This was supposed to be my most difficult section. I remember calling my sister from the airport describing where she could find my will, should my body go missing: a scribbled list of names and percentages in the front of my journal… as if I have anything more than a stinky collection of rocks and bones.
I set out with 10 days of food and 100 pounds of needless fear. I'm not sure which weighed more.
Perfect weather. Beautiful black sand dunes. Volcanic flowerless gardens. I went to sleep each night with watery eyes… tears of thanks, joy and confusion in how I got so lucky to experience this place.
A chunk of isolation. A slab of solitude. Vacant. Null. Desolate. Empty. Alone. Alone. Alone!
One early morning, I saw two alpinists ahead on a 4x4 track in the middle of nowhere. A speck of sand at first, growing in size each hour as they approached, until they towered over me, 4 meters high. Their smiles were priceless, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the gear: ropes, ice axes, crampons. They just came off the glacier. Real Mountain Men. I felt their pride in me, this little American girl alone in the Northern Highlands, and mine in them. I’m just walking, nothing special. I have few skills other than to put one foot in front of the other. There was a sigh of mutual respect when we parted… since I couldn’t communicate in their Polish tongue. It was a silent respect in understanding how special it is for anyone, anyone at all, to make it to this remote part of the world. It didn’t matter what we were doing, simply that we were doing it.
I made it to a “road” minutes after a storm rolled in. Finally, I get to try on my fisherman gloves! To my surprise, a van approached, the only car passing that day. It was loaded full of French tourists and they so graciously gave me a ride to the next hut along with some Chartreuse, Cognac and special gingerbread treats from Dijon. Vive la France! What a gift. Sincere apologies for the horrible smell.
What was supposed to be most difficult, turned out to be a breeze. No wind, a few drops of rain, forgiving fords, and I was able to hike it with ease. This is not normal… no no no. Thor took personal care for me, there is no other explanation. If any of you are planning a similar traverse, take my experience with a sea of salt. I got lucky. Had the weather been normal (meaning extreme)… well, I don’t even want to think about it.
I am ahead of schedule now… by several days. My pace was fast, my days were long with no serious obstacles along the way.