A few weeks ago we cruised around Corsica. It was our first time visiting the island and we loved it! As we were there just before the season started, everything was more quiet than usual, which made the experience even better. One of the things we loved about the island, was the nature. It was so diverse and in many places very untouched. We therefore also set ourselves the goal to hike on different spots during our holiday.
It wasn’t an easy goal to reach as many of the available hikes in Corsica are pretty difficult, for me at least. But we found a few viable options. We hiked around the north point of the island at Le sentier des douaniers for example. That was an easy and incredibly beautiful hike, I’ll blog about that later. Today I want to talk about our hike to Lac de Melu. This was a hike that we did when we visited Corte. Corte is apparently a place where many people set off for hiking. It lies in the middle of the island and offers many options for people to explore the mountains. One of the more easier walks was the walk to Lac de Melu. That was what the tourist office told us at least. It was supposed to be a walk of about an hour. One hour up, one hour down. We were only warned that the sun was very hot, so that we should take water with us and something to protect our heads.
A day later we took off, we took the car to drive up to the starting point of the walk. The drive was beautiful, but oh so scary. Roads on Corsica do require small cars and skills on which many of us aren’t trained. Halfway the road to the starting point, we therefore also had to stop to help a ‘fellow’ dutchman to get his car off the ridge of the road. He had tried to pull away and make place for another car that wanted to pass him from the other side, but the road was so narrow, that by accident the right side of his car fell of the ridge. He tried to drive away several times, but he kept on slipping away. As it was a really narrow road, nobody could pass anymore. All cars lined up from both sides of the road. They both stepped out and the dutch driver first helped the other car with an american driver move away – the lady was a bit in shock of what had happened and didn’t know how to drive backwards up the mountain – he asked us to search for stones to place under his wheels to have a bit more grip. He then proposed that we (or all the men in this case) would push from the back and one of the sides while he tried to drive away. It worked, they all pushed him out in one go. I was impressed, as I really thought that it wasn’t going to work. At all. But the man orchestrated everything beautifully. Well done. That incident was a great prelude of the impassability of the mountain that we were going to climb. And that’s what I’m writing about today.
Finishing things and setting the right goals
Little short of two years ago I set myself the goal to finish more (small) things in life. Reaching tops or end stops of hikes were on the list of things I wanted to finish. I wrote about it here, when we hiked up the Charmant Som. I’m slowly learning that making it to the finish, is very much influenced by setting the right goals. So now, when we go out for a hike, we both analyse the hike and decide whether it’s feasible for me to reach the top/finish/end goal of a hike and then do it, or not. This makes going out for a hike, much more pleasant in the end. For me at least. A day feels much more successful if you have done what you had set out for. I know people say it’s all about the road and not the end. But I believe that it can be about both in some situations. Hiking is one of those things that you can plan out and train for. That last thing is now on my radar, but it wasn’t before this following hike.
Climbing Lac de Melu
And Lac de Melu was one of those hikes that we didn’t really plan out. Gha! We just quickly assessed that the time frame they gave was doable, and the inclination would be something I could handle. We also really wanted to do a hike at that part of our holiday and there weren’t any other options. So we did it.
The beginning of the hike was encouraging. With my walking sticks, good shoes (I then thought, but in retrospective, I should have brought my high hiking shoes), my sweat band (that’s how I call the turban around my head) and my camel water pack, things were doable. Next to that, you can assess a walk a bit by the people that walk around you, and things were looking good. We saw parents with babies. But also small children. City-dogs (yes, that’s a breed ;)). Not too many old folks though, which sometimes is a sign.
At the point that the picture above was taken, we both actually thought that we were close to the lake and we were happy as things were looking fine. At that point many people also decided to take a little picknick and some people started walking back. We decided to take a really short break and moved on.
During the next part of the walk suddenly we saw less people, less children, even less old people. I started wondering if we took the right road. Things got steeper and steeper and on the other side of the gap in the mountain we could also see people walk up on a road that seemed easier than ours. Eduard was sure that there was only one way up and that those people probably decided to walk up to another spot.
