“Samedi, we will go for a long walk.”
It’s exhausting being French.
When we’re not eating or drinking or talking about the next time to eat or drink or the better or more appropriate way to eat or drink we’re planning an activity: tennis, soirees, boule, international dance festivals, billiards.
Today for our “long” walk, preparations began at 9am, with a table full of baguettes that were cut and sliced and buttered into sandwiches. Different saucissons, different fromage, different jambon. Debate about the better combinations.
I try not to ask too many questions about all these activities, but “long” can be defined many ways. Indeed, some of our number would be spending the night on the trail. Even though I walked 800km last summer and generally like walking very far and for a long time, I had a feeling “long” here meant more than 15km and 7 hours.
In my experience I’ve also come to realize there are different kinds of hikes (which is really the better word than “walk”) and hikers. There are pretty strolls through the woods, heart pumping romps through hills, and full-on find-a-secure-place-for-your-hands-while-the-rocks-under-your-feet-skid-to-the-bottom-and-you-fear-your-rump-will-be-the-tartare-for-dinner.
Our “long” walk was of this last variety. I saw people with ropes. I think every one of us fell down once. The sandwiches were good, and the Burgundy grapes picked from the Burgundy vines were very good indeed, but it was hard, and decidedly long.
By the time 6pm rolled around I was informed that it was possible for me to stay on the trail overnight if I liked – someone had brought an extra sleeping bag, just in case. I couldn’t get a straight answer as to how much farther or longer the day’s journey would be, so I thought it best to return, which in itself would require another hour of walking, with a couple ascents and descents, but it was known.
At midnight, after a bike ride, and sushi, and in the midst of an impromptu soiree, we got an SMS from the overnight walkers. They were just now setting up camp, 100m from where we left them. The balance of the evening had been spent in the village cafe.
I’m not sure either group got off easy.