Sunday, July 20, 2008

A walk from the Bay of Biscay to Cap de Creus

This is the beginning. I have been thinking about this walk for 15 years. It all began when I was living in Barcelona. I went there for a holiday in 1988 and ended up staying until 1993, meeting and marrying a Catalan woman, Anna, who came as a package with her beautiful daughter, 4 year old Angela, and then we all got lucky and Emma came into our lives.

While I was living there, thanks to my friend Sergi Rovira, I was introduced to the then nascent sport of Barranquismo; Canyoning as it is now called in English. It involves climbing up to high points in the mountains where small streams launch themselves over cliff edges and the idea is that, using abseiling techniques, you follow the streams down to their ultimate ends. Sergi and I were on a weekend expedition up in the Catalan Pyrenees and while we were resting in a forest clearing near Sant Aniol, two walkers with backpacks appeared out of the forest. I asked them where they were from and they told me "Hondarribia" (that is way over on the Atlantic coast at the other end of the Pyrenees) and they said they had walked from there. I was impressed and thought the idea of walking the length of this mountain range was a good one. It took me 15 years to get around to it due to bringing up children, work reponsibilities, house mortgages, etc. Finding 2 months to disappear from the world ain't easy these days.

2 years ago (2005) I started to think seriously about getting on with it before I wouldn't be able to (the body ain't getting any younger). Initially I was thinking about a solo adventure, but having done more than my fair share of travelling by myself over the years (55 different countries so far), I wasn't adverse to the idea of sharing the trip though I didn't really go out looking for anyone, as it turned out they found me. I think at one point there were about 7 people that wanted to come along but I didn't want a crowd so settled on Chris Bennett who I work with and we had been friends for a while. A builder by trade and a fair bit younger than me, he had done a lot of tramping in the Tararua Ranges of the southern North Island of New Zealand, a tough bit of real estate.

Chris Jackson then put his hand up. A chef and a tramping and fishing guide, he was a good man to have along on an expedition like this. He came on board and then that was the three of us. Three Chris's.

So it's now March 13, 2007. I leave New Zealand on August 20 for Barcelona and then organise myself over to Hondaribbia on the shores of the Bay of Biscay, right on the border with France. The plan is to go with the two other Chris's (always good to have spares), Bennett and Jackson, and walk through to the Mediterranean.

The walk is a distance of 875km approximately and we start at sea level and finish at sea level. We will be walking the length of the range of mountains that separates Spain from France, the Pyrenees (Los Pirineos en castellano, Els Pirineus en catalan, Pirinioak en Euskera). Starting in Euskadi (the Basque country), we will be climbing up over passes and down into valleys every day. Initially the heights won't be that great but little by little our altitude will climb and we will probably be spending almost half the time at altitudes over 2000 metres above sea level. Over the distance we have a total climb of 37,000 metres up and obviously a total fall of the same amount, to finally finish at Cap de Creus on the shores of the Mediterranean.

A lot to organise between now and then, and setting up this blog is one of the things I want to do. I am hoping that modern technology will allow me to send photos and text from my cellphone while on this walk to this website so that everyone who may be vaguely interested in what I'm up to can check on my progress.

4 comments:

Chris B's Mum said...

Have a GREAT time and look after each other because you are loved and needed.

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