I am excited 98% of the time lately. But I haven’t been THIS excited in a while. I was wide awake at 4:30 am, and I knew it had to be the anticipation of this hike that wouldn’t let me sleep for long. I left the house before the sun came out, and there was not a soul in the streets. “Only the brave are out,” WhatsApp Nacho (one of the Spaniard friends I’ve made here). “Then what am I doing here?!” I wrote back. But I had a good feeling about this day…
I met up with Sonia, Nacho, and Ismael in Plaza Castilla (a big metro/bus station northeast of Madrid) at 7:40 am. We had not gotten on the bus yet, and I was already laughing at their comments. Spaniards have a good sense of humor. The bus dropped us off on the side of the road at Manzanares el Real. We walked to La Pedriza, full of energy for our day hike to the base of El Yelmo (you can only hike up to the base because you need to actually climb to the very top. Check it out!).
I teased them for their selfie stick, which is not considered uncool here. They teased me back for my brand new hiking clothes from Decathlon (a sports lover fantasy store for cheap, good quality products). They all had a hiking stick, which I proudly rejected from Ismael until I realized I actually needed something else to support my weight along the way. I took the stick. The hike path got increasingly challenging to the point that we were climbing boulders on all fours. I probably could not have gone through some parts of this hike without Ismael pulling me up (sometimes pushing me too, haha 😉 ). Ismael and Nacho run marathons together, which made Sonia and I wonder if we could do the full hike…But that was not the biggest source of pressure to do well. It turns out we were being outperformed by an older group…Way older than us, but totally up to speed. I still don’t understand how they climbed up those boulders and kept catching up to us. They have given me a new outlook for my future gray-hair days. I certainly want to be hiking mountains, stick in one hand, basket for picking mushrooms in the other.
Adding to the list, we saw 2 donkeys, 2 horses, and a handful of happy dogs with their hiker owners. We hiked up 1615 meters, and down 909 meters. The hike lasted 7 hours, which became extremely painful the last 3. We hiked almost 10 miles. My legs were shaking, and every time Ismael asked how I was doing, I made effort to reply a half cheerful, “I’m super alive.” I took out the “super” for the last hour though, ha. “Things are beginning to change,” he said. At some point I stopped using my legs and just slid down the rocks, not caring for mud or water. For a good while, the hike path was an actual stream, so we had to be extra careful.
It was amazing. The pictures don’t do it justice. It has been the best day I have had in Spain so far, and by the end of it I wanted to be friends forever with them. Their humor may get lost in translation if I tell you everything, and maybe some things you just had to be there for. I could try to describe it all in depth, but I don’t really want to put words to it. I just want to keep this day in my heart, and continue to flip the pages to find out the rest of the story. It just dawned on me, though…that the best part isn’t in what happens next…It’s in how I feel about it.