Thursday, December 11, 2008

The mountain troll


I have sat and browsed the net for a bit, listened to some music on youtube, so hopefully I have restored my pulse to a reasonable level, its been at a 180bpm since I last posted. The decision to go the mountain route has been a huge step up in terms of adventure for the journey so far, a moment in history for me. It also marked my two month point. So I have been trying to put some perspective on what I have done so far. The only thing I can come up with is that all the effort and excitement I had in the first two months was but a mere warm up compared to the last week.

The most tranquil camping spot so far...

I was sitting down on the side of the road staring at the horizon about 100kms away where the mountains started. I got so lonely, the size of my planned trip has never seemed so big. It was only day 60 of 365. I have never felt so small, the world is so big, Spain alone is too big. I felt like a grain of sand on a beach. Its not exactly the feeling I wanted going into the hills but in the end it was the right one to have.

The attempted star jump is masking my nerves for the road ahead

My place in the world is small, I am nothing compared to the land I see before me. Its only out here that I have realised its ok to know that I occupy a tiny space in the world. Knowing this I can give the planet the respect it deserves. Natures energy can be scary when you are alone in your tent at night. I have to admit that a couple of the nights I was truly praying that the weather would not get any worse. Trying to sleep in a tent that feels like its on a roller coaster. Trying to sleep when your toes are bloody freezing even with two pairs of socks on inside your sleeping bag. Another 3am spent furiously wanking my toes trying to warm them up has been a dream come through, a smelly dream at that.

Coldest (greatest) night of my life by a country mile

I am not trying to be a drama queen, I know I am not in the artic. But I cannot deny I did get proper nervous a couple of times out there. Again its about not trying to lose the run of your thoughts, focusing on one step at a time. Eat, cycle, drink, cycle, eat haaa. I know I have enough water, food and fuel for the stove so I can take my time and deal with what comes up. There is no rush, I have no short term time limits. All I want is an adventure and to see as much as possible. I love having the fall back that people go through much worse in more remote and dangerous places. I love getting back on line and reading what other people are up to on adventures, even reading about how peoples plans are coming along for future expeditions. I love being out there struggling, planning ever harder trips. Treating this as training. Its beautiful to dedicate myself to the outoors rather than to fucking myself up partying.

Too many hills to think about

The first few days where warm and sunny. Hard hills but the weather was amazing, even had the tent front door undone at night. It gradually got worse (more fun). I thought I knew what hard work was. I thought I had seen mountains. I thought I had been cold. No, now I know better. But its worth it because this area of Spain is unlike anything I have ever seen. It must be a geologists wet dream. I have never even seen photos of anywhere half as beautiful. The rock formations, arid land and general scale of everything is what I thought only far away adventurers got to see. The sort of place you one day hope to see before you die.

Who gave planning permission for this?

I got to see it by random, just taking a turn off a road for the laugh. I have realised what great patience I have in climbing hills. I dont listen to music on the way up just so I can listen to the demons inside me. By demons I mean my weak side telling me to stop, the puny me telling me to go around. I like hearing myself argue with the demons. Its funny how proud I am when I finally get the demons to shut up.

I can retire now but then I would not find out

whats around the next corner

I have pushed myself on the Handall court before but this is different. Its such a sadistic pleasure to push so hard on your body and not for Everest, for a hill that does not even have a name. One of the weirdist changes has been my ability to shovel food into me on an industrial scale. If I did not burn off the food in effort up a mountain then I would have to spend hours on the toilet dumping it out.

Pressure, pressure, pressure, geological pressure that is

I shite on like its only me out there but its been team effort. Celona (my bike) got grumpy with me one extremely cold morning when I gave her a golden shower to de-ice her brakes. We had a big argument on the way down the hill but she has since forgiven me and seen the light on how necessary it is to have brakes on frozen roads. I had used most of my hot water de-icing the tent poles so I could pack them away and I was trying to keep as much water as possible to drink. It was a rare moment of genius I thought, Celona did not see it at the time though. Then Alex from Guinness book of records (my shadow and photographer) also got a bit lippy with me one night in the tent, he made a smart comment about me not putting in the effort. It was a few days before I even spoke to him again.

I recently watched a short clip of another cyclists camping

spots hence my effort to show you guys where I sleep

Even in the mountains I cant escape the sea

My last shower had been Barcelona about 10 days ago, I stank like the inside of a dead tramps arse. I was sweating and panting like a beast. I finally realised that I had been stopping every five meters to catch my breath. The land was just so wind swept with zero cover so I pulled in at a tiny little overhanging rock. It was raining and the wind was roaring down the hill as I tried to cook up some pasta. It was too wet and cold to sit so I had to hunker down and lean against a rock as I inhaled the food. I was even making a strange grovelling noise as I ate, it was as close to being an animal as I have ever been. It was then that I seen the mountain troll, it was my reflection in a pool of ice. I just had to laugh to myself, I could just picture one of you guys driving by and seeing me.

This is where they make the wind

So I am now taking a couple of days off, my soul cries out for more but my legs are truly empty. I have been aiming at a town called Teruel since I left AlcaƱiz. Looking at maps aiming at certain towns, they become a kind of mythical beacon to try and reach.

Wheres Wally?

Well Teruel in its first hour, after a long shower, has already been incredible. I went straight to the funkiest looking cafe and was ecstatic when I was charged only 80 cent for a coffee, plus I got two free bars of chocolate when I proudly informed the lady of my momentous journey to get to her cafe. Haaa we got chatting, not sure how you spell her name but its something like Balene. She ended up taking me for lunch, tons of tapas. I had peppers covered in bacon and cheese, potatoes covered in fried egg and bacon plus chorizo and some bread. Good laugh chatting about language difficulties while on the road, her travels to America, Japan and her life in Spain. So far I have spent all my time in the middle of nowhere, it was a pure delight to have a good old natter to a local.

JohButer Trio, Nowhere man

One last thing, this song has become a bit of a theme song for the team. Its just a beautiful tune, bopping along, not all the words but most of them hit home for us...

Take it easy amigos

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