Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Tibidabo from behind - a very welcome sight!

One of my favourite pastimes is walking. It’s an agreeable, physically stimulating exercise which gives one time for thought (or debate, if you’re not alone). So it was with this in mind that I set out at midday today, to walk from Cerdanyola to Barcelona. Solo.

It’s a walk I’ve done several times in a group, and it involves walking out of our front door and ending up at Tibidabo. I’m not sure about the distance but I reckon it’s about 18km – pretty short really. The route takes you across the Parc de la Collserola, the green, forested ridge behind Barcelona, and offers stunning views and lots of nature to see.

I divide the route into 3 unequal parts. The first part takes you from my street via the headquarters of the Catalan handball team, into the Collserola and eventually the picnic area at Can Coll. This part is hard in the sense that you’re just getting into the swing of things. There are a couple of steep hills that never fail to make me feel knackered, but there are also some amazing views of unspoiled forest, as well as lots of flora and fauna. Today I saw a butterfly which was significantly bigger than my hand. It scarpered too fast for a photo, unfortunately.

The second part of the walk is by far the hardest. It takes you to Can Borell, an old fashioned Catalan restaurant (the path actually leads through a dining area!). And then (after a weird sort of zoo in the middle of nowhere), you have the biggest uphill/downhill part of the walk. I had to get a stick to clear undergrowth and brambles on the decent; it was really hard work. Finally, I stood looking up at the path cleared for electricity pylons before me. The ascent (believe me, it warrants the name) is a steep hill consisting solely of rock: I considered turning back but decided to press on. No point, you see.

At the top, where even in May or October, I feel hot and tired, I realised that I was certainly beginning to suffer from heat exhaustion. I was out of breath, nauseous and my pulse was very high. It was at this point that I decided to break away from the path in order to find a shortcut (rather than do yet another descent/ascent as the path dictated). As I broke away from the path, I saw that the forest creates a lot of shade! I picked the nearest spot and sort of collapsed. Actually, it wasn’t so much a collapse as a very fast, arbitrary lie-down. I actually wanted to call my wife and let her know that I was potentially in trouble but I couldn’t even speak. Besides, I was lying under a bush in the middle of Collserola: who could help me, anyway?

When I picked myself up, I felt terrible. I considered throwing up but I didn’t want to waste any fluids, or throw up. I pressed on with my made-up shortcut and within minutes found that I was on the right path! I probably cut half an hour off my walk, and probably avoided a very embarrassing and potentially lethal dose of heat stroke. Yay!

The 3rd and final part of the walk is much easier, but always goes on for longer than expected (all walks end like this, though, really). You hit the path for Tibidabo very quickly, and after a lot of twists and turns, you cross a beautiful viaduct. My trusty hat (which I credit along with my stick, my iPod, my choice to find a shortcut and my body, for saving my life), chose this moment to blow off my head and sail down under the viaduct. so I had to get it (honour trumps all), and pretty much crossed the valley, negating the need for the viaduct.

The rest of the story is pretty simple. I got to the drinking fountain just before Tibidabo and moaned ecstatically as I doused myself with cold tap water. I filled my belly and my bottle with cold water. Then I got to Tibidabo and stopped at a bar for a beer and some more water. There are few things that have tasted better in my life than the ice-cold Voll Damm I had at that bar. I was a mess. Stinking, covered in earth from my very fast lie-down, cut by bramble and thorn, I didn’t cut a very heroic figure. But I felt great. I had beaten the mountain. Sure, I’d nearly killed myself, but isn’t that what being 27 is all about?

Moral of the story: Noel Coward had a point. That walk is far more enjoyable in May or October. But nowhere near as rewarding.

UPDATE: some pictures of my trek can be seen here.

4 thoughts on “Mad Dogs and Englishmen

  1. The dangers of going walking without sufficient water! I like the idea of the “very fast lie down”, as a pre-collapse stage. presumably you went walking because its faster than going by train these days?

  2. Ha! Yeah funnily enough, it took me 3 1/2 hours to get there walking and about 2 1/2 hours to get back from Tibidabo to Cerdanyola.

    I took 1.5 litres of water but clearly that wasn’t enough for August.

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