The travelling saltygardener is on a true adventure of a different, much less watery kind. This is an adventure over the beautiful Pyrenees mountains which join the two great oceans of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. We have around 6 weeks to hike as much as possible of the 840km route through the Spanish Pyrenees known as the GR11 – or in Spain the travesia pirenaica.
I wanted to document some of my experience as all the blogs I found seem to be written by seasoned hikers or pseudo mountain goats set to break the record time. I am not in any race it is our personal annual challenge. Day 1 at sea level alongside the Atlantic ocean I was not at all prepared for this journey. Sure, I had a backpack filled with hiking goodies and #thebesthusbandintheworld who is an experienced mountaineer so there was no danger involved. We’d even had a trial run and pitched the tent in a Swedish apartment 🙂 What I mean is I live a fairly sedentary life which largely involves lounging in a cockpit trying to keep cool, eating a lot of yummy asian fried food and drinking our way through the latest duty free hoard. On the other hand without transport other than our dinghy we explore everywhere on foot and recently covered some jungle day-hikes on Tioman Island. I also swim quite a bit and have almost developed gills from snorkelling yet still manage to hover around 15kg over the top end of what those charts deem ‘normal’. I take no medications and am physically very healthy but in no way fit. I’m usually the one who groans loudest when the up escalator in the shopping mall isn’t working.
In 8 walking days we have covered 140km and started to ascend some of the introductory smaller peaks and passes around 1200m – the highest so far was yesterday and at 1495m was around the same height as Ben Nevis!
This recap is from our Day 10 and not any suggested GR11 itinerary. A well earned R&R day in a campsite where I have chance to reflect on the journey so far. This is the most demanding adventure I have under-taken and I’ve come a long way in distance, physically and emotionally and it is still a huge roller coaster. I hope to post in more detail if connectivity allows, but no doubt Facebook will be there even if the Internet isn’t. Please feel free to follow along via our Sailing with Tiki page.
To start we eased in Days 1&2 with some long flat sections to get used to wearing 12-14kg on our backs and walking extended distances. Since then there have been higher highs, longer days and lower lows. The walking is good, the climbs are tough. Lots of breather stops but fitness is improving leaps and bounds and I’m starting to accept that I can really do this.
We have a little evening routine where Captain Crackers reads ahead and plans the daily route, schedules in the rest stops and breaks the stage down. This is essential for me as after 2-3 hour stints I’m starting to sway, a little fatigued, I need some rest. Rest stops involve backpacks off, shoes and socks off to cool down and a good stretch of all these muscles. My favourite stretch is the downward dog with those amazing mountain views upside down! Also a refueling snack of cheese, baguette and juicy summer stone fruits which are simply divine. After a gorgeous peach/nectarine/apricot I can just feel the fructose filling me with energy for the next section.
But these are just the physical practicalities. The real challenge comes when the hill gets really tough, or the slippery downward limestone terrain terrifies me. Then I need to dig a whole lot deeper than any peach can provide. That’s when I bring out my calvary – all the family and friends supporting us in this adventure. I place them in a line alongside me. Can you hear it guys? I’m calling on you regularly!
It’s this ‘something altogether different than muscles’ that carries me up to the top to look at these breathtakingly stunning views, so really just wanted to say thanks for being here – all of you xxx