As we walked up, other people walked down and shared some encouraging words to us about the rest of the road. Which sometimes made the end feel closer than it actually was. It made me worry though, as the climb was getting tougher and I saw that fitter people than me had a hard time walking down. At one point we heard a lady slide down and scream really hard. People ran to here from both sided and I believed she was ok in the end. I stumbled on, thinking that now that we were two hours into the hike, we must have been close.
And then the real hurdle in the walk came. Eduard warned me and said that he saw that we had to take chains for a small part of the hike. In disbelief and still not accepting that this wasn’t going to be a fairly easy hike, I ignored the fact and walked up. Reaching the chains, I still ignored my fright, tiredness and moved on, as if those chains were the worst part of the hike. After that we surely had to reach the end point of the walk. I clamped my hands tightly around the chains and pulled myself up the mountain. There were other people there, moving up and down, but everybody was very patient with each other.
After the chains I saw that Eduard was slightly relieved that I hadn’t made a big point out of the chains. You see, I really have a fright of hights and I don’t take any pleasure out of doing these kind of things. Any. But I kind of imagined we were almost there and it was pretty stupid to go back now. After a very short hike I realised there was a bigger hurdle up the road as Eduard prepared me again for something frightening that came up. He didn’t use the word frightening, but it was going to be frightening for me. He warned me for stairs that were coming up. Looking up, I could only see some stairs far up in the air and thought. Ah well, stairs, I can do stairs after all this. Stairs might actually be easy. Stairs are made for comfort, right?
Wrong! These were not really stairs, but more like steel ladders when we walked up to them and could really see them. Ladders on a cliff. Hello acrophobia! Damnit. I thought I was already done with all the crappy stuff. We saw people quit at the stairs. Not because they were unfit, but purely because they were scared. One very thin, equipped and seemingly fit Americal young lady was told by her male companion that it was impossible that her weight would make the stairs fall down and so on. She stopped anyway and walked down. I tried to ignore those conversations, because at this point I decided to move on. Still thinking: THIS CAN’T GO ON MUCH LONGER. Pretty quiet, but shaky, I walked up the ladder, first one, and then a little bit further two more (yes, shitty shit).
Eduard tried to ignore me when I climbed up (he climbed up first) because he was a bit afraid for me, he admitted later. He also didn’t talk to me as he didn’t want to disturb me, which was a good thing. I was internally fighting a battle and making plans for the way back. I knew one thing for sure: I wasn’t going to go back the same way. I had decided that those other people that we saw going up on the other side of the cliff, that those people had chosen the easy path. We just took the wrong turn, but there was no turning back at this point, we would correct the choice once we were up. I climbed up very slowly, while pulling myself extremely close to the bars. I didn’t look down. I remained pretty happy afterwards to my surprise, or better said: I didn’t become very cranky after going through all that. I was probably to tired. After reaching the last ladder, some people that had started at the same time as we did (and apparently already reached the top and were walking down now) said that we were almost there. Only a short walk left. Halleluja. It relieved Eduard also a bit, as he had seen that I started walking a bit less stable. Which was probably true. We needed a break after this last part.
On the two pictures below, you can see how we hiked up the mountain. This was the last part of the hike. I still can’t believe I climbed up there. I wouldn’t do it again at this point in my life. That’s for sure!
And then we reached Lac de Melu. It was so worth it. I don’t have pictures that do the lake justice, I guess you have to walk up yourself. The colour of the water was marvellous. The alpine birds that flew there were amazing. We decided not to stay long there, although I needed a rest, because the weather seemed to turn. So we ate a quick apricot (yes, crazy, but we only expected a short hike!) and decided to walk down. I informed Eduard that that we had to take another road down, as I only took the ladder up, because I knew I wasn’t going back the same way.
Finding another road back wasn’t really difficult. We saw other people come up from other parts of the mountain, so we decided to walk down, where they walked up. Now being the people that threw encouraging words to them. Telling them how beautiful the lake was. I kind of imagined that it was already encouraging for them to see that somebody like me had reached the top.
