GR11 Hiking

Day 24: Headspace

Kilometres walked: 12km  / Total distance: 431km / Elevation gain:  949m/ Elevation loss: 520m / Time walked: 4h31min

It rained late into the night yesterday. Retreating was the right thing to do. But still, it messed with my planning and even though it’s part of the game that you can’t ‘plan’ these kind of things, I don’t like my plans being messed with.

More specifically, I’m not happy about the logistical consequences. We’re about to enter a national park where camping is not allowed (and this is, contrary to many other places, enforced) and because of the weather forecast, distribution of mountain passes, a pre-made and paid booking and (lack of) camping opportunities it means we’ll do a couple of short days and staying in huts along the way (which, thankful, still have space!).

Short Days

I don’t like short days. No wait, I don’t mind them every once in a while but too many in a row I find unsatisfying. Physically pushing myself is -for me- part of the reason I’m out here and that happens when I’m walking 6-8 hours a day, not 4 or 5. And now there will be a stretch of those shorter days. A good opportunity to find a challenge in there, perhaps. A challenge to be still instead of moving, to relax instead of pushing.

I contemplate all this as we walk past the hut we sheltered in yesterday, and realize that I need to get out of my own head.

Part of the appeal of pushing is that only the next step matters, only the next rock or tree or waterpoint matters, and the world of thought stops existing beyond that point.

Don’t get me wrong, my head can be a very entertaining place to be, at least most of the time. But as a chronic overthinker and as someone with a very ‘brainy’ job I seek balance through physical exertion. Or exhaustion. But perhaps there’s a gentler way to get out of my head.

Wet Rocks

I focus on my environment. Not only on where to put my feet or how long we have to climb or how steep the trail is but on the smells and the sounds and sensations.

The trail smells like wet rock and grass and pine sap and mud and yes, occasional cow poop.

The sounds are of rushing water, rustling leaves, crickets, little birds perching on rocks to warn about our approach, wasps hovering, marmots screaming on the other side of the valley. A bird of prey screeches overhead and all the other animal sounds fall silent.

Sweat dripping down my brow and back, heart rate slightly elevated, the taste of thirst in my mouth. A sip of cool, refreshing water, unfiltered from the stream.

We take a long break at the lake, Lac de Rius, swim and dry up in the sun. Refreshing water, sun on skin, the smell of sunlotion, coffee, sausages, chocolate, everything mingles together into a blur. We are not in a hurry, the only reason to start moving again is that we’re getting crispy in the sun. It feels like vacation.

Easy trail down. The caffeine kicks in and I fly down the trail. My pack isn’t that heavy anymore, having eaten most of the food and there’s no need to carry much water here. I spot something red on the side of the trail. Raspberries! I pick a handful and pause to eat. Delicious, tart, soft, velvety. Fuel to fly further down the valley until the last final 100m climb to Refugio Restanca which is practically straight up a wall. It doesn’t matter, I still have energy and climb up. Big steps, poles dangling, my arms pulling me up the big steps. More raspberries. Suddenly I’m over the top and cross the dam to the refugio. There is a bar outside and I order three beers. A couple of minutes later Jan and Ernesto arrived. It’s our last night together. Cheers, to a successful short day.

Apologies for the lack of pictures in this post. Internet is not reliable enough to update larger files, or I’m running into problems for some other reason. I posted some to twitter, all from today.

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