A RANGE OF EMOTIONS

Sunrise over, I momentarily considered whether it would be worth the effort to hike all the way up to the base of that distant peak! I had had a pretty good view from where I was and had avoided the crowds by getting up so early. Reminding myself, however, that it’s generally the things that you don’t do that you regret, I set off up the trail. It’s a fairly easy hike up until the very last kilometre, which rears up steeply up the mountainside.

The reveal when you get to the top, however, is nothing short of breath-taking.

My timing turned out, fortunately, to work quite well – as I ascended the final stretch I passed many of the people descending who had camped nearby and gone up for sunrise, whereas most other day hikers coming from town were several hours behind me, so there were very few people at the top. I was able to sit in peace and quiet, watching the light slowly change on the mountain, utterly transfixed by this most magnificent of peaks. A thin bank of cloud had moved in, diffusing the light, making for an ethereal scene. The light began to fade a little further and, chatting with a german photographer, he suddenly realised that the solar eclipse was taking place! Whilst only a partial eclipse, it was great to see and only served to make the moment even more special. People arriving after us were somewhat bemused to realise that it had just happened and that they had ‘missed’ it, assuming that the dim light was just due to the cloud cover!

Places like that fill you with a sort of joy and calm that is utterly addictive – it’s incredibly difficult to tear yourself away. Nonetheless, after a couple of hours of relative peace, and as the other day hikers began to arrive, I dragged myself back down the mountain. It was a somewhat dangerous descent, trying not to trip whilst snatching glances over my shoulder back at this grandest of mountains. There was, however, the lure of baked goods back down in town and, as much as I wanted to just sit and gaze at it, this was a fight that my stomach was not going to lose!

Stocked up with sugar-coated pastries, I collapsed exhausted but very happy back at the Casa de Ciclistas. Once again, my cycling fitness hadn’t translated particularly strongly into hiking fitness but it was a 28km round trip, so I think I had reason to be tired! What a special place.

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