The Unprepared Blogger

You might be wondering why there have been no posts for nearly three months. Did the Unprepared Hiker meet his demise because he was so unprepared? Did he hit his head and suffer from amnesia and totally forgot about this blog? Was he killed by a Tick?

I underestimated the work it would take to write a blog while hiking. Writing with a stylus and a smartphone proved to be very, very annoying. It would take so much time that most of my free time was spent writing things on the smartphone. I gave up on that and started only writing things on my little paper notebook, with a real pen.

Besides, I would rather spend my time enjoying my journey than writing long texts. At some point I decided to just jot down some topics and leave the writing to some later moment. I think that moment has come…

The tick

On day 3, while taking my first partial shower and changing clothes for the first time, I realized I had a tick in my left tigh. It was a fat, happy, and plumpy tick, buried halfway inside me. How long had it been there? I dont knkow, but it must have been at least one whole day. Since then, I decided I had to shower or at least change more often.

I tried to pull out the tick with tweezers, but it was so happy and stuck that it didn’t want to leave. It came out in parts, and at the end I couldn’t manage to get its head out. I rubbed some alcohol and left it there.

Later that same day I caught another tick on my tigh, but it had installed itself recently. The tweezers were very efficient in plucking it out.

Beuzec Cap-Sizun and the paella

Day 3 was Sunday. I knew there was hardly anything open in France on Sundays, but I also knew there would be a market open on Sunday morning in Beuzec Cap-Sizun.

So I went to the village during the morning, without my backpack, to get more food at the market.

Beuzec Cap-Sizun is a small village. It has a church, a cemetery, a school, a market, a bakery, a pub, a town hall, a town square, people riding on their bikes with baguettes in the front basket: everything that you would expect from a complete small village. In front of the church there was a monument to honour those who died in the two world wars and in Indochine. It counted fewer than 20 names, both civilians and combattants. There must be more cyclists going through the village in a day than people living in the village. There must be more people buried in the cemetery than people living in the village.

Anyways, I got to the village and went to the market. It was small, with very few options. I bought some fruits, yogurt, cereal bars, a canned ravioli, and one baguette. I was worried that it might not be enough food for the day, so I asked the cashier if there was any restaurant in the village: “non, pas du tout”.

I left the market and saw people washing the floors at the pub. I asked them for their WiFi password. They hesitated for a couple of seconds but ended up telling me the password.

I set in the town square and had breakfast: baguette, yogurt and fruits. The WiFi signal was still strong, so I checked up on what had happened in the world for the last few days. I checked the map for the next couple of days, finished my breakfast and headed back to pointe du Kastel Kos. On my way back, I saw a sign: Paella at the school, at noon, today. That was great, I had found food. I asked a couple of old ladies where the school was.

– The “fête de la musique” was yesterday, replied the first one.
– No, he wants to know where the school is, said the other one.
– Oh, go straight on the main street, and turn at the “rue de l’école”.

When I got to the school, the people there told me they would start serving at noon, and asked me if I had made reservations. I hadn’t, obviously, but I made it right away.

I came back at noon and was the first to be served. It looked like a parent-teachers meeting of some sort. Everyone knew each other, which is not so hard to imagine in such a small village.

The paella was good… And I filled my water bottles.

Day 3: 22/06

Day 3 started with a hunt for food. I woke up early, organized my backpack and took down my tent. I left my stuff under some trees and went to Beuzec Cap-Sizun looking for food. I bought some stuff on the market and had some paella in an event at the local school.

There were toilets near the parking place where I had camped. I realized I hadn’t showered nor changed clothes for two full days. Since there was a toilet nearby, I washed my clothes, my face, hair, and armpits using the sink. I left my clothes and towel drying on the tree right above where I had left my stuff.

Dry faster!
Dry faster!

While I was changing, I noticed something weird in my left thigh. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a tick! A fat, happy, and plumpy tick! How long had it been there? I don’t know. I pulled it out.

