Fra(i)ncia XXIV – Almost..

Francesco and me said our goodbyes and I left with my shopping bag attached to the front of my bag. It made walking a little bit annoying but ehh, Ill find a spot. And now I can grab snacks while walking, so +1 for efficiency? Haha whatever.

Im leaving town walking through a beautiful, clear night. The moon was bright and I could see everything very well. I didnt even need my flashlight that much. Lucy chased some deer out in the fields and I followed the only road that seemed logical. Turns out this was just the silence before the crescendo..

Following the path it led me up a slight hill, nothing too serious but the shopping bag was beginning to become even more annoying. All of a sudden there was a closed fence saying interdit, privee. Go left for the camino.. as I stared down a field, that had some touches of snow here and there, I thought to myself – there must be a path up there somewhere. I already walked quite a bit and even the roughest parts of the camino so far didnt really push my limits. Up the side of a mountain in the dark? No problem! Through a spooky-ass-forest with a faulty flashlight? Bring it Slenderpuss! Sleeping on a cemetery in the dark with owls screeching at you? Ticks? Rain? Nuns? All no fucking problem and the path wasnt that hard to follow usually so I should be fine. They say that pride comes before the fall and although Im always mindful of my surroundings and not really that prideful or overestimating my chances, Im still pretty confident in the things that I do with a sprinkle of recklessness sometimes..

So the spots of snow slowly turned into patches of snow with a layer of ice on top, that I was heavy enough to sink into but Lucy (thankfully) wasnt. The moon and the stars shone brighter than ever and on the horizon-clouds I could see the reflection of the next cities over. Keep on going! A red and white marker spurring me on every 500m or so. Today was a very long day and thats why I bought a big dinner, the shopping bag at the front of my bag went from “haha fuck off bag” to “hmm maybe I could fit it in my backpack somewhere” but I kept on pushing anyway,, determined to find a spot to eat and put up my tent. I saw the footprints of other people with the paws of a dog swirling around them and I decided to follow them. Hmm this shit seemed to be a little unending I thought to myself..No biggy, there must be an end somewhere..

Go take a right here! REALLY? TAKE A RIGHT HERE? But mannn theres the fucking valley on the left and right takes me UP the fucking hill, not down..Gimme a break, whatever, Ill follow..

I struggled to find a connection with my phone to look at the different maps, not to mention I could see the battery draining due to the cold. I took the road leading towards the valley and I could see multiple red and white crosses painted on trees telling me I really really shouldnt go there. So back up the hill I went.

Patches of icy snow began to take over the landscape and it was glistening beautiful in the blue shade of moonlight. I would occasionally sink knee deep into the snow and everytime I did Lucy came running back to check on me, licking my hand when I reached out for her. After a while I felt so tired and my backpack weighed heavily on my shoulders. I had shortness of breath and even though the wind was picking up and every bone in my body told me not to – I took a tiny rest on some rocks that were sticking above the increasingly deepening snow.
The red and white marking became scarcer and scarcer and my light didnt cast far enough to see the next marker sticking out of above the snow.

As Im taking a little break with Lucy tucked inside my jacket, I went to look in my backpack for some room to put this damn grocery bag, which went from “lalala snacks while Im walking” to “Im going to be the end of you on this damn mountain”.
Just as Im catching my breath on this rock, a cold wind chill completely drains me of the warmth I had built up walking up the side of the hill..and I wasnt even on the fucking top yet..

Fuckit, no choice but up, just follow the scarcely placed markers pointing up the hill..So fucking tired however. Lucy was slightly panicking when sitting still and that put my head back into the game. I heaved my heavy backpack + grocery bag on my back again and crawled up the mountain. Following the footsteps of previous hikers that have since frozen into place. The moon ever silent and watchful..

A small stream that cut through the ice like a dark vein, the footsteps were hard to find after that but I managed, Lucy seemed to understand that we were following them as well and I decided to trust her as the “path” took me around the top of the hill. Sinking deep into the snow and hitting displaced rocks under the layer of ice and snow every now and again, making the whole thing that much more shit.

Thank you sweet baby Jesus, finally the signs point me towards the top of the hill from what I could see and when I finally did reach the top, I found like a small hunting/resting lodge, it wasnt much but at least it kept me out of the wind and I ate a chocolate bar and drank some water. No chance that I was going to sleep here but at least it was a place for me to come to my senses.. I wasnt out of the tundra yet though. This was a very welcome sight however, placed exactly right and I wondered about the many that came before me, who were also in these shitty circumstances, as I read the encouraging messages of triumph and agony on the walls of the shed.

No service to check anything and my battery did weird shit in the cold.

What looked like shapes of houses in the distance might as well be rocks or forests at this point and I could feel the wear and tear on my body as I continued and I decided not to risk walking up to a rock, thinking it was a house and not being able to get off this snowy plane.

I hope my shoes were going to be alright since the ice on top of the snow cut like a knife into my freezing hands when I sank 1m into the snow. HAH WTF, Im actually thinking about my shoes, I need to think about my fucking life over here, fuck the shoes my dude!

I entered this weird trance of just pushing myself while also being mindful from where I put my feet, the hidden rocks seemed to be getting more abundant and also a couple of more oily, arteries to cross that tore through the frozen dunes. Its whatever at this point, too far up and too far gone to even think about going back, also backing down the mountain and running into a cliff or a fence seemed too big a risk for me to take.

I remembered in one of my Whatsapp group chats that the last thing I said was “<3 bread” and ya just cant go out like that. You need to have some dignity..

I finally, finally, FINALLY found myself in civilization again. Sort of at least, there were houses and what had the layout of a town, but it was still snowy and windy and wet and no soul around that wasnt fast asleep. The moon was cloaked behind some clouds but at least I was at a place where people would find me in the morning. I continued down the mountain on the normal road which was slippery and icey.. SURE! Add those cherry’s on top of the whole shit Sundae..

It got easier over time and the ice was gone, I tried lockpicking a few old sheds but it wasnt meant to be. Down in the valley town of St. Chély d’Aubrac, it was quiet like the little community of Aubrac on top of the mountain. I called my parents and let them know that I flew a little too close to the sun on this one and they were glad that I was alright.

What I thought was going to be a kilometer at most turned into a 10-15 km clusterfuck through one of the most hairiest situations I have ever been in. Still I managed to pull through, Lucy was fine. I felt euforic and stupidity in equal amounts.

As a small token of appreciation from the forces that be, I found some cabins that were unlocked on the local campsite so I didnt have to sleep in my tent tonight. Yeaaaa maybe a restday again is going to be good.

Piano, pianissimo..