GR11 Hiking

Day 29: Nocturnal Visit

Kilometres walked: 18km  / Total distance: 504km / Elevation gain:  1126m/ Elevation loss: 1090m / Time walked: 5h45min

Just before midnight I wake up with a jolt. Snorting near my feet. Loud, heavy snorting. A pig? It must be a wild boar.

Shit. These are not friendly animals.

Instinctively, I lay still. It snorts again. I can hear it stomping around, moving towards the other side of the tent.

I slowly exhale.

The foil inside my sleeping pad crinkles and I don’t know if this is what scares the boar but I hear, I feel its hooves thundering past my tent as it makes its way down the hill.

It couldn’t have been more than ten, twenty seconds since waking up but now I’m wide awake with adrenaline. I unzip my tent and look outside, but of course I see nothing, except for a million stars.

No matter how peaceful the night sky is, it takes forever to fall back asleep, listening to every sound. The rustling of leaves, my tent flapping in the breeze, water trickling, birds flying, a fly trapped inside my tent, buzzing. The sound of my own breathing.

An hour goes by.

Should I put in earplugs? What if I don’t hear the wild boar? What if I don’t sleep for the rest of the night? Neither are good options, so I settle for the extremely useless compromise of one earplug. Depending on which side I lay, I can either hear the world around me, or not. Finally, I fall asleep on my stomach.

Foothills

Needless to say, the rest of the night was restless. I heard grunting and the sound of twigs breaking several times throughout the night, although not that close to my tent anymore.

When my alarm goes off (06:30am) it takes me forever to get up. I snooze, snooze again, watch as the sky turns pastel pink then pale blue. Finally I get up, dig a hole, do my business (good reason to get out of bed, always), make coffee and eat my porridge. Quarter past eight I start walking. Late.

Today’s route passes several miniscule villages, some abandoned. I’m out of the high mountains now, and it’s amazing how much difference a 1000 vertical meters makes. It’s dry here, the grass is yellow, streams are barely running, and I’m back to carrying extra water again. It’s almost a rehearsal for what’s to come closer to the Mediterranean. It smells like dust and pine trees.

I take a break and explore the abandoned town of Bordas de Nibros. Aside from cows, no one lives here anymore. But there’s water, and I stock up before climbing the next pass. It’s only at 1800m or so, but in the full sun and with the trail partially overgrown, it’s rough going.

Hunger

On the descent towards Tavascan I pass two more tiny villages. They are not only inhabited but look surprisingly well kept. Flowers in the windowsills, little crocheted curtains in the windows, and shiny cars parked outside. But aside from water, no facilities. I press on to Tavascan, where there is a restaurant, and I hope I can make it to lunch.

My stomach is growling. I do have food: couscous, instant ramen, some tortilla wraps, but I long for a full meal, the first proper meal since getting sick three days ago. My appetite is finally back.

Two ‘o clock I arrive at the hotel/restaurant. It’s nearly empty.

“Do you have a reservation?”, asks the hostess. I shake my head. “Hmm, let me see”.

“Estoy sola”, I plead, and get a table next to the entrance to the kitchen. I don’t care. Stuffed eggplant, chicken with plums, and a crema catalana will soon be mine. In no time, the restaurant is full.

After a long lunchbreak I leave town via a hellish steep climb. I want to camp somewhere above town, but am not sure if there’s water, so my pack is extra heavy from the 3L I’m carrying for a possible dry camp. The first possible campsite is already occupied by two young women, and there’s not enough space for another tent. Besides, I don’t feel like making conversation. I push on, curse this climb. Half an hour, maybe forty five minutes later there’s another spot, off trail, just big enough for one tent. I pitch, dry my sweat soaked clothes in the evening sun, eat tortillas with cream cheese and salami and bell pepper and half a bar of chocolate for dessert.

No wind, no animals, just me and a million stars. Bliss.

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