I’m currently in the midst of figuring out my next adventure. The style of travel I usually undertake (travelling with a rucksack using trains and coaches as a means of transportation) is not enough to fulfil my thirst for accomplishment and experience on the road. I’ve played around with the idea of cycling or getting a driver’s licence, but why not just use my own two feet? Isn’t that what they’re there for in the first place?
This thought process led to months of curiosity and research into solo hiking and wild camping – a form of travel I’ve never experienced, nor previously considered. What could be better than walking, getting off the beaten track, exploration, solitude, struggle, nature, a sense of accomplishment and trying to survive in the wilderness, all in one? I guess I’m yet to find out, but I better not over-romanticise it too soon. It could turn out to be a complete disaster.
Through research, I’ve found a potential location that’s caught my interest and might make for a good first overnight hike. The Calanques National Park in Bouches-du-Rhône, southern France – a wild and rugged terrain stretching along the coast between Marseille and Cassis. The park is home to Europe’s largest snakes, rabbits, foxes, wild boar, the Bonelli’s eagle, the Peregrine falcon, the eagle owl and the Ocellated lizard. The only problem is, I’m scared shitless of most animals. All the more reason to go and overcome my fear, I guess.
It’s illegal to wild camp or bivouac in the Calanques – the area is closely monitored and can result in a large fine if caught. There’s also no available source of drinking water, other than to detour out of the park itself. Another risk is that in summer, the area is regulated and can sometimes be closed down due to risk of forest fire. The unforgiving sun, the heat and lack of shade can pose as a call for alarm as well.
After assessing the risks and hazards, I’ve decided I want to go ahead and pursue the hike anyway. I’ve gotten far too emotionally invested to turn back now. Therefore, I’m all in – heart and soul. It might not be the easiest first hike in the world, but I’m sure it’ll be a good one.
I fly to Marseille on June 17th (with 3 weeks booked off work). My current plan is to hike from Marseille to Cassis (and maybe La Ciotat) following the GR 51-98 trail. I want to sleep under the stars for just a night or 2, then escape without leaving a trace and keeping the environment in-tact. After that, well it’s up for grabs, but I want to go to Nice and walk the Nietzsche path, and explore the villages beyond. Then I’ll probably meet my girlfriend in Italy (who’ll be undertaking her first solo backpacking adventure). We’ve got one place in mind we’d like to see together, and that’s Cremona, Italy – a city known for its violin-making heritage.
“Whatever happens, happens” – Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop.