I’m ill. I lay in bed with a fever, shivering but sweating. I ache. I groan. Chris showers me with sympathy. In my sick delirium, I search the internet to diagnose myself. I read about all of the possible diseases I could have, and all of them fit my symptoms. Why oh why didn’t I look into getting some vaccinations before coming here? Is my disdain for pharmaceutical companies really worth getting sick for? I decide that I definitely have dengue fever. Then I look up malaria risks in China. Every province has a low-to-zero risk, except for Yunnan province, where I am laying ill. It has a high risk. That’s it. I have malaria. I instruct Chris to go to the chemist, buy me some rehydration salts (my answer to every single illness, no matter what the symptoms, whilst on the road) and to find out if there’s a doctor or hospital nearby. He comes back with the news that there’s only a doctor specialising in Chinese medicine in the town. Aaaaaagggghhh, I’m going to die here, I think.
I love Nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her… If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.
Henry David Thoreau (Journal, 3 January 1853)
It’s the middle of the night and I’m laying in my tent, deep in the woods. Suddenly I hear footsteps. They’re coming closer and closer to me. My heart races nervously. Something, or someone, is trying to get into my tent. I scream. The next morning, I discover that a creature has gnawed a hole through my tent. And the following night, the footsteps come again. As I fumble desperately for a torch, I put my hand on something furry and scream again. I have previously camped in forests inhabited by wolves and bears, but it is this creature, which turns out to be a tiny mouse, which finally manages to scare the hell out of me!
Chris and I are on the road in France. We visit Françoise and Denis in Ardèche, and Françoise and I reminisce about when we were lost in the mountains in Georgia, surrounded by fog and bears…
We are on our way to our friend Paul’s. It’s just a 27km walk on the GR44D hiking route over the Cévennes mountains. Easy! So we happily (and stupidly) start the long hike at 1pm with only four hours of daylight left. This hike has striking similarities to the last time I walked, and got lost, in France: like before, I have a map that Françoise and Denis have printed out for me off the internet. And like before, we are armed with chocolate supplies, a compass, an inability to speak French, and far too much optimism.
I have left the Rainbow Gathering in Spain and I am in Barcelona, listening to Turkish music with my friend, Julien. I turn to him and say, “I miss Turkey. Let’s hitchhike to Turkey together!” A few days later, a spontaneous Julien has packed a (heavy) rucksack and said goodbye to his life in Toulouse.
We hitch through the French Alps and spend the night in a disused military base in Briançon.
I am standing at the side of the road in Bilbao, holding up a sign saying SANTANDER. A few people stride past me in expensive outdoor hiking gear (they are German!) and I think to myself, “fuck it, I will walk the 100km to Santander!” And that’s how I found myself walking 120km of the Camino de Santiago del norte (northern route). The Camino is one of the most famous “hikes” in the world. (The word “hike” should be used loosely when describing the Camino. It’s mostly a long walk on tarmac). People gush with excitement when they talk about their memories of this route, so it seems almost sinful to say anything derogatory about it. But I will. Continue reading “Hiking In Northern Spain, And Why The Camino de Santiago Is Actually A Bit Shit…”
I hitch the channel once again with Peter, my regular lorry-driving saint. I am migrating south for the winter and am feeling more excited than usual: I am not doing my usual route through what my friend Arjun describes as the Ordnung countries, where everything and everyone has to fit into boxes within society (Germany, Austria, Denmark…)
I meet my friend, Conor, in France. He is on week-one of an overland adventure to Japan. Together we travel to beautiful Ardeche and visit Françoise, my travel-buddy in Turkey last year.