I stop walking up the hill we’ve been climbing of the last 30 minutes. Eric who is a ahead of me, turns around to check on me. When he sees me struggling, he walks back towards me and asks me what’s wrong. I tell him, “This doesn’t feel right. I don’t think we are going the right way. I feel like we’ve been walking way longer than we should without seeing the next town.”
He tells me the only thing we can do is to keep going. But I don’t feel like I can.
As I start to take my pack off, Eric says, “Shan. Don’t take your pack off. Keep your pack on.” He knows that if my pack comes off, it’s not going to be good.
But this encourages the stubborn rebellious side of me to want to take my pack off even more. So ignoring him, I unclasp my pack and let it fall to the ground. As it lies there in the middle of the road, the tears start flowing (again). All I can think about is how hard this is. How I don’t feel like I can climb anymore. We’ve been walking for hours and I don’t feel like we are getting anywhere. I hate the unknowns. I hate all these damn hills. I hate my pack. I hate that we had this idea. I want to quit. But I also know I can’t quit.
Eric sweetly tries to coach me into going on by saying, “Just put your pack back on. You can do this. You can dig down deep inside and push forward. All we can do is keep going.”
I’m mad that he’s shown no signs of pain or struggling. Why does this look so easy for him? Because I’m mad, I scream back at him, “Don’t tell me to dig deep. You don’t even believe in all that hocus pocus. You don’t believe in God or anything.”
Because I am a drama queen, I tell him I’m not going any further. That I will just stay on the side of this hill for the rest of my life and he can just leave me. But because we both know that’s not going to happen, I put my pack back on and continue to follow him up the hill.
We finally get to the top of the hill, only to see we have just climbed to the top of the town’s mine. And nothing around us resembles a town. As one of the semi-trucks, pulls out of the mine, Eric stops the driver who luckily speaks Spanish.
When Eric returns to where I’ve been standing, waiting for him, he says, “Well, it’s even worse than I thought.” As he says this, my spirit crumbles, because I feel like I have no more walking in me. Eric continues to tell me that we’ve taken a wrong turn and we hiked way out of or way. The only thing we can do, is hike back down the hill to figure out where we went wrong.
Walking down the hill was painfully difficult. We hiked up that whole entire thing with no reward. I cursed the hill all the way down, driving my walking sticks into it’s side harder and harder with each step. I wanted to hurt that hill just as much as it was hurting me.
Caption: When we finally made it back down the hill!
When we reached the bottom, we both throw our packs off, sit down on the ground, and start laughing about our huge mistake. We laugh about my outburst. We laugh about all the crazy parts of the day, like how we slept at a monastery last night, and then this morning we were served a loaf of french bread and coffee in a bowl. Yes, we were given a bowl of coffee, complete with a spoon. We joke about how we stared at each other across the table, each of us wondering, “are we supposed to eat this coffee with a spoon?”
When we are done laughing, we start to talk seriously about the fact that we’ve been walking all day, we are lost, and it’s getting later. I have client calls scheduled this evening and there’s no way we can make up the lost time to get where we need to be in time for my calls. At this point, Eric suggest we hitchhike. I’ve never hitchhiked before, but we are in the middle of nowhere and I am desperate for this day to be over, so I happily agree.
Only a few cars pass us before a nice Frenchman stops and tells us to get in. He drops us as far as he can take us, so we stand there on the side of the road, waiting for whoever will take pity on us next. Luckily it’s not too long before a doctor stops and gives us a ride to his village. We still have one more village to go before we are in the village we need to be in for the night. And this time, it is a construction worker that takes pity on us.
Finally we arrive in Arudy. I feel beat up and defeated but I’ve never been happier to be anywhere.
We check into our hotel, I take the hottest shower I can possibly stand, and then work up the motivation to work.
All I can think about is how grateful I am that we have three full days in this town.
Distance: 19,336 Steps (8.4 miles/13.5 km )
Location: Arudy, France
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