That time I scaled the face of a mountain… Yesterday my friend Christie and I decided to join the hiking club on one of their weekly excursions. We had been informed at the beginning of the semester that the hiking club was a common past time of the international students. They made it sound like a fundamental part of every study abroad kid’s experience, the thing everyone did. So we embraced it. Donning our running shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers we booked our way to San Pedro plaza to meet the bus that would be leaving at the nice and early hour of 8:30am. We got there a little early, traditional american style, and I’m pretty sure no one else arrived until 8:35, traditional spanish style. We were beginning to get nervous, waiting there are all by ourselves, double checking that we were in the right place, constantly looking at our watches. And then we saw a small group of individuals wander to the bus stop on the other side of the street. Now we were way more than a little nervous. These spaniards were not only wearing hiking boots, scarves, leggings, and two shirts… they also had hiking poles and gianormous backpacks with them. We knew instantly that we were way underprepared for this journey but with a few encouraging words from a fellow hiker – “it’s not that hard, it’s just walking!!” we were again convinced that we should get this hiking club experience. We boarded the bus, giggling in the way only american girls seem to, and happily awaited our arrival at the mountain.
2 hours and 20 minutes later we arrived at our destination and got off the bus. We started our way into the woods on a typical looking trail. The first 2 hours continued like this. We gradually progressed up into the mountain range and we were having a fabulous time! Christie and Ali (another girl from CIDE) and I had made a pact to speak only Spanish, which was a way bigger deal than it may seem being as we were surrounded by spaniards who would have been more than happy to practice their English while talking to us. We were loving the chance to talk to these natives, in spanish, all about Spain and learn which beaches and cities were the best to visit, where we could find really good food, and what they had seen during various trips to the US. We may also have been enjoying the awesome scenery and wild horses that we were seeing every hundred or so feet! At around 12:30pm we entered a little cave and our new friends pulled out sandwiches and water. Convinced that we had basically reached our final destination and satisfied with all that we had just experienced, Ali, Christie, and I gawked at the view for a few minutes and then joined them in chowing down. Carmen had made me a ham sandwich and I’d grabbed an apple and granola bar before leaving as well. After the sandwich and half the granola bar ,I decided to save the rest for the bus ride home. This turns out to be one of the best decision I have made in my life. Contrary to our belief, we were no where near finished with our journey. The summit was not even within eye sight. In fact, we had another two hours ahead. All up hill. And I don’t mean around a mountain up hill, I mean up a rocky mastiff that words can’t even describe up hill. I about died. Twice. This mountain was no joke! Thankfully our new friend Alex, an incredibly sweet Frenchman, was willing to go at the same pace as two inexperienced American girls and accompanied Christie and I through the trail of death to the summit of Mount Aitzkobbi. Without him and Christie, I don’t think I would have had the motivation to make it all the way. Needless to say, at this point we had stopped speaking Spanish and a string of “oh my goodness we’ve got to be getting close” and “where the heck are we”s could be heard all the way up.
Finally at about 2:40 we reached our final altitude. The sight was absolutely breath taking and Christie and I immediately agreed that it was worth the completely unexpected rock climbing that we had just endured. I happily gobbled down the rest of my granola bar and all but two sips of my water and sunbathed on top of the rocks for 20 minutes, reassured by my fellow climbers’ comments that we would be taking a different path on the way down. This reassurance did not last long as I soon found my self half tripping, half sliding down the narrow, rock covered path. Down may not have been as exhausting as up, but it was certainly scarier! An hour and a half later we finally reached the bottom and stared up at the face of the monster we had just climbed up and down. Looking back, we were suddenly extremely proud of what we had just accomplished. After begging for cups of water at the little bar that was conveniently located at the base of this mountain – only to realize that there was a water fountain right outside, oops – Christie and I collapsed at a table in a fit of exhausted giggles, happily accepting any food that our well prepared hiking friends still had to share. Our short rest soon came to an end and we were informed that we still had an hour of walking – yes, this time it was just semi-normal downhill walking – before we reached the bus. We made the most of our time by reflecting on the amazing experience we had just been through and talking with a spaniard who had studied abroad at University of Richmond last fall – imagine that!!
In an attempt to not write two novels worth of information, I will spare you the details of the bus and metro ride home – how convenient, right? En fin, I was most certainly not prepared for the experience that was joining the hiking club on their climb, but I am still so so glad that I decided to go! Summiting Aitzkobbi is one of the top ten things I have done since arriving in Spain – a once in a life time kind of experience that I will certainly never forget!!
Other minor victories of the weekend include spending the last day of September on the beach and in the ocean, finding our way to Artea mall (without getting lost) and buying CEREAL and frisbee flair !!, going to the movie theater and seeing a movie completely in Spanish, skyping with Kelly for over 2 hours, and receiving my first piece of mail!! This week has many more adventures in store, as well! I’ve promised myself that tomorrow I will do whatever it takes to find stamps so I can mail letters to my friends and family back home. Wednesday I will be teaching English to two little spanish boys (friends of my friend Elana’s host family – did you follow that??) and Thursday I’ll be flying off to Barcelona. Let’s do this : )
Happy fall!! Much love