly seasons, I am reminded of my summer travels to the Alps in August of this year. I was accompanied to Switzerland by my good friends, Nick Stephenson (a regular companion and bon vivante in such excursional adventures), my Scottish Saffer friend, Richard Wright (the person who taught me how to ride a bike), and Gary Taylor (the most risk averse risk manager I have ever met).

Leaving Geneva airport and heading to France, Richard explained that his lawyer friend had a brother who lived in a cabin at the foot of the Alps. The guy turned out to be Rab who put us up for the weekend. Named after Rab C Nesbitt (Glaswegian alcoholic in denial), he turned out to be one of the most interesting characters I have ever met.

Rab had been living in the mountains for four years (the first two years in the littlest caravan you have ever seen) working on converting his cowshed into an Alpine Lodge.

The house's style was an eclectic mix of ski-lodge-carpenter - if there is such a thing. A climbing wall overlooked Rab's living room. The railings of his viewing deck were on pillars as though nailed together after a frenzied evening of moonlight dancing and Absynthe. The Health-and-Safety-averse stairs were planks of thick wood sticking out of a central beam. The entire place had a ambient DIY mix of Salvador Dali and Davey Crockett.

Rab (pictured in the white top below) took us on a few exploratory bike rides to visit his friends who lived in the hills. One was a beautiful waitress who served us chilled beer at the top of a ridge, where goats paraded for the tourists' cameras. Another escapade was to visit his English friend who was starting his new career as a cycling tour group manager.

Aside from Rab's kaleidoscopic character and crazy adventures, which included things like cycling from the UK to Switzerland on a steel 3-gear bicycle in memory of a friend, swimming across Lake Geneva in turbulent weather followed by a rowing boat, ice climbing down hidden caves he found by following a Frenchman's hand drawn map, training for a Sky Marathon in his own backyard, what I found most interesting is that Rab represented the person many of us could have been if we had chosen a different path in our lives. I find that at many of life's crossroads, I have always pondered between (i) the normal pathway followed by ordinary domesticated humans embraced by the comfort only suburbia can provide, and (ii) the Wildman's Path.

I find it an interesting part of the human experience, and a part that Mother Nature has instilled in our genetic code, that we are constantly assessing the risks and dangers of our daily choices, and the greater choices in life.

To find someone who has clearly missed the off-ramp to suburbia, opting instead for the Wildman's Path, I wonder if Rab actually represents the person we could be if we took a leap of faith and chose the road less travelled.

It's a good and pure existence unsoiled by the intricacies of city living, politics, gossip, reality TV, and tendencies towards consumeristic suicide. Not a bad choice.

Staying at Rab's was the perfect springboard, for the body and mind, before heading into the Alps.

Who's the Wildman now?


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