My Support Vehicle.

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.

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Scene One: In the Vintage Cafe

Pink lamp shades clutter my vision, gleaming too brightly in the corners of the room. The heat and the sun that pours into the place raise the temperature, it makes me sweat. Another thing clouds my vision: rain, water, falling from my eyes. Lost in the cascade that drowns the breakfast plate in front of me, I fumble with my coffee cup. Hiding behind the yellow rims of my dark glasses, I choke on the happiness that is a sunny morning in Madrid.

“I am not leaving you, I am leaving Madrid”

The vintage café on Calle Espiritu Santo is a beautiful place for a break up scene. Decorative patterns tile the wall, locals come pulling rowdy dogs behind them, intellectuals sulk over their laptops in the corners. All enjoying the peace and tranquility that I now regret. This calmness does nothing but expose me.

Michel sits opposite in his usual scruffy bike wear and repeats the heart felt line above. His black mountain bike eagerly awaits outside, securely chained up, while inside his spirit wishes to be free and decisively Unchained once again.

We had wandered the winding alleyways of the city contently, without reason, objective or desire, finding all the personal secrets of the neighbourhood for ourselves but now, because of his itchy feet, the weeks of happy ramblings would end.

Out on the cobbled road we walked in silence for a few blocks. I am tied to this town, he is tied to the breeze, the air and the unending camino. In a deserted street he decides to leave, without even a soul in sight for support. The connection snaps. I am tossed aside, alone again and a cave carves deep inside me.

“Why do you have to turn a simple goodbye into a break up drama!” And in a huff he left me.

The only reaction I can muster is a stunned stare straight into the sky, the only words that pound through my head, the only sentence I may form, “ I can’t believe he left me”