Today was the last day! No need for an alarm as I was wide awake by 4.45. We set off at 5.45 to get as much of the distance done as possible before it got too hot and also to avoid the storms that were meant to come later. Honestly, it was a brutal day! A long distance with some rough descents and the sun pounding down on our heads.
The first four hours took us along the Italian border to the pretty town of Sospel, we climbed a few hundred metres and there was a long descent of about 1700m down to 300m. The boys made an exception to their usual practice and we stopped for lunch and stretching. A croque Monsieur, eclair and fruit tart for me. I also like that my two scouts now know me well enough to give me their leftover flan/custard tart that they couldn’t eat
We filled up on water and started up another 800 m climb mostly without shade with the sun pounding relentlessly on our heads. Happily there was a small water trough about half way up and I submerged my head in it! The climb continued after a wee drop with another 400m up.
And then we finally crested the hill above Menton. It looked close but my watch was pretty clear it was 1000m of descent over not much distance. Brutal! I think the boys took pity on me as they didn’t go as fast as usual. I had Manu’s voice in my head saying ‘gros cailloux’, literally big rocks, which is the best way to bomb down a hill, by concentrating and planting your feet on the more stable rocks at a fast pace. Sadly there weren’t quite enough big rocks so I did slide a few times. It was one of the most challenging paths of the whole hike, steep and rocky, and it was sweltering. And they both kicked my butt on the descent.
We were all out of water by about half way down and just knackered! We hit the road about 2/3 of the way down and were depressed to see the autoroute. After an endless 2km through roads and pavement we finally found a shop and refilled our water – I consumed a litre of water, two cans of Diet Coke (which I haven’t drunk for over a year) and a large icecream in approximately 8 minutes. I felt like a whole new woman, albeit I didn’t smell like one. And my knees are feeling like they need a week off!Feeling replete, we wandered down to the sea front to take a few pics, and then walked the three km to the train station. We were all feeling somewhat shell shocked by the presence of all the people!
I managed to get on a flight home this evening, though honestly how I am going to stay awake until we leave at 10pm is bewildering me, given my usual bed time of 8.30. I said goodbye to my two boy scouts on the train, and made them promise to take me hiking again. I was mildly amused when the boys were replaced by two women on the train who complained loudly that it smelled of sweat and then they moved seats. Hopefully it wasn’t just me, but also the lingering odours of the Boy Scouts.
I can’t quite believe I have finished! What an adventure! I have met some amazing people and been totally blessed and surprised by the unending generosity of strangers. I have faced some fears, got used to the boring monologue in my own head from hiking solo for 13 days, and have markedly and unintentionally improved my French. I have roughed it in the dormitories, endured way too much snoring, hitched rides, peed behind countless bushes and consumed way too many refined carbs. I have worn the same walking clothes for 15 days (albeit washed most nights and put on still wet in the morning) and haven’t shaved my legs or brushed my hair during that time. I saw my life flash before my eyes, have about 20 cuts and bruises, and fell on my butt on a daily basis. I can’t wait to get home and see my lovely husband, but, honestly, I will probably be planning my next mad adventure before the week is out.
Thanks to all of you who have supported me with donations for Beat, and also for the tonnes of messages of encouragement and support that I have received. It’s been quite overwhelming and I am enormously grateful (tears in my eyes grateful!!!).
Special thanks to Benoit and Emmanuel for picking me up on the side of the trail and helping me smash the last 90km in two days rather than three I had planned, and to Stephane from Tignes guides who got me back on track when the snow threatened to ruin my plans. And of course biggest thanks to my husband for letting me be bonkers and go and do stuff like this, and being hugely supportive, even though I know he really worries that I am going to fall off a cliff.
Big kisses to you all! Arohanui!
Distance covered =47km
Ascent/descent = 1620/3450
Highest temperature = 39 degrees in the shade
Time on feet = 9 hours
Overall- Total distance covered was 602 km with 33,250m of ascent (the equivalent of going from sea level to the top of Everest 3.75 times) in 15 days!
Its not too late to donate – at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Mel-Smith9