Lessons learned and trip summary:
- The western part of the trail feels like Wild West
- The longest and steepest ascent of the whole trail on this stage
- When you hear weird shrieks in Spanish mountains, keep calm, it’s probably just locals communicating
The leftover burger from yesterday made for a good breakfast – exactly as I expected. Breakfast of champions. The night was peaceful, yet itchy and stinging again. I would love to say that I demonstrate the first signs of apathy towards these unidentifiable bloodthirsty beasts which keep me from sleeping but it’s not the case. I think it’s simply impossible to steel oneself against something that annoying. I can take it as a training for the mosquito season in Oregon. I wanted it, I got it – the Pacific Crest Trail training all inclusive.
The day begins with ascending…what a surprise. The going gets tough today. I think we could use some rest already. Nevertheless, we only plan to rest after we finish the trail. After all, we’re almost there – 3 more days (approx. 60 more km) to go. After we climb the first hill, the path continues straight and downhill. We reach the end of yesterday’s stage. Looking at the notice board makes us slightly sick. There’s 1,237 m ascent ahead of us today. Well…I don’t feel ready for this (neither physically, nor mentally). We were hoping that maybe the trail could just remain flat for a change. Oh, how naive we were…
We’re walking on a wide cycle route when suddenly a view of a new kind of landscape (different from what we have seen so far) opens in front of us. Wide dusty road, dry spiky bushes, red rocks…“A western could totally be filmed here. Only a cowboy on a horse is missing”, I share my impressions with Thomas. We come to a farm (one looking also pretty wild-western like). First, we pass by a cattle yard and consequently by a small dwelling. A dog and a mid-aged man run out.
At first, I wonder whether we entered somewhere we should have not but turns out quickly that the man just wants to chat with us. He lets us fill our water bottles and keeps showing us (at least 3 times) which way our trail leads. “That’s fine, señor, we can find our way“, I’m thinking to myself. I would like to move on. But the man suddenly changes the topic and the intonation of his voice and starts warning us. I can’t fully understand him but I think he says something about people working with cows down by the river (that would make sense) and that we should squat down once we see them (that makes less sense to me). Afterwards, the man starts to give out weird shrieks, which begin to resonate through the valley…. surrealistic moment. It reminds me of the herdsman we met the other day who was doing something similar. Apparently, locals love using such shrieks as a mean of communication…who cares if it’s creepy, right? Nothing resounds back though.
We are finally back on track; we go down the hill and reach the aforementioned river. While we haven’t found any people or cows, we have encountered big herd of goats and sheep. And there by the lovely river was where the hell began. We started ascending again. But this time it was different – this time it was the steepest and longest fucking hill of all. It’s never-ending. Dear God! I stop. Breathing heavily. I’m hot, sweat is pouring into my eyes and it burns. God damnit! I become furious (again) and I swear at the hill. When I’m done, I move on…left and right, step by step. After a short while, the situation repeats itself. Stopping, heavy breathing, sweat in the eyes, swearwords and off I go – left and right, step by step. The poor hill heard a lot from me. As we climb up, we can hear the man’s weird shrieks in the distance…the whole time. That’s what I call stamina. When I finally reach the summit, Thomas is already chilling there. „What’s taking you so long?“, he asks. Look on my face was likely enough of an answer as there were no more questions.
It’s lunch time. The only problem is, there is cow’s and goat’s poop everywhere. Nothing we would not be used to already but this time, it’s extreme. Poop is all around. Even so we find a small spot on a rock between the buttons and prepare a lunch. The view is worth it. Suddenly an authentic Spanish cowboy with a hat and a rope on a horse with his small cattle herd passes by. “Seriously?”, I laugh. “And where are the cameramen?” Cowboy starts to clamour something and the man across the valley finally gets the desired answer.
After lunch, I desperately crave something sweet. I try to make couscous with a little bit of chocolate protein powder (which is literally the last sweet thing we have left). It was disgusting and it definitely did not satisfy my cravings. Well, I guess we better just be on our way, so that I can whisk away the thoughts of sugar with exercise. The trail turns into flat narrow path on which we encounter 2 bulls. They seem utterly unconcerned with our presence and start sauntering in front of us. We hope that they will just step aside and let us pass…
No…they won’t. Unless we want to play off cowboys as well and drive them all the way to Capileira, it’s gotta be us bypassing them. With all the spiky bushes surrounding the trail, it’s easier said than done. I scratch my leg but we made it and left the bulls behind. We tried to drive them bit back but as they didn’t seem keen, we better left them alone and minded our own business.
We cross another river and I decide it’s time for a quick bath. Quick one indeed…I can feel my bones freezing and so I’m out pretty soon. It’s 4 pm and we begin another ascent. This time less steep and relatively pleasant (as pleasant as a scrambling up the hill can be). We circumvent the hill, go through a small gate and all of the sudden we shift from Wild West to French countryside. The scenery changes rapidly once again.
We are gazing at tall green poplar trees, small stoney bungalows with watered flowering gardens and awesome views. We just wonder where we’re gonna camp tonight, given that this place is relatively civilized and frequented. Eventually we find a spot on 20. km near the ruins of an abandoned house. It offers a nice view. Hopefully no one will cast us out of here.