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If you sleep outside in the hammock – and it is not winter – the daylight wakes you up much earlier than if you´re sleeping in a house. But just like in your bed, it is pleasant to doze off a little longer into the day 😉
If, like me that night, you sleep near a drivable road, you will also hear a few cars in the morning. So it is worth looking for a quieter place for a few more minutes, but in my case the vegetation was so thin that I was glad to find 2 trees standing close enought together to set up the hammock!
I am fast to pack my stuff by now. With a few routine movements everything disappears quickly into my beloved backpack, the Osprey Argon 70.
Swinging my feet over the edge of my hammock, putting socks and shoes on. I put my socks over the shoes by night so that no animals can crawl into them. The traces of snails on the socks show that the trick works.
Sleeping bag stuffed into his bag, matress rolled up; the hammock and mosquito net hung down, the quick release clamps used for hanging into the `suspension bag`, eating a banana and I am allready on my way towards the next mountain range.
It is the beginning of October and I am a few kilometers south of Marseille, where some a few hundred meter high mountain ranges rise right next to the sea.
The classic trees in this area are pines. Their red-gray bark is deeply furrowed, the stems towering high or curved into bizarre shapes, they are wearing evergreen needles.
The vegetation under the pines is mostly flat, with thin leaves due to the heat, bearing thorns.
The faint smell of rosemary and oregano … whie lying heavy in the air in summer, now it´s only like a far memory.
While the Alps can often be seen in dark shades, the colors of the stones, rocks and mountains here range from white to light gray to yellow and orange.
And there are crystals here too!
I like to go off the beaten track. Small trails can be found even in the most remote areas, or maybe especially there. When the terrain becomes more difficult, you can usually only guess a path where the vegetation is a bit sparse.
My guess is this:
The resident animals have often been there all their lives. Their intuition draws on all of their accumulated experience in this area, together with instincts that have been refined over millions of years, and this allows them to quickly find the safest and most efficient path in a certain area of terrain.
And you can see that.
Sprouting plants are trodden down again and again, stones slip out of the way, rainfalls may send masses of water on similar paths towards the sea.
If a creature (take me as an example) comes by that neither has access to local epigenetics nor has spent half of its life in the wild (a pity actually), it can guess where you can move around quickly by scanning for tracks.
Now I have already spent some time and a few hundred kilometers (or thousands? Probably not yet …) on unpaved roads, and was able to gain a lot of experience – but little in Mediterranean terrain, and so this excursion was a warm welcome exchange from the time in the big city of Marseille, which I will tell more about another time.
Apart from the urge to move through nature well-soled and packed with a backpack, the wide sky above my head, I wanted to see crystals in their natural habitat and start another try at my previously completely unsuccessful fishing attempts.
For both of these things, it seemed best to me to explore a hard accessible stretch of coast.
Both crystals and fish are more likely to be found where you don’t see a lot of people, I thought to myself.
My route was to cross the ridge next to a much visited bay and to descend the slopes to the sea.
I followed a well-trodden path. He writhed up the mountain, and while the plants initially offered a lot of space, they soon starting leaning in, then blocking the way.
This is where it starts to be really fun.
Most hikers have already turned back here.
Those who go further are mostly mountaineers whose precautions for climbing are often seen embedded in concrete in the rock massifs; Hunters whose plastic casings left from shooting I have to collect far too often from the ground; Backcountry backpackers who like to see places far away from the tourist meccas.
Striding forward on impassable and unfamiliar terrain, I’m soon wet with sweat. In these latitudes, the sun still has some power in autumn.
At this stage of movement, hardly a thought comes to my mind.
The vertical meters cost your legs strength. Every breath pumps precious air into the lungs, the rising and falling chest presses against the straps of the backpack.
Every step has to be right. My eyes ceaselessly scan the ground for the next place to put my foot safely.
I find it fascinating how intensely the mountains put me in the moment that is just happening.
If you fall, the game is over – even if you survive, you will likely break some bones that will make your way back to civilization no fun.
I did´t fall; Standing on the ridge I was overlooking the area.
In my immediate vicinity I saw shapes in the rock that caught my attention. The first beautiful crystals in the rock!
To my left is a bay with gently sloping slopes, a small settlement and a small harbor. To the Right the wilderness. I turned right.
Anyone who has already been in the mountains knows: going downhill can be more strenuous than uphill, both physically and mentally. Each step down involves a momentum of all of your weight and the downward speed that your thighs must support. And while you often feel your way uphill with your hands, you do it the other way around with your feet.
After an estimated 200 meters downhill I was near the sea and was able to see the rock formations near the water for the first time.
The mountain range fell towards the sea, steeper and steeper, until the last 10 meters were practically perpendicular to the waves.
Well, now I also knew why nobody comes here to fish!
Leaving my pack tucked securely behind a rock, I grabbed my fishing rod and began looking for a safe way down.
The wind swept around my ears and mingled with the sound of the waves crashing against the stone. Slowly, meter by meter, I climbed towards the water.
Now I was on a huge, flat rock, inclined 45 ° forward.
I looked carefully where I could go further. Hmmm … possible, but certainly not safe.
“… this is crazy!” went through my head.
I had maneuvered myself into a dead end and the smartest decision was to meet the sea somewhere other than the bottom of a cliff 3 seconds after slipping.
I climbed back to my backpack and looked around again.
Imagine a starfish viewed from above. The individual arms are the rock massifs that slide out into the sea. I was between two arms near the center and had to cross one arm to get to the next bay.
The terrain allowed me to complete the maneuver in about half an hour.
The last 20 meters towards the sea demanded me to climb again, but on a completely different and for me doable level.
When the sea was finally almost within my grasp, I saw how sharp the rock was shaped. So sharp that you could literally cut yourself open on it.
I stepped near the edge and looked down into the sea; there were a lot of fish. I also saw surprisingly large ones, and my first feeling was that I didn’t want to drag them ashore and kill them …
However, I had already eaten some fish in Marseille and I am firmly convinced that you should not eat anything you cannot catch and kill yourself!
So I threw out my fishing rod and tried (quite patiently, as I thought) with blinkers and wobblers. I didn’t have a good bait for normal hooks with me, that would probably have been the best option.
I will write another time about fishing and my experiences with it. For this time it is enough to know that I was unsuccessful (once again).
I was still concerned with the question about how cold the sea was at that time, and I was attracted by the challenge of the second question, how I could get back into my shoes with 10 toes after bathing despite these razor-sharp stones.
First: Cold, but comfortable after a tough hike
Second: slowly, carefully, and not without cuts.
The sun was already well above the zenith, twilight would begin in about 2 hours.
I made my way back; The ascent to the summit was another hour of sweaty work that I enjoyed doing.
If you should ever go to Marseille, I can recommend a visit to the “parc national des Calanques” and the surrounding area 🙂 Good shoes and, if you want to go off the beaten track, strong pants should be with you!
Best sunny greetings from the south! 🙂
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