Usually I let events like this stew for a little while before I write about them, however on this occasion I’m so worried I’ll forget the spectrum of emotion that I experienced on this particular day that I do have to write about it immediately.
Last Sunday I joined some friends of my work colleague who suggested that we go on a hike. As Toulouse is so close to the Pyrenées, it’s a pretty normal thing for people to take the day to go for a walk in the mountains and I know a lot of people who have done so. So on this particular Sunday morning I found myself awake at 7am, putting on my trainers to meet everyone and begin the 1.5 hour drive to the mountains.
NB: It’s not a good idea to go out until 3am the night before a day long hike, and I would soon come to realise that this hangover would be DECIDEDLY different from the usual, although by no means worse…
At around 10am we arrived at the base of the mountains and started walking. While I appreciate that there are some families who live sleep and breathe the outdoors, and whose annual holidays consist of mountain biking or skiing or camping, the Taylor style is more beaches and cocktails and sightseeing. I never did the Duke of Edinburgh award and I might have been camping once (?), so even as we stood pretty much at the bottom of the mountains next to the ski lifts (which I also have never seen in real life), I was already taking pictures and completely satisfied that this was what we’d come for.
Hahahahahahahahahahaha I was so wrong.
We had gorgeous weather and the first hour or so wasn’t so bad, although I could already feel my skin burning which made me think about how I should have taken sun cream. We passed a couple of little lakes and we stopped once or twice for some water, Ramona and I at this stage decided that we definitely needed a biscuit if this was going to continue. The first ‘steep‘ part was unexpected for me, and with my burning hamstrings I soon realised that if I wanted to make it back to Toulouse alive I would need to stop being so competitive and get used to being towards the back of our little pack. Once we made it to what I thought was the top (but really really wasn’t) we were greeted with the first stunning view of the day, where we decided to eat lunch and let the sweat dry a little bit. It was the most panoramic lunch I think any of us had ever eaten and it certainly made a change to the Airbus canteen.
Suitably refuelled and remotivated, the climb to the Pic de Saint-Barthélemy was where it really got tasty. I remember someone saying “Voilà où ça devient sportif!” (this is where it gets sporty!) and wanting to push them off the mountain – I’d felt sporty from the minute I got out of the car. I don’t know how long we were climbing for but every time I thought I’d reached the top I was confronted with yet another, and another, and another huge climb ahead. There was however an eventual peak to this never-ending mountain, and as soon as we stepped onto it was as if all the lactic acid build up just fizzled away and gave you this IMMENSE feeling of happiness and calm. I can only imagine that this is what giving birth must be like (although I do not intend to find out any time soon).
At the top we found already a group of walkers taking photos and chatting. The fantastic part of the group was that they were genuinely about three times our age, and were so impressed with our multicultural tribe. My own Nanna also does copious amounts of walking holidays here there and everywhere, so I now hold my hands up with so much respect for her because I just do not know how their bodies do it when my 20-year-old limbs felt like they’d been tazered for about 2 hours.
We walked back down Saint-Barthélemy and back to where we’d had our wonderful lunch when one of my fellow hikers shouted “Let’s climb this next mountain here too!“. “What a joker!” I thought to myself, I’d began to like these funny French people, and I stepped right to head back in the direction of the car park. When I realised that no one else was laughing and that we actually WERE heading up the second mountain, the initial mountain elation faded almost instantly and I hit the biggest bad mood ever ever ever. Looking back now I feel pretty embarrassed for being such a child, but at the time I was fully convinced someone was going to have to call the Mountain Rescue team to come and save me from the glute burn I was experiencing. Thankfully this mountain was nowhere near as tall as the first, and turned out to be quite fun as it was so rocky that we sometimes had to lean onto our hands to manoeuvre ourselves over the rocks. The late afternoon glow this had caught up with us now was so warm and lovely that this might actually have been my favourite point in the day.
Coming down was tough mentally as we were concentrating so hard on not slipping over, however physically I felt like a little cloud. My legs were now moving so effortlessly thanks to the sudden lack of resistance that I feel that I could have gone on to run a 10k no problems at all. Eventually eventually we reached the car park and after saying goodbye to everyone we slumped into the back seat. It felt amazing. On the drive back I found out that Saint-Barthélemy is TWO THIRDS TALLER than the tallest mountain in the UK – aka Ben Nevis, leaving me even more impressed with my little day, which was as far as I was concerned just going to be a nice amble amongst the flowers. We then had to laugh because when my Dutch colleague looked up the tallest mountain in the Netherlands, he was presented solely with a list of its tallest ‘hills’ (I never knew that the Netherlands was this flat until then). It seemed as though the mountain air and general exhaustion had definitely gone to our heads and we were crying with laughter for the stupidest things pretty much the whole way back to Toulouse.
Overall the genuine most crazy, incredible day that I’m surprised I managed to put into words for a blog post.