Time rushes forward, days passing in a blur of repetition. It feels like each day is a new experience, but ultimately the same as before.
Every morning we drive to the crag on the wrong side of the road. We walk uphill, cheeks glowing in the cold morning air. The sun hits the rock and we warm tired limbs. We climb our routes, move after move, then return to earth; gravity always wins. I recently took flight from the top crux of an 8a and fell so far I had time to scream twice before the rope finally caught me.
The climbing is always the same: hands reach high, feet step up, clip, repeat. The routes blur into one continuous sequence, a haze of skyward elbows and shaking legs. We are rich in experiences, but they require a bit of digging to remember. At the end of the day, the rock returns to the shadows, the cold creeps back and we scurry down to the valley.
Day after day, week after week. What month are we in now? I feel like I’m dragging my heels, pulling at each moment, willing it to last longer. This trip has been the longest three months of my life, but has passed in an instant. In a few days we sail for home. I’ll be glad to get the van off my mind - she’s playing hard-to-fix at the moment. We don’t want to break down five miles from the ferry!
I don’t want it to end: this blissful escape from reality has been too much fun, too enjoyable. Life is easy. I feel almost guilty for enjoying myself post-university, as my friends settle down to a job, a flat, a suit. What’s wrong with delaying that for a couple of years, having fun for a while?
Everything merges into one. I can’t remember the last time I cooked a meal which didn’t involve chorizo, tomato sauce and pasta. We’ve got lost in mad Spanish cities, drank bravas, eaten beer, even got so drunk the vine started tasting like winegar!
Anybody can go on a road trip, live in their small van and go climbing every day. What about three months later, though? Will you still have the fire, the psyche? As the temperatures drops well into the minus and the cold seeps into your bones, will you still be keen to walk up the same hills to the same cold crags, to fall at the same point on your route?
Having said all that, with the right kit it’s possible to keep the cold away. I’ve got a pair of big M.E. mitts which keep my hands warm, even when there’s frost on the ground and I can see my breath. It means my hands are ‘too hot’ at the start of route, so I get hot-aches halfway up the wall. Perhaps it’s better to forgo the mitts, to be bold and start cold? How ironic is that?!
I’m looking forward to home: delicious food, warm beds, hot showers, good friends. The comfort and laziness of home. I can’t wait to catch up with everyone, I’m sure the banter will be flowing. Yes, I’m still hanging by my fingers. No, I still haven’t climbed the Eiger.
Where did it all go? I’ll bring some order to this chaos and retrace our steps.
Baguette. The Gorges de L’Ardeche. Brie. Céüse. Perfect rock. Blocage Violent. Lots of walking. Van troubles. Wine. Verdon. Vultures. Very exposed!
Chorizo. Rodellar. Tufas. Margalef. Pockets. More van troubles. Cola Cao. Finger injuries. Terradets. Cold. Cornudella. Warm. Montsant. More pockets. Siurana. Crimps!
We must return home - to stay would be to run away from reality, cast ourselves adrift and pretend that life is all rosy. It would be like bailing from life itself, or holding our hands over our ears to block out the noise. Peter Pan tried it once, and look where that left him. He wanted to grow up, eventually.
I’d love to stay here in Spain, but it’s just natural progression - one chapter ends, and another begins. I’m always looking onwards and upwards, to the next adventure. It’s always uncomfortable to face the truth: this trip must end. However, it does mean I can start planning the next one!
(EOTS - End of Trip Sadness. The upset and fear that one feels as their trip/holiday begins to end. A condition which afflicts all ‘long-term’ travellers when it’s time to go home.)