El Barranc de l’infern

I don’t speak Valenciano or Catalan. These are the local languages of the North and Central coasts of the Mediterranean side of Spain. People say they’re totally different languages, others say they’re the same. To me it doesn’t matter – because I know neither of them. To me, they’re a combo of Spanish and French. I focus on Spanish and when signs are in Valenciano I can sometimes tease out what they’re trying to convey.

Yesterday, I was invited on a hike with some people I know and others I don’t. I jumped at the chance because I love to hike. I was planning on doing the Camino Portuguese with Emilie this summer but with her injured ankle have decided to postpone it. So I am happy when I get a chance to go out there.

I put together my supplies – hiking skirt, poles, small pack, some food and water, a hat for the Spanish sun. I was ready. We started in a town called Fleix – prounounced Flische. It’s in the Alicante province and is a picturesque town high up with views of the Med way off in the distance, and other stunning peaks. They said the hike was called the ‘6000 Steps’ and was of medium difficulty. I don’t know how they measure ‘medium difficulty’ and who read the name of the hike, but it was neither of those things.

this was the first indication that it might have some difficulty

The 18km hike was really called ‘The Ravine of Hell’ in Valenciano and was not ‘Medium difficulty’. To put it in perspective for those who have walked a Camino out of St. Jean Pied-de-port in France to Roncesvalles in Spain (so 2 days in the Pyrenees), it was like that only if you had no flat bits and had to scale rocks straight up. And the down hills – of which there were 4 significant ones to match the climbing, were straight down, over streams coming out of the rock, loose rocks that were like walking on marbles at a pitch that ensured you would fall at some point. There were injuries – and they weren’t mine.

We climbed down to the bottom of the ravine, then got to the first uphill climb and one of the guys who does speak Valenciano said ‘This must be the ‘infern’ part.’ I told him that sounded like ‘fire’ in English. He said ‘No. It just means ‘Hell”.

I looked up – and he was right. It looked like it was going to be HELL!! This is where having walked a Camino came in handy. But it took me that first climb to remember all that I had learned.

  • Breathe
  • Don’t look up
  • Go as fast as you need to
  • Use your poles
  • Watch every spot you put your feet
  • Tuck in your laces so you don’t fall

I was the slowest of everyone on the uphills. Emilie would laugh because she told me repeatedly that ‘You’re the slowest person on the Camino!’ and it wasn’t a compliment. She would often walk ahead of me with other people. So I wasn’t surprised that everyone else was faster. But I also like to hike in a different way.

When hiking, I stop when I’m tired. I rest when I need to. I eat food from my pack and drank water as necessary. When something is beautiful – I take pictures. And because I’m able to keep my head up, since I’m not running, I see a lot. The people I was hiking with yesterday didn’t have this same philosophy. They wanted to be done with it – or so it seemed to me. And we started out at 11am and they didn’t eat lunch until 4:30. Not a smart thing when you haven’t eaten since 8:30 and it’s hot with zero shade.

At one point I got so far behind that I couldn’t see the others up ahead. I was dizzy from so much up and down. I had to stop or I feared I would pass out and fall off the edge. I got out my water and a lovely group of Spanish 20 somethings came upon me. One of them was Spanish military and he gave me some chocolate and salts. Then they all sat down and had lunch with me right there. I knew my group was waiting somewhere at the top of the cliff but I had to eat and drink some water.

Made it to the top from yes, the very bottom of several ravines

But the views and the scenery were amazing. And the geology of the area is interesting. It’s easy to see all the caves where prehistoric people probably lived. Spain is known for their cave paintings.

They only had to wait for me at the end for 20 minutes. And it made me realize I need to do more hiking – although maybe with people who enjoy less of the trail-running-type of pace. It really was a fun day, though. I made some new connections, which is always good. And here’s the thing about Hell. When you climb out of it, it’s just that much sweeter.

A Camino Day – For sure

Next weekend I’ll be in Barcelona with my niece, who is on her first school trip to Europe in Austria. She’s stopping by to see Barcelona on her way home. And when Jeff gets back we’re doing a 160km bike ride with a group over 2 days. An old rail line that is supposed to be iconic. So we’ll see how that goes. Never a dull moment.

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