Category Archives: #challenges

No Great Expectations

Happy New Year everyone!

I still can’t get over these brilliant, azure blue skies here in the Occitanie region. I’m glad to be here for a few more days and, after that, am content to let my Wonderweg take me onto whatever trails lie ahead in 2021.

If things go at least halfway the way I’d like them to, then you’ll read about a mix of hiking journeys, relocations, and inward journeys over the course of the next few months.

Other than that, today is just a day and tomorrow is another day as far as I’m concerned… not a magical barrier we have reached after which everything will get better. I have no great expectations of 2021 and will just do the best I can with whatever challenges it’ll throw at me.

As a good friend of mine always says (right Matt), “It’s all an adventure!”

Hot Coffee After a Sleepless Night

Chanaz was an idyllic little place to come through. I stayed a few hours, sat at the river and just soaked in the beautiful scenery.

It was also a stop I sorely needed after another cold and humid night in my little tent. Wild camping can be quite stressful. Ticks are everywhere, so are millions of flies and mosquitoes. I want to thank the inventor of the mosquito net!!! Without it, I wouldn’t be able to get any sleep at all. Then there are all the noises in the forest. Seemingly romantic, but not when you are exhausted from a day of walking and really need to sleep and then there is yet another deer crashing through the underbrush just as you are finally falling asleep. I’d love to just go to designated camp sites. But so far, I’ve never seen any.

Reaching The Limits

Definite highlight yesterday was when I reached the top of Le Grand Colombier at 1’534 m altitude… and spotted the Rhone river for the first time. Those trails were not made for people with heavy backpacks. As I worked my way up slowly with the help of my hiking sticks, I felt like some extra-terrestrial spider conquering Earth. Totally exhausted, I flopped down in this very spot on the photo after, took off my sweaty t-shirt and settled in for a while. Swallows were hunting all around me, zipping past at insane speeds. With no other sounds to distract me, I realized for the first time that they actually sound like mini jet fighters as they accelerate towards their prey. How they’re even able to spot and grab tiny insects at high speed is a mystery to me…

After a while, I wandered onwards towards Culoz, yet again encountering paths that needed the skill of a mountain goat.

To be honest, yesterday I almost gave up. These last two days were tough. Water was the biggest problem. All small mountain restaurants were closed because of Covid19, and all river and creek beds were dried out. There was simply nowhere to re-fill. Also, the day before, I had walked a good 20 km. Not because I wanted to, but because there was nowhere to set up my tent. Either the trail went through an extreme slope, or it went through a cow pasture. I finally found a spot at 8pm at night, after 9 hours of walking. My water was almost gone and I had to force myself to keep some of it for the next day.

Then, yesterday morning, I set off at 8 am, feeling quite cold after a humid night in the forest.

I had a little less than half a liter of water left. Almost immediately, the ascent to Le Grand Colombier began.

Resting on top, from where I was sitting here in this picture, I could see lots of cars and a few huts, and I thought, “Yay, finally, a place to refill my water.” I was parched, so I drank what I had left. When I arrived at the huts, I could see that they were all closed, too. Nothing to do but hope for the best and keep on walking. My saliva was growing so thick, I began to understand how Mr. Anderson must have felt in The Matrix when the agents were gluing his mouth shut. With every minute, I felt more like exactly the same was happening to me, too.

Luckily, about an hour later, I came upon an open restaurant. I ate a real meal and drank 2 liters of water. Took another two liters with me. By then, I had already been 6 hours on the trail. Only 3 more hours to Culoz. With a freshly filled stomach, I felt optimistic. Plus, there was nowhere else to go if I wanted to refill my water supply again at the end of the day. Everything else was just forests and the dried out Jura mountain range.

So, I pressed on. The trail began to go downhill and was horrible. Have I told you how much I’ve come to hate gravel? Almost every hiking trail is fortified with gravel. Not the small pebbly kind either, but large, sharp pieces of rock. I try to avoid them as much as I can. I always watch my step. But still, these trails are killing my feet. After about the 8th hour of walking I felt like crying. “Who had this great idea of going hiking? Oh yeah, me.”

Thankfully, I could see Culoz from above. A trail sign told me it was only 1 1/2 hours more. At that moment though, 1 1/2 hours felt like an eternity. All my water was gone again and I was completely exhausted. I pep-talked myself all the way down, running a constant string of dialogue with myself (with the intermittent “ouch” and a lot of swearing). Finally, after an insane 10 hours of ascents and descents, and approx. 25 km, I reached Culoz. Where I found a fountain to refill my water supply and found a secluded spot to set up my tent.

This morning I feel a lot better again. Heading out towards Chanaz along the Rhone river.

Always Learning

Currently, I am a bit like a fish out of water. Instead of being surrounded by my usual abundance of ocean, I‘m immersed in green, rolling mountains, hills, meadows, forests, and fields. There is the odd lake of course. Nothing better than vibrant greens and blues going together.

I had finished my book Paralian hopeful, filled with a happiness and sense of home I had never before experienced. Life didn’t disappoint however and everything turned out different than I had dreamt and hoped. I had been through so much already, that I didn‘t quite expect life was going to punch me in the gut harder than ever before…

But it did, last year. Now, I am finding myself homeless at fifty with a tent and a backpack my only possessions. Good thing is, I have my resilience, hope, and positivity. I am starting over, still loving life, always learning, enjoying the moment as best I can, going with the flow… and hoping, somehow things will line up in whichever way they are supposed to.