The Pyrenean Traverse, Day 3: Pain is the limit

The bell ringing of sleepwalking horses has kept me out of my sleep. The abandoned cowshed was not as deserted as we first thought. And apparently, it weren’t cows either. In normal life, a bad night’s sleep would leave you with a pretty miserable morning mood, but here the fluffy white clouds, which are nicely packed together while sleeping in in the valley, leave me with a smile on my face. Bright morning’s pearls are clinging on to the long grass. They turn my socks wet while I help break up the tent.

When we leave our beautiful but somewhat noisy sleeping place behind us, we immediately get lost. Fortunately it doesn’t take too long to get back on the right track. We follow a wide sandy path that in some places has been destroyed by a tractor or other sturdy farmer’s gear. We zigzag up a hill and are sent over the courtyard of a farm. A threatening border collie makes us doubt whether we are still on the right route. We continue and ignore our barking four-legged friend who obviously doesn’t appreciate our presence. Past the farm we see a signpost that confirms that we are still on track. The signpost sends us to a nearby source, under which Wim immediately puts his overheated head.

There are some picnic benches at the source, so we decide to eat something. A group of men with grey hair do the same. They seem interested in our walking plans and ask us some questions. We smile friendly and answer: “English? Français?”. But the men continue to talk chearfully in an unintelligible Spanish language…

With well-filled drinking bottles we continue our way again. Wim has a lot of problems with the hip belt of his backpack. From time to time I see him pulling a painful face, and it starts to worry me. I help him adjust his backpack and notice that he has a wound and a big bruise on his hip. No wonder he’s hurting! He doesn’t want me to take care of his wound. Heroically he continues his way. “The unbreakable”, I whisper. But I’m still worried. The fact that also the heat is taking its toll, only makes things worse.

Despite all the beginner’s aches we walk smoothly. We constantly cut a few minutes off the hiking times that are indicated on the signposts. It gives us courage. In the middle of a forest we unexpectedly pass a huge donjon. Further on we see a stone shelter, which looks at least as old as the donjon. With its rounded, wide hilltops, even the landscape looks old.

When the sun reaches its highest point, we also reach ours. Wim succumbs to the heat and almost collapses when we reach the top. There is a concrete hut, where we can catch a few centimeters of shade. Wim crawls against the hut. He closes his eyes and together we realize that this won’t be the random honeymoon. No pain, no gain …

When we have pulled ourselves together, we descend to a village where we finally find the right gas bottle for our burner. Wim buys some strawberries and peaches at a fruit shop. We treat ourselves to two local beers, and then go for some shopping in the supermarket. With a shopping bag filled to the brim we go looking for a camping spot just outside the village. It appears to be easier said than done. We have to climb more meters than expected and we struggle with the annoying shopping bag, which we carry little ergonomically between the two of us. With a nearly dislocated shoulder, we are glad to hear that a farmer gives us permission to put up camp in his field. On top of the hill we enjoy the sunset. Our gas burner is being inaugurated by a delicious paella dish. A bottle of wine completes the party. All the muscles and bones in our body hurt. But we’re having the time of our lives.


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