The year 2009 shall be remembered as the year of the Paris metro. For over twelve months, a loose group of like minded lunatics made it their mission to discover all the secrets hidden in the network of sprawling tunnels. But what to do when all the secrets which lurk in those tunnels are no longer a mystery…
I will not try to sum up our year of exploring the Paris metro, I will not do it justice the way that dsankt has already done in his post ‘Demolition of the Paris Metro’. So I’m just going to tell you about one night that summed it all up for me.
Long before dsankt’s post went viral we had planned one big weekend as a send off for so many good times spend down in the dark, dirty tunnels. In attendance were Paris metro regulars including Qx, Snapple, dsankt and myself. Siologen, who is no stranger to train tunnels around the world would also grace us with his presence and finally, two stanch nutters, Yaz and Vivo made up the rest of the crew.
For the first night I decided to take along an old film SLR loaded with iso1600 B&W film. I never really expected anything would come out, especially because the camera is fantastically unreliable and all the shots were hand held. But I was stoked when the roll came back with a great record of the nights mayhem. It is from that roll all the photos in this post were taken.
The first thing on the agenda for the night was a particular tunnel loop that we had partly explored on a number of occasions. One of the things we had never done was walk the whole length of the loop which was formally a train storage area and workshop. The presence of IR detectors and cameras had always put a dampener on our movements in these tunnels. The only choice was to ignore them… and run.
We felt like we knew the tunnels pretty well, and we were confident we knew where we were going. So getting within in sight of the first IR beam we stopped and discussed how things should unfold. Basically, we pass the detectors and run till we make it all the way around the loop where we make our escape. As the tunnels are not on the active network, we at least we knew we would not be dodging trains.
We crossed the IR beams and legged it. After not too long we came to an unexpected junction. Without time to make a group decision on which direction to go, the lead person continued straight… a reasonable decision in the heat of the moment. But we soon come to another unexpected junction… Either the tunnel maps were wrong or we were lost.
In the kayos, we all just stopped, clearly we did not know where we were and there was no point getting more lost. There was nothing to do but walk back the way we had just come, the opposite direction to which we had been running only moments earlier. It must have looked pretty strange to whoever was watching the cameras, a group a group of six guys running through the tunnels like they were being chased by a bear, only to have them walk back a few moments later with confused looks on their faces.
Eventually the lack of decision making resulted in our adrenalin fuelled excitement turning to total indifference to the somewhat precarious situation we had placed ourselves in.
“Fuck it, I’m going to see what’s down that direction” Snapple exclaimed as he started off down another tunnel. For me it seemed like a good opportunity to take a photo so I pulled out the camera and set it up for a shot. Before I even had a chance to pop off a frame Vivo, who had gone with Snapple, was running back down the tunnel (see pic above) with the news that Snapple had seen someone. Myself, ds and Yas translated this as meaning that Snapple has seen someone coming after us and figured that running in the opposite direction was the obvious plan. After running for some distance it became clear that not everyone shared that view and in fact half the group had stayed behind. My phone rang, it was qx:
“Where the fuck did you guys go?”
“Um, we legged it.”
“The guy Snapple saw was on the active platform, he’s not after us”
The situation was becoming comical.
Our luck had been pushed to the point where we decided it was better to quit while we were ahead and the two groups reunited at our exit point.
On our way out, the remaining cans of that infamous beer were distributed, I personally was going to need more beer if the first couple of hours were any indication of how things were going to unfold.
Approaching the station from which we had launched our clusterfuck exploration we noticed that there were a few more security cars at the entrance than there was 20 minutes prior. Then we noticed the guard and his huge German Sheppard. Qx could not help himself and struck up a conversation as we passed.
“Mmm, yeah, merci… hey…. was it you guys who were just in the tunnels?”
“Ahh… Nah mate, we’re just Australian’s getting on the beers!”
“Oh… [wtf?] Well ok then, bonsoir.”
So we did not get away completely undetected.
After this interaction we felt it wise to take an alternative route to our next destination. We just made the the last train heading east and Siologen immediately demanded that we check out the rear drivers cabin. So Qx and Siolo headed down the train and the rest of us sat around chatting. Less than two minutes later Siologen and Qx are running back up the train followed by a group of girls who had decided they wanted to see the rear drivers cabin as well. Apparently sounding the horn in the rear drivers cabin is not a good idea… duh. The night was only getting better.
Check out the video below (by qx) for that particular episode in moving images as well as some other lunacy from the weekend.
I won’t go into the the next hour and a half of the group being split up, beer stops, diffusion of potentially violent confrontations, dangerous bike rides and the like. This post will never end otherwise.
The next stop on the nights metro tour was a part of the network that is good fun to explore because of the large number of connecting tunnels and train layups that you can wonder through for hours. The only problem was the parked trains… where there are parked trains there are quite often guards.
We’re not graffers and we’re not there to nic anything, but people tend to assume the worst when you’re dressed in black and hanging with the trains at 3am in the morning. So the plan was to avoid guards if at all possible.
It was in here that the batteries in my camera died, luckily being a mechanical camera, I just asked who ever was near me what their camera was metering, did a little maths to translate things to my settings and continued shooting. Try that with a DSLR.
So anyway, things went pretty smoothly, we wondered around the tunnels, checked out the trains and had a good time. On the way out we decided to look down a tunnel that led to a garage, not surprisingly it had trains in it. The photo below is of the group looking down the tunnel for activity, I like it because it captures a bit of the team work of doing this stuff. Once we got down to the train we chilled out and a couple of people got out cameras to take some shots.
We might have been there for about 5 minutes and we were probably getting a bit too comfortable with our surroundings. We had long ago given up the usual metro exploring etiquette of communicating in whispers and things were getting a little noisy.
“Bougez pas, bougez pas!”
For those of you who did not listen in French classes, the guard running in our direction was screaming “don’t move, don’t move!” Clearly it did not require translation because our group (yes, all of us this time) was already running in the opposite direction. I’m not sure what he expected us to do, but I do feel that given the situation, asking us to stand still was probably unreasonable.
One of the great things about a security chase is that generally the people being chased have a far greater motivation to get away that the guard does to actually catch the people running away. We were so motivated that even Siologen, who by this time had finished more than a few beers was bounding over that electrified third rail like a gazelle. So the distance between us and the guard grew until the “bougez pas, bougez pas” became inaudible. After the last hurdle, a nasty spiked fence, we would be free. Jumping over that fence, I somehow managed to land gracefully on my face but thankfully avoided breaking anything, including that trusty little SLR I had in my hand the whole time.
We were out of the tunnel, alive and not in jail. It was a successful night. We had deserved a good couple of hours of sleep, even if it was on the floor of a freezing cold squat, and we’d need it as well, the next day we were going to do it all again…
Shout out to the crew for a wicked weekend.