Most All of them seemed fitter than me.
We also realised that this road back that we took was definitely not easier, there were huge rocks that you had to climb over and small rocks that made it very slippery. But for me it felt much more safe than the other road, and that was what I was aiming for. There were no ladders or chains, and there were small bushes that surrounded the path, that made it appear like a safer way to go. Physically it was definitely as difficult as the other side though for me. We found out later, that the way that we took down is supposed to be the ‘easy’ way. So you know, in case you are climbing and miss the sign that says ‘easy’. Right side up is the challenging road, left side up is the ‘easy’ one.
Mentally it was difficult as well I thought, but not in the fear-conquering kind of way as the way up was. It was mentally difficult in a way that you had to keep your mind connected to every inch of your body. As it was slippery and every step was basically a huge step where you used not only your legs but also your arms. My body needed a lot of coordination. These motions weren’t pre-programmed for me. I saw that that wasn’t the case for some other people. Some people were moving up and down as mountain goats. They slipped and stood up as if nothing had happened. Amazing! Respect!
Many hours later than planned out at first, we reached the end of our walk and I felt mostly mentally drained. I was happy of course that I did all the things I did, but my head was too tired to really enjoy the moment. I also realised I that I had been so focused during this hike, that I didn’t look around as much as I normally do. Which was a pity. It was also a strange feeling as I normally do feel physically tired on hikes that we do. Now I was tired, but it was out of balance with my mental tiredness.
I gave it some more thought the last couple of weeks and I realised that I have to prepare my body in another way if I want to do more demanding hikes in the future. And I think I want to do more demanding hikes in the future, now that we are staying here in France, in the Alps. Yep, I think I want to.
Controlling my body
So here is the plan. Having lost almost 30kg over little over a half year, physically I’m able to do more things than before. With that I mean, that I’m get less tired after doing something tiring. But if I want to do more complicated hikes, than straightforward walking hikes, I need to be able to control my body in a different way. Right now controlling my body takes up a lot of energy mentally. I try not to slip, I try to keep my balance, I try to place my feet on the right spot, and so on. It takes ages before I get somewhere (when on a mountain that is ;)). It really goes on and on, and all because I probably don’t want to fall. Therefore I need to learn to fall again. I need to teach my body to recover after I slip or fall. And I need not to fear bruises. They will disappear.
People that walked up and down the mountain like mountain goats seemed fearless, but controlled. They held their body low (compared to mine), the didn’t fear slipping (they slipped all the time) and they had a very good recovery every time the misstepped.
For that, I have to be able to control my body in a less mental way I decided. That way I will be able to use my spirit to enjoy the journey and my body to manage the journey. I have been thinking how I can do that. Probably it would help if I hike daily, but that isn’t going to happen. I can crawl up and down my stairs on my hands and feet every day as an exercise, but I don’t think that that training is diverse enough (and pretty boring). I need a training that would use my body as a starting point. As I was searching for something to do, I stumbled into Freeletics last week.
Freeletics uses high intensity workout methods, without using any equipment. The workout resistance is controlled only through your body weight. I have a lot of resistance, haha. You basically control your body weight and try to preform certain exercises as good as possible in a high tempo. As you are increasing your tempo, your body starts doing things more automatically as it would in the beginning. That’s what I’m looking for.
So I took a coach and started this week. Eduard joined me (on my request) and in the evenings we are jumping up and down and doing push ups. Or partly push ups in my case. Gha, that’s ok, because I’m only starting out, I’m at the beginning of a road. Hopefully my mind and body will become much more efficiently connected, and my body will have a memory of it’s own. This will increase my trust in my own body. I will also hopefully develop muscles in my body that will enable me to create a lower centre of gravity while hiking, which will make me climb easier.
I’ll try to update you every few weeks here on the blog about the progress. Things that I discover that are changing (or not). The idea is that I will be doing this for about 15 weeks and that after 15 weeks I will see real change. Let’s hope so, because I really do like hiking!