Kilometres walked: 20km / Total distance: 465km / Elevation gain: 579m/ Elevation loss: 1327m / Time walked: 5h10min
Today I get to town! And tomorrow I’ll take the bus to pick up Antonio!
After missing him for almost a month, I am very excited about this. I’m not sure if it is because of that or because the trail is beautiful or because I got my hiker legs or because I had extra coffee this morning but I fly over the trails, take a long break at a beautiful lake for second breakfast (and more coffee) and before I know it I’m up and over the Port de Ratera.
The descent is equally smooth – my legs are really cooperating today despite the stumble from yesterday. Before I know it, the trail spits me out on a track where 4×4 taxis zoom by to drop off tourists. It’s a busy national park, and it shows.
When descending from a peak or pass towards a parking lot or busy trail head, you notice different kind of people as you go down. First you meet the serious weekend warriors: good shoes, good pack, maybe with gear to camp for a couple of nights, but they still smell and look clean (it’s amazing how sensitive you become to the scent of laundry softener after not showering for 4 days). Then the trail runners, followed by the serious dayhikers (small pack, good gear), the instagrammers, and then the families, people with sandals or white sneakers and, finally, teenage girls with flip flops who refuse to do another step. This is how you know you’re within a few hundred meters of the parking.
I try not to judge. I’ve been all of these people (except, maybe, the instagrammer).
I follow the road down, almost running. Being close to town means I have little food left so my pack is nice and light, and there is so much water here that I carry rarely more than a liter at a time. I make a game out of overtaking all the dayhikers and after five hours I arrive at the camping at the edge of Espot. As I’m pitching my tent it starts pouring rain so I abandon my half pitched tent and run back to the bar where I have an ice cream and coffee instead as I wait for the rain to pass. What a timing!
The next morning I sleep in, do laundry and lounge around my tent. Around midday I get a message from Nicole. She’s almost in Espot! I tell her where I’m staying and ten minutes later she walks through the gate. It’s good to see her again. I pack up, she pitches, and we walk to town together to have lunch and catch up on what happened, how was the trail, who did we meet, and other trail gossip.
I linger around town, drinking more coffee, waiting until the bus arrives that will take me to La Pobla de Segur, a town further South where Antonio will arrive by train. The bus is late, almost twenty minutes late, and I’m stressing about not being in the right spot, because there is no clearly indicated bus station and where people said the stop is, is not the same place as where Google Maps said the stop is. I decided to trust the people, but now I’m second-guessig myself. But I’m standing at the only road into town so even if it’s not the actual stop, I can hardly miss the bus.
Twenty minutes late the bus arrives, all is good, we depart, and within five minutes I get incredibly car sick. Something that rarely happens.
Walking is much easier, I decide.
Am hour and a half later I arrive in La Pobla, still nauseous, and the heat here in the valley doesn’t help. It’s 35 degrees! I walk to the hotel, check in, and head straight for the shower.
In the mirror I try to look at my body through the eyes of someone -a loving someone- who hasn’t seen me in a month. There is more hair (I didn’t pack a razor), less weight, smaller boobs, muscles in new places (my neck & shoulders), sunburn, lots of freckles, some scrapes and bruises and an awful tan line.
Still, I like what I see. I feel strong and healthy and am proud of these legs, these feet, this body. They have carried me over 400km of mountains.
The reunion with Antonio is sweet. I missed him, he missed me. We eat and cuddle and drink craft beers in the local brewery and even though we messaged and called a lot, it’s nice to catch up on the more mundane details of our lives.
Tomorrow we’ll head back to the mountains to walk the Carros the Foc together, a route that connects nine mountain huts in the Aïguestortes i Sant Maurici national park. I look forward to walking with him, to take him into ‘my’ world of the last couple of weeks, to share some of this experience, and to create some memories together.