During my time in the Netherlands, I have often complained about the lack of hills or any type of non-flat landscapes. Along with that, the cold and the rain was a constant downer to do any type of cool outdoor activity. I did go for long rides, trying to pick the days where it was the least windy, but it was never really satisfying.
Over these two years of living there, I built in my head the image of an active person, that likes hiking and enjoys going out of the house to do stuff. Going back home with a perfect warm weather and amazing sceneries not far out, it was time to put to test this image I spent two years creating.
I took the car and drove to a nearby mountain range I’ve never been before. The good thing about Lyon is that you have the choice; you have the Alps or some other mountainous chains more in the center of the country. I chose the latter, may it just be so I didn’t have to pay the toll on the road. After driving through some big cities, I took the way to the “Natural Regional Park” of the Pilat. Out of Saint Etienne, in 5mn, the city is out of sight and what is left is just forest, lands and cute houses in the middle of all that.
Some parts of the road can be quite narrow and it’s especially true when going through villages that are literally hanging off a cliff. Sometimes, the path is large enough for only one car but you still have to share it with eventual newcomers and it was an interesting challenge for me to drive there. I often stopped on the side to take pictures of the landscape as the blue sky, clouds and yellow fields just fitted perfectly together. I can get that these snaps can seem boring but after 2 years of dead-flat land and wind, I love it.
After 2 hours of driving and a constant elevation in the mountains (reaching 1200m altitude), I parked my car at some old inn. And I started hiking.
Mind you, there were a few details that I forgot while building this image of super active woman for two years. Hiking often involves going up, in sometimes really steep ways. Going down is all fine with me and staying at the same level’s perfect. But going up, damn, do I hate that. And this is the way my hike started. As I went up, I noticed some other parkings that were higher up where I could have put my car and avoid the uninteresting climb. But nope, I had parked the car all the way down. Too bad. I also forgot my earphones and was alone with my thoughts and my panting breath.
This is another thing that bothers me about going up.
Being out of breath really quickly. I don’t smoke, nor am I overweight, and yet I struggle like hell when it’s about breathing normally and climbing up stuff. Maybe it’s the asthma I’m carrying with me, or just the fact that I don’t climb that often. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe I’m not this super active person I thought I was for two years. Maybe I don’t really like hiking uh? Because this steep climb here, really sucks.
As I was having an inside turmoil, I finally reached some flat ground and went on my way to join the first pass. Today’s plan was to visit all the passes of Mont Pilat, consisting of a rough walk of 10km. Surprisingly, the following climb was starting to be okay. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the path was covered with big rocks and forced me to jump from boulder to boulder (which I love doing. It’s incredibly easy to break your ankle here, but damn, it’s fun) but things got easier. At the top of the first pass, at an altitude of 1430m, I sat and took some time to look around. Two people were paragliding and were flirting with the ground before going back up with the wind currents. It was so quiet and they came so close that you could hear the wind going through the fabric of their big parachutes.
I didn’t get their view but it felt like sharing a bit of their bliss in these mountains.
I decided to continue my hike and walked on the mountain crests to join the difference passes. I met a few people on the way, such as the same four ladies that I ran into 3 or 4 times during the afternoon. I was dreading a bit such an afternoon without any music or beat to keep me going. I’m listening to music pretty much all the time and it is helping when doing physical activities. I don’t think I could have climbed Mount Fuji without music, or my mind would have been clouded by thoughts about how harsh it was to climb thousand of meters in the pitch darkness at 10°c. But the music helped and allowed me to focus on the effort rather than the “why am I doing this to myself” factor.
But overall, everything went fine. As I walked, the hike got somehow easier. I think it’s all about getting the machine started. Once it’s started, it’s good to go.
After some mountainous passes, I went through a forestry area to join the big radio antenna area. On this mountain, there are a few buildings used for the main French radio and it is so big that we can see it through Lyon. We see this big mountain with the antenna on top, and it was time to go check it out.
Some paths through the forest reminded me of the Japanese forests, without ever surpassing their mysteries. Forests in Japan have a spirit of their own and I can understand that people with amazing imagination such as Miyazaki can feel nothing but wonder for them.
The rest of the hike was smooth and as I got to the antenna, I started heading back to the inn. Time was running out and I didn’t want to be caught in traffic once back on the road.
On the way back, there was some stele headstone for an American plane crashing there during WW2, along with an American/German/French flags to celebrate peace and cooperation.
Back at the car, I grabbed some fresh water from a nearby source and took a last look at what was around.
Yeah, I’m definitely not the superhero I wanted myself to be, nor the amazing hiker I boasted about for 24 months. But you know, I think it’s about taking time and doing things one step at a time. Nothing’s preventing me to a one day be this great person that can hike for 10 hours in the mountains on a whim. For now, I do these small steps and at least get a bit closer to doing things that I like.
Having this afternoon for myself, confronted to a difficult climb but beautiful views, felt good. And let’s not talk about the drive back through the natural park. No matter where you looked, the golden sun was embracing the yellow fields and the atmosphere was just magical. I felt a bit sad not being able to take pictures of everything but sometimes you gotta decide if you wanna go home in one piece or stop every 5 seconds on a narrow road with cars around.
I chose safety and did my best to get a firm mental grasp of the experience.