Now I was fed, partly washed, changed and ready to go. Another day in the sentier cotier towards the East.

Even though I woke up early, I started hiking late this day, because of the paella and the tick and the washing and the drying. Also because of a power nap after lunch =).

Even though I had eaten well – a lot of paella -, my muscles were much more tired than the 2 first days. I walked slower and stopped more frequently. Every time I had to go up a hill, I would take a 15 minute pause. After a while, every time I had to go down a hill, I knew it meant I would have to go up a hill later on, so I ended up pausing twice: once before going down and once before going up.

That's too far away. Can we take a break?
That’s too far away. Can we take a break?
Still too far. Can we take another break?
Still too far. Can we take another break?

The view was nice and I took some nice pictures, but I was going way too slow. I wanted to make it to Douarnenez that day, but after the sun set, at around 22h, I realized I wouldn’t make it.

Nice sunset. Are we getting close?
Nice sunset. Are we getting close?

It got dark, and I was in a really complicated part of the trail. The path was really narrow, I couldn’t see much ahead and around me, and I was misstepping a lot. Luckily, my boots saved my ankles a few times when I stepped nearly sideways. It was too dangerous to continue, specially along the cliffs, so I decided to turn away from the trail at the next way out. But I wasn’t close to any big way out.

Pointe the la Jument
Pointe the la Jument

The closest way out was the trail to Kergren. There was a motor home parking space waiting for me. But when I got to the way out, it was closed, along with a danger sign!

Kergren: Passage Interdit!
Kergren: Passage Interdit!

Google Maps didn’t say anything about the way being closed. OpenStreetMaps did, though. I guess I should have checked OpenStreetMaps more closely, instead of relying only on Google Maps.

Kergren passage in Google Maps
Kergren passage in Google Maps
Kergren passage in OpenStreetMaps
Kergren passage in OpenStreetMaps

I tried going around the danger sign and up the closed trail, but it was way too hard. There was a good reason for the trail being closed: it was steep without an easy path. I fell once, and decided to head back to the danger sign. It was dark, I was tired, and there was no easy place nearby to put up my tent.

So I just took out my sleeping bag and slept right there.

That looks like a good place to sleep...
That looks like a good place to sleep…

It wasn’t so bad, but it wasn’t so good either. I woke up with the sun the next day, at 5h something.

Day 2: 21/06

I woke up early on day 2. I organized my backpack, packed my tent (which incredibly did fit again inside its bag), and had breakfast.

Actually, I hadn’t really thought about breakfast. I just drank some water and ate two cereal bars, since I had plenty of them.

I stretched for about 15 minutes and then I was off towards the East again.

Early in the morning I met the first backpacker going in the opposite direction. It was the priest on his 15th day hiking. He said this stretch of the GR34 was the hardest part of the trail.

Much like the previous day, it was hot and sunny. The trail was hard like most of the previous day: going up and down hills, touring the coastline, crossing streams and criques. The view was awesome again.

My feet hanging off the cliff
My feet hanging off a cliff
Laetitia looking over a beautiful crique
Laetitia looking over a beautiful crique
Laetitia listening to the tiny stream
Laetitia listening to the tiny stream

At some point during the day I got off the trail to get some water in Kerisit. There was noone there, but I met an old breton called Clet, “just like the pope [Cletus]”. We spoke for some time. He told me people had lost their faith about 40 years ago, just like the priest had told me a while ago, and that if I went up to Kergulan I might find his cousin, who was 91 years old, to ask for water. He also said that if I met his cousin, I wouldn’t be able to leave his house for a couple of hours, because he really liked to chat. So I went to Kergulan, but I didn’t find his cousin, just a young lady feeding her baby. I filled my water bottles and went back to the trail, or so I thought I did.

I managed to take a wrong turn while going back. When I noticed I had taken a wrong turn, I decided to stop for a meal and for a power nap. The meal was the same as the previous day. I took out my sleeping bag and just rested under some trees until the sun calmed down a little. When I took off again, I decided to just keep going in the wrong direction and turn back later, instead of going back where I had come from.

