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hike

GR20: Not to be underestimated

GR20: Not to be underestimated

About a month ago I decided I needed to go for another trek as part of my training for Patagonia. With it being summer, I thought I'd treat myself to somewhere out of the UK and head for Europe. My adventures usually start with one initial idea followed by a Google search.

'Europe hard trek summer' is what I typed into the search engine.

Immedietely I was bombarded with links with the word GR20 in it. Research later developed and I was pleased to read that this GR20 was a trek in Corsica. Not just a trek though, this was named Europe's hardest trek of all.

Perfect.

I did my usual act of going around my outdoor friends (I don't have many) asking if they'd join me. One said he'd be happy to... This later (with only a few days to go) didn't work out and I was left to take on the GR20 alone.

On reflection,  I definitely underestimated the trek. I should stop saying the word 'trek' too. This wasn't a trek, you'd be lucky to see 20 metres of flat, 'walkable' terrain. This was a climb. A climb without ropes.

Concentration is everything on the GR20. I'd often find myself cursing in the early hours of the day as I sleepily began the 3 hour climb across boulders and rock faces. "Pay attention Lucy" I'd say. No one was there to help me if I fell, it was up to me to get through this safely.

Distance isn't a factor on this route. To put it into perspective, on some stages I'd only be walking 5 miles as the crow flies and it would take 7 hours. This proved frustrating. Slowly I'd climb up a 15 metre boulder that stood in the way, then carefully lower myself and my giant rucksack down to the ground.

For the entirety of the trip, I slept in a tiny hooped bivy bag which meant I didn't get the sleep I needed. I was cold at night, waking up in shivers despite the 35 degree Celsius midday heat. All of this added to the infamous name 'hardest trek in Europe.

The route was gruelling but after a while, my balance improved, my leg muscles grew stronger and my confidence to climb without ropes and with chunky boots and a rucksack, grew enormously. There were times I questioned why I was even making myself do this in my spare time, but like anything worth doing, it felt incredible to finish and was a phenomenal way to spend the last few weeks of summer.

Sadly, over half a dozen people have died on this route since June and many are still missing. This is a result of a storm where people were trapped in a landslide and also struck by lightening.

This was a big reminder to take care when on the GR20 and treat it with respect, it won't be kind to anyone.

West Highland Way

West Highland Way

Sorry for being off the posts the last couple of months. It's been hectic my end and there's a lot of exciting prospects happening at the moment. Unfortunately I can't share just yet what these prospects are, but they really are out of this world. I have two little adventurers planned for the upcoming weeks. Let me tell you about the first:

Next week, I am heading up to Scotland to complete the West Highland Way in only two days (or three if weather terrible)! The West Highland Way is normally done between five and seven days but I thought I'd step it up a notch.

I've invited one of my Patagonia team mates, Donald Evans, with me. He knows the route well and is one of the most optimistic people I've ever met so will be a good guy to go with.

Our route will start just outside of Glasgow and we will walk 45 miles the first day, 50 the next. We've decided to pack light, so no tent or stove. Instead we have booked into a basic hostel 45 miles in. This means we really do have to make our first target!!

I know our feet are going to become numb, I know our legs will become jelly and I know our eyes will tell us they want to close. I also know that my mind will tell me that I can do it.

I walked my first 40 miles in one go a few weeks ago. This took 12/13 hours. It was on flat and easy walking. I walked next to the Thames. It was a lovely way to see London and I recommend it to others who want to have a long day walking without leaving the city! 

People are Nice

People are Nice

People are nice. We forget this and assume the whole world is out to get us.

My faith for humanity was restored to me on the first day of my Spanish 500 mile hike that began and ended at the coast. I went through the Picos mountain range and into some very remote areas where people were sparse.

I had been walking for 8 and a half hours and my body wasn't acclimatised at all. My pack weighed 26kg (more than it should've because I'd decided to self support as well as bringing all my camera equipment.)

