After shivering through the British winter I’m now experiencing the delights of Southern Spain. There are orange trees, butterflies, white buildings with terracotta roofs and a mountain view right outside my window. I learned to love walking in the mountains during my time in Reunion, so I did some research and joined a group of walkers in the village.
We met at the gas station early last Tuesday and set off for the Buitrera, which means Vulture Gorge. There were about 10 of us and I was the baby of the group: to put it politely, in England they would have all qualified for a bus pass. I soon realised though, that age is no indicator of fitness. These senior citizens trekked up sheer rocky paths, across treacherous loose-scree slopes, through hillsides of vicious thorn-bushes, just as if it was a stroll down the High Street.
I made damn sure I kept up. I was terrified at the idea of getting left behind, all alone in the mountains. We walked for 5 hours and didn’t meet another soul. Vultures circled in a rather menacing manner overhead, and we saw many close-to, hunched up on rock ledges like cross old men at a bus stop. One of the group told me about how last year he got separated from the rest when his dog wandered off and he’d spent the night on the mountain. “Weren’t you scared?” I asked in awe, and he said no, he’d had the dog with him. I walked even quicker after that.
We went over a narrow concrete bridge built as a water conduit which I crossed without looking to the left or right, as the drop on either side into the gorge with the river winding far, far below made my knees wobble. Meanwhile my more mature co-walkers were leaning precariously over the low parapet, jauntily pointing out landmarks to each other in a way that made me feel quite ill.
We stopped for lunch near a beautiful ruined house, perched on the edge of a mountain with panoramic views in all directions, and I marvelled at the self-sufficiency of the people who once lived there, with no neighbours, no roads and a three-hour trek to the nearest village. Then on, down through more evil thorn bushes, while Patrick, our leader, yelled, “I’m sure the path’s here somewhere” and I let out a very loud and inappropriate swear word as my arms and legs were lacerated. No-one seemed offended. Finally we got back down to the valley bottom, half an hour from our walk’s end, with just the minor matter of a river to forge. No problem for these sixty- and seventy-year -olds. “It’s only up to the knees”, Patrick shouted, as I struggled, midstream, to maintain my balance in the current while the water rose to the top of my thighs.
Nothing tasted better than the beer in the cafe when we reached the village again. I silently gave thanks that my trekking in Reunion’s Cirques had prepared me for extreme hikes. And before I knew it, I’d agreed to go on next week’s walk. “Just another gentle one,” they said. Yeah, right, I thought. I’m going into training.
bus pass – une carte de bus
senior citizens – gens du troisieme age
scree – l‘eboulis
vulture – un vautour
conduit – conduit
thorn-bush – un buisson d’epines
wobble – trembler
parapet – un parapet
midstream – au milieu du courant