from Potes to Cares Gorges
Before the start of my Silk Road trip in Oct 2003, I needed a warm up, and decided to try the unknown Northern Spain Picos de Europa mountains.
After a bus dropped me in Potes, in the Eastern part, I hiked through the central part of the chain, encountering only a few shepherd and no wolves. The daily issue was to find water, not always available even in the bottom of valleys. At night, I used to sleep in my tent, not in the foggy valleys, nor on the windy mountain crest. I had to find a place, near a shepherd hut, usually built at mid-height.
Scared by the many wolves stories, I had difficulties to sleep. I didnt see 1 wolf, but many blue sheep.
One morning was very foggy, I lost my track, and so, used my compass to cut through the range to reach Cain, the start of the famous Cares Gorge trek. I had to climb down cliffs, and found myself in a wild valley with absolutely no track.
At this point, I lost one my shoe sole, destroyed by the sharp rocks, and went down with one shoe, it took me 6 hours to reach Cain, where I trashed my shoes. I went down the Cares Gorges trail barefoot.
At Poncebos, without 1 Euro left in my pocket, I tried to draw money from the only ATM in the village.
Although a bit dizzy, I entered the code right, but my card was swallowed by the machine without warning.
It was Friday evening, the start of long week end, in a very remote part of Spain.
Desperate, I stopped every hiker I could find to ask them to help me, at least 10 euro, to be able to take a bus.
Luckily, a pretty French girl, living in Chile, gave me a whopping 50 Euro. It was a bit short to reach Paris, but we made some part of the trip together.
She was not a hiker, but a climber. I guessed by her tone, that she despised a bit the old-fashioned hikers.
Her boyfriends have always been climbers, she told me. In France, I always resented this animosity between hikers and climbers. Now I knew it was an international thing.
She also told me that the Torres del Paine tour was the best trek she has ever done.
I was "high" because of all what happened in the day, and during our trip back, I was dreaming of doing the Chilean famous trek.
Since then, I have been dreaming a lot about her also...
Without enough money, I had to spare all for transport. I had also to eat bread, usually the cheapest available food in Europe.
I also remembered what a relative told me: he crossed Europe once for free by hitchhiking and begging for bread near local bakeries.
That's what I did, and at the end of each day, some bakeries gave me their stale bread.
I eventually made it to Paris. A few days later, I will happily meet again my benefactor to reimburse her. She offered me some climbing lessons in Fontainebleau. Wrongly taking this proposal as a flirting hint, I accepted
The day after, I went to my bank agency to complain about thes debit card issue in Spain. "Imagine if this happens in remote India". I told them. They pretended that I cancelled the card myself, and offered no apologies. I had to change bank before my next "big jump": the Silk Road.