Day 8: Kilometres walked: 18km / Total distance: 193km / Elevation gain: 987m / Elevation loss: 807m / Time walked: 5h45min.
I walk out of the camping in the morning together with Nicole, another Dutch girl and member of the little hiking bubble that developed over the last few days.
We’re heading for the real mountains! Yesterday I could see them coming closer and closer and today we are here! From the camping we follow an easy gravel path for a few kilometers that changes into a trail that takes us to a 1930m pass. We spot our first marmots and a chamois bounces over the trail in front of us like it’s nothing, like we are nothing.
The descent after the pass takes us to La Mina, the official endpoint of this stage but there is nothing but a road and small parking lot as a busy trailhead. We seek shade under a shrubby tree and have an extended break, filtering water from the river, snacking and gaining energy for the next stage.
It’s hot again today, and we set out around 13:30 – hottest time of day- for a stretch with no shade. For a bit we follow the river across cow country (this doesn’t mean anything, everywhere is cow country) and we dip our hats in the water so our heads stay cool, kind of.
We meet a few hikers coming the other way and ask about conditions of the plateau where we planned to camp. Clouds, fog, much colder. Although the sun is intense here, almost too much, that doesn’t sound particularly pleasant. We can see the clouds swirling over the top of the mountain where we are heading, getting stuck there.
“Water?”, we ask. “No water”. Hmm, that’s strange because it’s a plateau with a stream running through it and our guidebook mentions reliable water (although it’s cow water that would need to be filtered) but with this heat it would totally be possible that it has dried up. Better to trust information from other hikers than from the guidebook.
That seals the deal, we’re camping here. Even though it’s kind of early at 16:00 and it’s windy, there are a few good pitches next to the trail, there’s the river for water and, total luxury, a small swimming hole that’s deep enough to swim in. Which is what we do; we swim, wash our clothes, dry out in the sun and wind and lounge around. Later we are joined by more people from our bubble and we all camp here, along this river, in this valley, in this beautiful land that we are so privileged to be in.