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It rubbed my hips with each step but it didn't seem to bother me until I took a glance at them the following evening- red raw and lumpy.

The weather was scorching and I dreamed of my next self inflicted break so that I could take a swig of water and search for shade. I never realised just how much I loved the taste of water. Every step I'd imagine it on my lips and think why had I taken it for granted in the past?!

At 6pm I still had 6 miles to go to a small hostel. I was on a quiet road that trailed alongside the mountain slope.  I took a break to sip the now very appreciated water. I sat on my bag exhausted and in my dehydrated and rather confused state, I decided to hitch hike.

I've only ever hitched with guys before and never alone. There's a lot of bad stick about hitch hiking that the only person that would pick you up would be the village murderer. I took my chances. I was hot, dehydrated and my feet couldn't take the pounding that the tarmac road brought.

I sat on my pack waiting. Nothing came. My feet throbbed with the release of my weight from them. The blood rushing back, making them swell. My leg and back muscles began to seize up thinking that they'd stopped for the day.

To get up now would be agony.

I tried to think what I'd do if I saw a car but I wasn't sure. Try and look the driver in the eye was the best I could come up with.

Around the corner of the mountains side: a car and my chance . I stood up with my map in hand. I knew I already looked haggered and desperate so I wasn't acting.. I raised my eye brows in an innocent 'please help the poor blonde girl' kinda way.

He didn't even slow down. Bastard. He looked sketchy anyway so I wasn't too fussed.

There was another car soon after his. I did the same thing, expecting for the same reaction but this man slowed down and opened the window.

I hobbled over and poked my head through the window. I asked if he spoke English. 'A little' he replied. Fantastic- the first person I had met today who could say even a word.

I pointed to where I wanted to go on the map and he signalled to jump in. I heaved my rucksack into the boot of his car. It just about fit.

His car was clean and the kind of car one buys when they've retired with their partner and only share one car between them. He was obviously married.

We shared minimal conversation on the way to the destination. He really wasn't lying when he said 'a little English'

We arrived and I felt so impressed with hitch hiking. I'd be sure not to let this be the last time.

I waited by the car as the hitch hike man went to ask about the hostel. Closed.

I scanned the area for a place I could put my tent, there was none.

The man told me to wait as he got on the phone. I was passed the phone to speak and there was a man who said hello. The hitch hike man had phoned his son who could speak good english. I was told by his son to 'Follow his father'.

I put my trust in the man on the phone and got back into the car. We drove back on ourselves.

I hadn't a clue where we were heading, but I didn't mind. I trusted this stranger but had no reason to. I had no reason not to trust him either.

We arrived at a small village. Mountains towered over the village covering half of it in shade.

A 30-something man with a beard approached on a very small bike and began circulating the car. I had a single thought; 'hitch hike man has brought me to a Spanish gang and I'm about to be sold.'

He hadn't and I wasn't.

The man on the bike was the hitch hike man's son, Juan. He introduced himself with a smile. Juan told me that there was accommodation in the village but that it was expensive.

Things progressed and it was decided I was to stay at Juan's house and he would cook me dinner and breakfast and in the morning, take me to my original starting point for the day. I couldn't believe it.

I got back into the car and was taken to Juan's house. A cute, small, wooden house. Juan and his cousin were painting the house so dinner wouldn't be until late.

I met Juan's mum. She greeted me like a long lost daughter. She had no english but persisted to make conversation and take photos of me.

The village elders sat across from the house, watching us. Juan told me they'd lived here all their lives and never had they seen a hiker walk through their village. Especially not a young english girl.

I was told to treat the house like my home. I took the main bedroom and flung myself across the bed, trying to come to terms about what had just happened.

That night, Juan shared stories and wine with me. I was so taken back by the kindness of the family and the willingness to help.

It put a smile on my face and reminded me just how kind us humans can be. I won't let myself forget that again. People are nice.

Short video of my Spanish adventure: