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GES065 - Paris Tunnels & Sewers

August 2010

I arrived from the Eurostar platform slightly tired, and walked out of security to a gathering of people, some holding signs, others looking on expectantly. I looked for GE099 amongst them, eager to meet and greet one of his English chums. But alas, he wasn't there. As people met up, including a seriously hot woman who was met by some neanderthal toad, and departed. I slumped down against a post, the local bums asking me for change in some weird foreign language. Time flew by, and the station had an empty feel about it. Finally, 10minutes after getting off the train, I recognised a familiar face emerge behind a booth. He helped me carry my smallest bag, and rushed me out of the Gare du Nord, and down the street to the GE099mobile.

Inside was of course a lovely lady, for this was the GE099mobile, not having one sat occupying the side seat wouldn't be the same. "GE066 GE062, GE062 GE066", and then GE099 fiddled with his penis, sorry, GPS device. It turns out from her first utterances that GE062 is of the Australian variety of human. "Crikey" I express, there's hardly any Aussies on the explorer scene! It turns out she's of the Cave Clan variety (aren't they all?) As we shoot off through the Parisian streets, neon signs and shopfronts whizz by mostly empty streets. After awhile GE099 starts to look for a place to park. Queue my introduction to a distinctly large problem that Paris has, lack of car parking spaces.

Skip forward some time later, and GE099 parks. We then cross a quiet main road, and walk up to a building site, with the usual fences and keep out sign malarkey. However this site is a little different, in that it's in the middle of a road. Other than the Catacombs (of which more on another post), Paris is known as the city of love, and unfortunately for us, that meant having to try to wait out a couple kissing and smooching in full view of our access point. Darn it.

After waiting them out, it's a hop into the site, and we quickly shoot towards some ladders that go down into what could accurately be described as a large hole in the ground, for it was! Down four,five or more sections of ladder, and we at the bottom of the hole I referred to just now as rather large. On one side a round tunnel led off somewhere. GE099 was concerned, "where's the train?" Hmmm, now there's a quandary. GE099 was expecting to find it where we were stood, which meant if it wasn't here it must be in the tunnel we were about to go in. So GE099, French speed walking Olympic Champion 2 games on the trot, set off into the tunnel. I just about managed to keep up, but GE062 fell behind.

Those wooden planks were none to quiet either. As we walked further in, we came from a bend to a straight portion which in the  distance we could see came to an end. We could also see the train (which is also a drill, used to excavate this tunnel). It was then that we saw movement, and a chap in a dark set of overalls. He shouted something in our direction in French I didn't understand, "Oi". GE099 quickly translated this as "Run!", ah, I thought, my new French word of the day, Oi, the verb to run. As I finished with my thought, I turned to see GE099 disappearing back down the tunnel from where we had just come. I quickly grabbed a photo, hoping to catch the train. However I had my wide angle on, so this wasn't going to happen. You'll have to imagine some irate workers grabbing their stuff and starting up the train up at the end of this tunnel.

Seeing GE099 and in front of him GE062 disappear into the distance, and the sound of the train revving. I thought it might be time to find out how fast I can run down a load of planks in a tunnel 20m below the ground. It turned out reasonably fast, and when I heard the train starting up and getting louder. My ability to increase my running speed worked well. For by the time we'd reached the half way point for getting back to the ladder, I'd caught GE099 up. We didn't look back as the noise of the train increased, and the rumble could be felt in the tunnel. All the time we were waiting for that last bit of the tunnel to straighten out so we could see the end. In total it was about 300m long or there abouts to the point where we turned and fled. With the rumble getting louder and louder my thoughts went to the amusement factor of what it'd be like to be crushed by a train in a tunnel underneath Paris. I decided my thoughts were misguided, and there really wouldn't be any amusement factor.

Finally we saw the light at the end of the tunnel (sorry cliche fans), and GE062 had started up the ladders, GE099 quickly joined her, and I sat waiting for him to clear the first section. The train getting louder in the tunnel. I climbed like a crazy man, trying to protect my camera the best I could as it was slung around my neck. As I cleared the first 3 sections of the ladder, I started to feel safe, unless of course the people on the train had some secret super fast lift (ya never know). At the top GE099 and GE062 were gone, but I wanted a shot of the huge hole. So I flipped the camera to auto ISO and fired off a shot down the hole. As I did the train pulled to a stop below. If you follow the drainpipes down the left wall, the bulky white oblong object, is a section of the train.


We were 30" from capture, but we'd escaped. This was still within the first hour of me stepping of the train, I was to be here for 3 days!

I caught up with GE062 & GE099 a few streets away. They both swore that there was someone just behind me on the ladders, but I disagreed, and the above photo concurs me thinks. It was then back to the GE099mobile. More tapping into the GPS, and GE099 guided us off. However the sudden burst of running above his normal olympic medal winning walking speed, meant his lungs were unable to cope, and he began to cough rather strongly almost suffering for breath. So he pulled over. It seems most of Paris is being dug up to introduce tram routes. So we parked up next to an area that was being sorted out for the aforementioned tram, so GE099 could sort his ailing body out.

After GE099 looked like he'd live, GE062 spotted some holes in the ground, just behind where GE099 is in the above photo. She asked to borrow a torch, and proceeded to disappear down one of the holes. After about 10minutes, GE099 and I started to look at each other, where was she? GE099 shouted down a few times, and looked around a few other holes. I guarded the car, which had my camera in it, and some other peoples stuff. Another 5mins passed, and suddenly movement from a hole by some planks, and GE062 emerged. It's really good down there, you should bring your cameras.Go down a hole underground, bring cameras? Sure!

GE099 locked up the car, and we followed GE062 down the hole. It came out into the familiar egg shape sewer, only it was bone dry. Along side us ran a few utility cables and pipes.

We climbed over an intersection of pipes on a horrible crawl platform, that reminded me of some of the Utility tunnels in London. We dropped down and kept walking until we came to a sewer that was in use, and ran below us. In this picture it's below the large white pipe at the bottom of the picture, and runs off to the right of the screen in the tunnel.

It would have been good to explore further, but none of us had waders. We then tried to shift a drain lid, but it weighed more than John Precott after a bulemia episode. So it was back to where we came and into the car. More GPS tapping, and we were on the move again.

We came to a building with a sort of subtle grand elegance about it, and a clock tower that reminded me a little of the Gillette tower back in London. I got into the site, and there was no way down to the lower floor that would have been useful. I tip toed on further to where the building still existed at ground floor level. As I got close, I could clearly hear footsteps in the dark. I had a careful look but couldn't see anything. I went back to find GE099, who said that security often sit in the dark without hi-vis. Bum pants. so we all hopped out, and went back to the car. It was now time to visit the Catas.