Sunday 24 September 2017

Defeating Dwayne Johnson: Trapped in one of the most expensive ski resorts in the world

Alpine adventure

A Gendarme (L) and a Red Cross rescuer (R) stand near a huge rock that fell on February 27 onto the RD117 road leading to the ski resorts of Moutiers, Les Menuires and Val Thorens in the Tarentaise valley on February 28, 2015, as vacationers are expected to cross while some depart and others reach the ski resorts in the French Alps. The road has been closed to traffic. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)
A Gendarme (L) and a Red Cross rescuer (R) stand near a huge rock that fell on February 27 onto the RD117 road leading to the ski resorts of Moutiers, Les Menuires and Val Thorens in the Tarentaise valley on February 28, 2015, as vacationers are expected to cross while some depart and others reach the ski resorts in the French Alps. The road has been closed to traffic. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Orlagh Bailey

Orlagh Bailey

In 2013, Dwayne Johnson won the Kid’s Choice Award for ‘Favorite Male Buttkicker’. He has won several MTV Movie Awards, People’s Choice Awards and kicked all kinds of butts as world renowned wrestling star ‘The Rock’.

He also blocked thousands of holiday makers from accessing the The Alps last weekend.

Dwayne Johnson is the name we gave to the massive boulder that crushed the RD117, the only main road serving some of the world’s biggest ski resorts – Val Thorens, St Martin and Les Menuires.

The boulder fell on Friday night, causing huge fractions on the road and settling in one lane, blocking large vehicles from passing.

I had been on a ski holiday in Val Thorens with a group of 18 people, and we were due to fly home to an also snowy Dublin the following morning.

A text from our bus company ‘Bens Bus’ read:

Rescuers assess the damages after huge rocks fell on February 27 onto the RD117 road leading to the ski resorts of Moutiers, Les Menuires and Val Thorens in the Tarentaise valley, on February 28, 2015, as vacationers are expected to cross while some depart and others reach the ski resorts in the French Alps. The road has been closed to traffic. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers assess the damages after huge rocks fell on February 27 onto the RD117 road leading to the ski resorts of Moutiers, Les Menuires and Val Thorens in the Tarentaise valley, on February 28, 2015, as vacationers are expected to cross while some depart and others reach the ski resorts in the French Alps. The road has been closed to traffic. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Hi This is Bens Bus. We have been informed of a road closure in Val Thorens and have been told that a system will be in place for tomorrow. Can you please be at your stop 20 minutes before your departure time to ensure the bus can leave on time if not before. Thanks.’

Our outgoing journey a week before had been extended by 18 hours following a 12cm dump of snow at Grenoble airport. We had been diverted 244 kilometres away to Nimes airport and had to etch our way back across France on a series of buses. 

Our memories floated back to endless hours of re-reading ‘Ten things we love about Taylor Swift’ in Stellar Magazine (She’s not afraid to be a good girl, apparently) and when it’s time to dump your man (Fellas, never eat ice – ‘it’s a deal-breaker’). We all crossed our fingers and hoped Dwayne Johnson was The Pebble as opposed to The Rock. 

On departure day we left our Chalet for the bus shelter at 6am, soft snow drifting carelessly onto our suitcases. While we waited for the bus to arrive, one of our group discovered what The Rock weighed in at. At a solid 50 tonnes, he was a worthy opponent to an enjoyable journey home.

At the bus station, our Bens Bus representative fondled his phone, waiting for calls but not quite furrowing his brow with worry. He knew what was to come. He soon established that the road had been closed by the Gendarme and The Red Cross, with only small vehicles allowed to pass below the mighty cliff of the Dwayne Johnson.

We were advised it might be easier - and faster - to make our own way down the mountain.

This photo shows the damages after huge rocks fell on February 27 onto the RD117 road leading to the ski resorts of Moutiers, Les Menuires and Val Thorens in the Tarentaise valley, on February 28, 2015, as vacationers are expected to cross while some depart and others reach the ski resorts in the French Alps. The road has been closed to traffic. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo shows the damages after huge rocks fell on February 27 onto the RD117 road leading to the ski resorts of Moutiers, Les Menuires and Val Thorens in the Tarentaise valley, on February 28, 2015, as vacationers are expected to cross while some depart and others reach the ski resorts in the French Alps. The road has been closed to traffic. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Our group soon pooled our collective memories of the Leaving Cert Oral French exam to contact local taxi companies (what does La Garre mean again?) and concluded that we had all failed it with flying colours. It was time to settle in for the night.

It was the week of school holidays in France, and we were 18 of thousands of people stranded in resorts, airports and hotels, all trying to find a way around The Rock.

Fourteen hours, six dart games and two Rugby matches later, a splinter group who had spent the day scouting for accommodation returned empty handed. With a burger and chips in Val Thorens averaging at €25 a pop, our group of twenty-somethings were starting to worry about our financial outgoings.

Would multitrip.com cover a €25 burger? Doubtful. We had spent the previous week eating homemade ham and cheese sandwiches in an effort to reduce costs.

We eventually found emergency accommodation in the local sports hall, surrounded by trampolines and badminton nets. Our chalet had unceremoniously booted us out, charged us for cleaning a house that we left spotless, and informed us of a ‘tourism tax’ which only applies in richer parts of France.

Minutes before we threw our warmest clothes on the floor and snuggled up for the night, a member of our group met an entrepreneurial local who would drive us down the mountain in his Renault Clio for the small price of €550. With girlfriends to see and jobs to go to, it seemed like the best option.

I and three others jumped into the Clio, and were offered five-star service from our newly recruited chauffeur. Water bottles and biscuits were handed around.

It took three hours to drive to Lyons airport from Val Thorens. Along the way we saw cars backed up for miles. Our driver told us it would take him five hours to get back home. The Rock would wreak havoc on The Alps for several days more.

We booked flights from Lyons airport to London, and after a six-hour layover we were finally back on Irish turf. With members of our group forking out over €600 for flights and accommodation, it was time to figure out who would be harder to beat – Dwayne Johnson or our travel insurance companies.

We heard they defeated The Rock with explosives.

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