I love hiking in nature. A good long hike always elevates my mood and makes me feel great. My dear friend and colleague Richard told me about the Travesia in Prado. This is an annual marathon hike through the Sierra de Cadiz, 66 km. In 2014 it was the 20th Travesia, and he signed up to join. I loved the idea, and not really knowing what I signed up for, I asked him to join me in.
I think we both underestimated it a bit, thinking it would simply be a day of lovely hiking in nature :) We did a few longer treks together to train (one was especially fun with us ending up in our favorite bar and drinking 4 Gin Tonic on an empty stomach after a 6 hour hike), and thought we were quite ready for this.
Two of our friends, the couple Paddy and Lidiya, would join us that day. That week my dad was over for a visit, so the poor guy had to spend the Travesia day alone.
The night before, Richard and I stayed over at Paddy's apartment in Prado (we were still livign at the yoga center 5 km from town) since the race would start at 4 am. We went to bed early and got up at 3 am, making our way to the starting line. A lot of people had gathered already, I think about 400 people joined the walk.
Then we started. We had to wait for Richard who had to run back to the apartment since he had forgotten the card where they stamp every station (to make sure you did the whole thing!), so we ended up leaving with the last bunch of people. With little torches we made our way through the night. The first part went to the neighbor village El Bosque, and we almost got lost along the way. I was surprised how fast the people went, some even jogged. And it dawned to us that people took this seriously, and this wasn't just a simple hike in nature chatting along with friends.
There was breakfast at the next station in Benamahoma, the next village. The moment we arrived, the people got told to move on (since we had left Prado so late we were at the tail of the group). There was no more coffee - panic!!! - and we just a few minutes to sit down and wolf down some of our food (of course I had to carry my own food since I didn't expect gluten and dairy free along the stations). A dear friend of ours who helped organizing the Travesia, gave us walking sticks for the next part, and dear lord, we needed them!
By then almost every meter went uphill, and I was pretty close to giving this whole thing up. But Richard and I kept walking together, chatting along, and telling each other, we would not leave each other behind (oh, we were wrong about this!).
The route was incredibly beautiful, through the Pinsapar in the Sierra de Grazalema. Only problem was we couldn't quite enjoy the view since we had to watch our every step and rush rush rush.
At lunch time we reached Grazalema for a longer stop. Richard by then had complained about his ankle which he had hurt a few nights before, dancing to reggae music on concrete (as he does). He got checked by a doctor who recommended he should not continue. So here we were. I had gotten quite in the mood now, and my competitive mind wanted to finish this whole thing!
So I left Richard behind :(
I continued walking, either on my own or with Paddy and Lidiya for some parts. After a while you get into a real meditative state, and just keep walking. The hardest part was the one after the lunch at GRazalema. We went even higher into the mountains, steep uphill. It was the longest part without a stop, and I ran out of water, and it was the hottest part of the day.
At the next stop they offered cheese (no, thanks), and Richard was there!! He was driving with the other organizers from station to station.
We continued walking through fields and hills, and along rivers and through little towns. Towards the end I even did some jogging.
At the last station I met Paddy again who told me LIdiya had to give up due to pain in her foot. We went the last bit together.
After 17 hours and 66 km we arrived Prado, the last kilometers up a steep hill to town. I was knackered but I got goose bumps seeing the people along the road cheering us on, and then we arrived, and the band was playing and there were people everywhere offering cake and hot chocolate, and I had goosebumps. My dad was waiting with Richard and Lidiya, and I felt AMAZING! Seriously, one of the best feelings in the world.
I guess even more because I hadn't really known what I had signed up for :)
We had a lovely dinner together at our favorite bar, and then stumbled into bed.
The next day Richard had to teach the community yoga class in Prado (yeah, right!?), and I was stupid enough to think I could join and stretch a bit my muscles (yeah, right!?!!!?). Needless to say, I spent most of the class in child's pose :)