I kept following the sentier cotier until the Pointe du Kastel Kos. It was getting cold and dark, so I decided to call it a day. There was a motor home parking place closeby, and I set up my tent, in 9 minutes this time.

Sunset from my tent
Sunset from my tent

That was another night well slept.

The first warm meal

In Day 1, I stopped at a picnic table to have my first warm meal.

I had tested the stove and the cannister the previous night – better late than never -, so I already knew how to get that working.

I made something that started out as a soup: I chopped off onions, garlic, potatoes and carrots in small pieces. I put them all in the pot, added some water, and lit up the stove with a lighter. It sounds like a jet engine burning.

When the water started boiling, I added some pasta. A few minutes later, the pasta seemed cooked and had sucked all the water, so it didn’t look like a soup anymore.

I turned off the stove, and added the most important ingredient of all: HUNGER

The first warm meal
The first warm meal

Even though there was no salt, nor any other spice, the meal tasted awesome. After eating, I was full of energy and ready to keep on walking…

Day 1: 20/06

I started my first day of hiking by taking a break. I had been dropped off close to the starting point in Pointe du Raz, but it was still about 15 min walking uphill. It was early afternoon, the sun was bright, it was hot, my backpack was heavy, my back was sore from a mild sunburn from the previous day, and I was already thirsty by the time I got to the top. I took some pictures with Laetitia, then I put down my backpack in the shade and rested for a few minutes.

There were a few tourists around, taking cliché pictures like the one below:

Laetitia looking away at Pointe du Raz. If you step on the tip of your toe and look far away, you can see New York. No, that's not true.
Laetitia looking away at Pointe du Raz. If you step on the tip of your toe and look far away, you can see New York. No, that’s not true.

There was a van taking people back and forth to the tourist shops about 1 km away. I walked to the tourist shops, filled my water bottle and grabbed a bite to eat. I walked back to my backpack and rested for a few more minutes, waiting for the sun to cool down a little.

Eventually, I set off towards the East.

Laetitia setting off from Pointe du Raz
Laetitia setting off from Pointe du Raz

Through the “sentier côtier”, I walked around in the rocks that make up the coastline in Britanny. The vegetation is mostly low brushes. The trails are very well waymarked and easy to follow. There are some big cliffs with an impressive view of the ocean.

After about half an hour walking, I got the Baie des Trespassés, the beach I had been to the previous day, where I got my mild sunburn. I stopped to fill my water bottle (again) and took the opportunity to say goodbye to my old shoes.

Good bye old shoes
Good bye old shoes

I was still carrying them around because I forgot to throw them away, but from now on I would only be using my hiking boots. I salvaged the laces, since they seemed like they could be of use later during the trip, and threw the shoes in a big bin.

I went up the hill again and continued on the trail. For some unknown reason, the trail skips over Pointe du Van, which was fine by me…

Along the way, there are some tiny “criques”, small beaches with big pebbles. The trail goes up and down from cliffs through rivers and criques. This constant up-and-down took a heavy toll on my unprepared legs. I got tired again quite fast.

I stopped frequently to listen to the birds, to the ocean, to the tiny streams, and to admire the view. Actually, I was tired all the time, I just used those reasons as excuses. And so, that way, I went throught Pointe de Castelmeur, and Pointe de Brézellec.

At some point close to Pointe de Castelmeur, there was a resting spot with a picnic table. Continuing the trail after that spot, there was a sign which indicated I was entering a natural reserve, along with the usual “no camping”, and “no fire” warnings. So I decided to go back to the picnic table and prepare my first warm meal.

I was now full of energy and ready to walk to Pointe du Penharn. The sun was now still somewhat bright, it was around 9 pm, but the temperature was much more pleasant. It was much more comfortable and I was walking faster, with fewer stops. I did stop for a while to watch the sun set in the ocean. The view was magnificent.

