I had a day off today and as the weather is brilliant at the moment (too hot for running) I decided to go for a hike in the mountains. As I was on my own I chose a route I know (also to keep hubby from worrying) and because I'm getting fitter I decided it was going to be a challenging route. I tend to do this route once a year and there have been times when I only made it 2/3s of the way up. The last three times I managed, but it is knackering. The signs at the bottom of the mountain say it takes 3 1/2 hours to get up there (and 2 1/2 down). My app says the elevation is 900m.
So off I trot, it's steep right at the beginning but levels out a bit after about half an hour. On paths next to streams (no water though this year, it's been too hot) and paths that wind across the side of mountains. Everything is very dry, the paths are covered with dusty rocks and gravel. I have to watch where I put my feet, clambering over rocks on narrow tracks, I don't want to slip off or trip. The path wanders into a wooded area - nice and cool, but now I have to watch out for tree roots - and after about an hour I reach a spot I used to dread. The path is really wide, very steep and full of scree. It's slippery and tiring and it seems to go on for ever. There have been times when I have counted my steps and stopped after every 100 just to catch my breath. But I don't need that today. It doesn't seem to drag as much as it used to and after about 1/2 an hour I am at the point where I often used to have to turn back. The mountain still looms up in front of me. It's such a long way up. It looks impossible and I keep thinking "I know I can get up, bit I have to get down aswell!" And down on all that slippery scree is no easy matter. I have a break and make a deal with myself. I'll walk till a certain time and if I'm not close to the summit I'll head back. And I'll take a different route back.
So now, the final push. Up to this point I haven't seen a soul but suddenly there are people coming down and there are even a few hikers like me heading up. Refreshed from my break I even end up overtaking a few people and am at the front of a group of 4 slogging our way up the last 300m. It gets so steep there are proper steps, whole flights of stairs in the rock, winding back and forth, always up. Our little group has split up, one guy heading off another way, the young couple have been left way behind. I'm on my own again, but it's not far now. I can hear the people on the terrace of the restaurant at the top, and there are people sitting on benches admiring the view.
Two hours and forty minutes and I'm there. The views are fantastic, the cold drink I buy in the restaurant is heaven on earth (my drinks are all lukewarm by now), but I don't stay long. I'm a bit worried about the way down. I am not a mountain goat, I'm slow going down anyway and I need to be particularly vigilant today as everything is so dry. I have been known to land on my bottom when the scree under my feet has decided to give way to gravity, and I'm on my own, no helping hand to haul me up (on the other hand no reproachful looks either!).
But it was fine! I chose a different route - it had its steep, slippery moments aswell, but I was back in civilization within an hour and a half (well at a cafe still stuck half way up a mountain, but there was a tarmacked track after that!). I had to walk through fields of cows all clustered around the gate I had to go through. A bit unnerving. But the worst thing was actually when I was nearly back in the village. You can either stay on the road or take a public footpath through woods and a field. No choice really, it has to be the footpath! I came out of the woods to see a skittish lama bolting nervously away from me (don't they spit?) and a huge, shaggy Scottish cow, with enormous horns, plonked right on the path. Even worse she had a calf with her (picture posted to prove it). Those horns looked very dangerous and I had to go past them. The calf looked a bit worried, I did not want mother-cow to think I was some kind of threat. I ended up creating a new path through the scrub - that worried the lama even more, yes I did end up talking reassuringly, trying not to look threatening. Who keeps these things? And why do they have to sit on the path?
I made it back in two hours. My knees will be sore tomorrow and I will be quite stiff, but I do love a challenge!