“I have something to tell you”, I was on the phone to my boyfriend Michael. “Continue” he sheepishly replied. He was used to my spontaneous travelling ways. “This summer I want to hike across the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Med”. The other end of the line went dead, Michael was a devoted mountain biker with a successful blog and sponsorship deal to his name…he was certainly not a hiker…how could we combine our two activities without spending the summer apart? After a pause he muttered, “Ill come too. Ill just bike it and meet up with you when I can”. I was surprised but agreed straight away and just like that a rather unusual travelling compromise was born.
Some weeks later we gathered on the beach at Hendaye with our feet in the Atlantic. I carried my large rucksack and trekking poles, while Michael was dressed in his well worn mountain biking gear. We had no idea how our unusual travelling arrangement would work out. “So, I’ll see you on Col D’Ibardin for lunch?” he said. As it turned out, I was three hours late for that date, the pack took a lot of getting used too, but soon I would become an expert trekker, arriving at every meet point bang on time.
Our joint adventure took us over bumps, hills and then mountains as we gradually worked our way through the foothills of the Pyrenees and on to the high mountains. I quickly gave Michael the job title of support vehicle. He would meet me at lunch time to buy me a cool drink, surprise me with a fresh baguette or he would carry the tent when I had a particularly steep or rough section of trail to contend with. And what a treat it was to arrive at a beautiful camping spot to find your boyfriend, with tent pitched and a hot Spanish omelette sandwich, waiting there for you.
Everyone along the trail, fellow hikers, hotel receptionists and waiters included, were rather amused by our strange travelling situation, “You on foot and him on a bike? how does that work?” they often laughed. But for us it was perfect. Every time we completed another week or ticked off a major peak, I felt proud of our solid team work.
We camped together every night but through the French National Park I had to go alone as mountain bikes were not allowed there. When I met up with Michael four days later in Garvarnie I ran down the main street and literally jumped into his arms, satisfied I had completed those days alone but deliriously happy to see him again. This trip was making me appreciate just how lucky I was to have him in my life.
A couple of days later, I was 2,000 metres high, by the spectacular Barroude rock wall, when suddenly I turned the corner to find Michael waiting for me! He had left his bike at the bottom and walked up to meet me. I was touched, I knew how much he disliked hiking. For a man who has struggled with commitment and affection in the past, this trek gave him the chance to show support in a way he knew how.
But sometimes as a mountain biker, it was hard for him to understand. Michael could quickly descend to a town and enjoy good food, while I was stuck on a high remote footpath day after day. Normally running out of food would mean a foul mood until my stomach was filled again. Food is really a central concern in the life of a long distance hiker.
On the 34th day of trekking we came to the final descent only to be confronted with a wild thunder storm. Michael cycled on and I assumed he would find me by the Med, given the intense rainfall. But then I turned the corner to find him huddled under a tree for shelter, “what are you doing!” I spluttered out. “We have to arrive at the sea together” he feebly smiled.
And we continued on until our feet and our wheels were in the warm waters of the Med together. These mountains had given us a roller coaster of moments, some lonely, some challenging, some shared but in the end the Pyrenees had undoubtedly strengthened our relationship. And if you ever wish to appreciate your partner more, just try walking through the wilderness alone for a few days, and it is very likely that on your return, you will go running and jumping back into their arms.