GR11 Hiking

Day 4: Where is the Hiker Hunger?

Kilometres walked: 23 / Total distance: 125km / Elevation gain: 1134m / Elevation loss: 638m / Time walked 6h33min

Every time I stretch my legs they cramp up. I know this feeling from the beginning of a marathon training cycle, and it signals an adjustment period I have to go through. I also know that this adjustment does not happen without adequate rest, do I vow to take it a bit easier from now on.

I guess I have proven something, to someone? To myself that I can do this? To myself that I recovered from COVID three weeks ago? That I’m still fit despite barely running since the ultramarathon in March?

Slow Morning

Today starts slowly. I sleep in, have breakfast in the hostal I’m staying at, and again I have to force myself to eat. I’m slightly nauseous and not hungry at all. After breakfast I walk to the supermarket to do groceries for two days. I look around the store, trying to see if anything looks appealing at all but nothing does. In the end I buy some basics: nuts, sweets, two carrots, cheese and a packet of instant mashed potato.

At the hostel I reorganize my pack, refill my water and finally head out at 10:00. I try to problem-solve for my lack of appetite by adding ginger (to curb the nausea) and sugar (to get some energy) into my water and later switch to electrolytes. It kind of works, it’s easier to keep the food down today although I’m still not hungry. When having lunch in Orbara I find myself, once again, forcing down a bacon and cheese bocadillo.

Planning to camp on that ridgeline in the distance

Limestone & Heat

Today’s route is fun. The terrain is getting rockier and instead of grass there is now limestone to walk on. The descent into town that the guidebook warned about (steep and slippery) is kind of a natural staircase and I hop from rock to rock. It helps that the ground is bone dry; today is another hot 35°C day. Under normal circumstances I can see how this descent would be slippery, but circumstances are anything but normal at the moment.

The views keep getting better

After lunch in Orbara and taking a break in some much needed shade I continue to Hiriberri, a town just one hill away. The hill is nothing special, easy, grassy trail and gravel road, but there is exactly zero shade and it is now mid-afternoon, hottest time of day. This does not feel great. The wet towel I put in my neck is dry in no time and just becomes another suffocating piece of fabric.

After an hour of this I arrive in Hiriberri. There’s a shaded terrace up the road and I plop down next to two other hikers, a British couple. They’ve been here for hours, waiting until temperatures drop enough to continue. I order a coke and a lime ice cream and nothing has ever tasted this good. Under normal circumstances I dislike coca cola but, like I said, anything but normal circumstances.

Camping with cows and horses

We chat and lounge around for until 17:30-ish. It’s still hot but the sun is lower in the sky and slightly more gentle. We both don’t want to stay in town but camp further up ahead. We walk out of town together, stocking up on water from a cattle trough and pushing up the hill. Other hikers informed me there’s no water up the ridge ahead so I’m carrying 4,5L, enough for a dry camp in these temperatures but my pack is now insanely heavy and my shoulder strap digs into my neck, pinching a nerve or cutting off some bloodflow (I think?) causing my arm to go numb.

The other couple finds a flat place to pitch halfway up the climb, and I keep going. The trail turns into the forest -shade!- and gets more rocky. I’m walking very carefully, when I’m tired it’s much easier to trip, and after I just saw the male half of the couple making a tumble and landing head first into a barbed wire fence I’m extra careful. (don’t worry he’s fine)

After another hour? Two? Forever? The trail spits me out of the forest onto a wide grassy field and I drop my pack on the first flattish bit of grass I find. There’s the usual dried up cowshit that I kick aside before pitching my tent. It’s windy up here, and it takes a while before I have an acceptable pitch. Fabric flapping in the wind. Dinner is two carrots, a hunk of sweaty cheese and a handful of nuts. Still not hungry. I eat in my underwear, drying out my sweaty clothes in the last sun. There’s a magnificent view over the valley below. Life is good.

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