The sunset at Pointe du Quelquechose
The sunset at Pointe du Quelquechose

It didn’t take long before I reached the Pointe de Penharn. I didn’t quite reach the tip of Pointe, but I was tired and decided to go to the tip the next day. It was getting dark and I thought I would have a better of the ocean with sunlight. I found a spot close to the trail next to a field that looked good, so I decided to set up my tent. The guy at the tourist office in Point-Croix said that it was forbidden to camp out anywhere, or “camping sauvage” as they call it, but that in Brittany nobody cared.

I had never set up the new tent before, but the salesman set it very quickly in the store, so it should be easy, right?

Luckily, it was indeed easy. It took me 10 minutes to set it up, and that was it. I was ready to call it a day and happy to have made it through, although I was quite tired. That was a night well-slept.

Day 0: 19/06

On my last day before I started hiking, I went to the beach with my CouchSurfing host. It was the Baie des Trépassés, close to Pointe du Raz, where I would start hiking the next day.

Laetitia looking over the Baie des Trépassés
Laetitia looking over the Baie des Trépassés

It was a warm day and the sun was nice. The water was cold, but I went in just to get my feet wet anyways.

Gettin my feet wet at the beach. Laetitia didn't want to go in the water.
Gettin my feet wet at the beach. Laetitia didn’t want to go in the water.

There were few people at the beach. Some playing with their dogs, others playing in the water, and one playing with his dog in the water.

There was a group of retired people eating baguettes and tuna. They had a hiking guide. Right after they finished eating, they all took out their walking sticks and followed their guide. They didn’t have backpacks with them. “That was easy”, I thought to myself.

There were a few ruins that were probably from World War II. Whenever I see ruins made of concrete that look military in one way or another, I assume they’re from World War II.

And that was my day at the beach. I got a very mild sunburn, but it was already better a couple of days later.

Walking by night

I have always loved walking by night in the city. There is no noise from cars, business, construction works, or the blender at the far end of a juice shop. There is no sun to burn your skin or make you squinch your eyes to see ahead of you. The weather is nice. There’s only you, some random people, nearly empty streets, and a few night guards watching television.

You can walk for hours on end, digesting thoughts that couldn’t be dealt with during the day: there was too much distraction. You are free to walk wherever you want and think whatever you want.

Gear: the hiking boots

If there’s one thing that I have learned from my previous hiking experiences, it’s that the footwear is really important. You use them throughout your entire time while hiking. So, this time, I didn’t want to go cheap on the boots.

First, I went to a simple Outdoors store. There were a lot of options for footwear and I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t even know my shoe size. The salesman helped me find out my shoe size, so that cut down my choices to a specific shoe size. But there were still too many options.

The next day, I went to a different store: CAMP4. There were fewer options, but the salesmen really helped me find a goot boot. At first, I said I wanted a hiking shoe, not a boot, since I only planned on doing easy trails. After a few try-outs, we found a good pair of shoes. By “good”, I mean one that doesn’t let my foot slip at the heel, since that would cause horrible blisters, and one in which my toes don’t touch the tip on the inside, not even when going downhill.

But then I got curious, whether I should get that low-cut shoe or look for a high-cut boot. The salesman said I should get high-cut if I wanted to go on rough terrain, do moderate trails with hills, or if I didn’t exercise routinely and my feet were unprepared for hiking. That last option sound exactly like me, so I decided to check the tougher boots.

I tried some leather boots, which fit quite nicely. The salesman suggested I try another pair of boots, not made of leather, but made with GoreTex. They were 50% more expensive than the leather boots, and somewhat over my budget. He insisted I at least try them on for comparison.

As soon as my right foot was in the first boot, it felt so comfortable that Ipaused for a while and closed my eyes. I imagined myself hiking non-stop with those boots. Then I put my left foot in the second boot, tied the knots, and walked a bit around the store: it felt like walking on pure cotton. I have never walked on pure cotton, but that’s what I imagine it must feel like.

Screw the budget, I would cut it somewhere else.

So that’s the tale of how I got my Meindl Vakuum.