GR11 Hiking

Day 34: Crunch Mode is ON

Kilometres walked: 30km  / Total distance: 614km / Elevation gain:  931m / Elevation loss: 2225m / Time walked: 8h8min

I didn’t sleep very well last night. It was hot in the room and I had restless dreams where I kept losing things; my earplugs, my passport, my toothpaste (?). In the end I read my book for an hour until I fell asleep again.

Double coffee for breakfast, along a bit of toast, a small piece of cake, and two biscuits. Enough of a caffeine and sugar rush to get me over the col and down to the next valley.

Eye Contact

I climb up the pass, only for ten minutes or so, in the shade. It’s actually a bit chilly and at the top . It’s definitely the end of summer. I round a corner and suddenly the whole valley below is glowing in the golden light of the early morning sun. I’ll never get tired of this.

Golden light and reflective pond

Low sun long shadow

The long descent down the valley is amazing. If I had time -which I don’t-, I would just find a spot to camp here and spend the rest of the day bathing in the river, looking for mushrooms and eating cookies.

Mushroom! Autumn is coming

But alas, I’m on a mission today, so I keep going down and down and down the valley until the bottom where there is a small emergency shelter from which a hiker emerges and another hiker is -I realize this too late- taking a dump behind the hut. Squatting, pants down, which I realize only after I make eye contact.

I do an awkward wave before I look the other way and continue hiking.

This was exactly as awkward as you imagine.

What’s wrong with me? I just waved instead of pretending I didn’t see them? I thought I lost all sense of shame but good to know there is still some left.

Lost

I have a hotel reservation in Puigcerda, a biggish town on trail, for tomorrow, but by 11:00 I realize I’m making good progress (might have something to do with getting away from pooping hikers as fast as possible) and that I, if I just keep hiking until late afternoon, I can get there today.

Only 233km to go!

The moment I have cellphone reception I call the hotel and ask if they can change the reservation to today. No problem! Okay, here we go! Crunch mode is officially on!

Naturally, about half an hour later, I get lost. I’m following the clear trail in the forest on a steep slope until I’m suddenly…not. There is still some kind of trail (goats maybe?) but it seems unlikely that I have to crawl underneath trees and hold on to tree roots to move forward.

Hmm.

The line of the GPS on my watch says I’m still on trail, but that can be a couple of meters off. I pull out my phone and look at the map.

Yep, I’m about ten meters below where the trail is supposed to be.

I look up and see nothing but more trees and roots and steep mountain. Step by step I work my way up until I reach a flat bit of gravel that stretches out in both directions. The trail!

This walks so much easier, and I follow this winding ribbon of gravel along the mountain side, full speed ahead.

Cairns mark the way

Long haul to Puigcerda

After lunch it’s just a long way down to town. A gentle descent, luckily. Grassy trails and forest slopes and, eventually, a tarmac road for the last six or so kilometers to town.

It’s this road that kills my feet. Hard surface, every step is the same. After 3km my feet feel like they’ve been beaten but I keep going. Cars zoom by and I put on music and grind my teeth and step by step, get closer to town.

At the hotel I check in, shower, and walk to the big Carrefour supermarket on the edge of town. It’s huge, one of these supermarkets where people come by car from all neighbouring villages to do their groceries for the week. It’s by far the biggest supermarket I’ve seen in weeks and I wander around for an hour, totally overwhelmed by the choices and options and possibilities.

My plan was to have dinner in a restaurant in town but I emerge from the supermarket with a bag full of snacks (I finally found peanut butter!) and something that resembles a dinner: gazpacho, tabbouleh salad, and arroz con leche for dessert. I eat all of it (plus a bag of crisps and a piece of chocolate) laying in the hotelbed watching shitty Spanish television. Good night.

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