Let me share with you a moment that I will never forget in Spain. Pyrenees Mountains, those that border Spain and France. I wanted to experience the rewarding feeling of being 2800m in altitude, in the clouds and looking at the beautiful scenery. Be careful what you wish for because “my wish was someone’s command!”
I started my hike in the mountain, following the narrow path. I was instructed to always stay on path and in case I was lost to follow the flag located above the hostel. About 20 minutes in, I saw a river resting amid by the magnificent mountains. I decided to descent the mountain I was on, to fill my water bottle but once I was down, I looked over and I saw a path on the other side. So I ponder a while whether or not I should cross and find the courage to do so as well. The current was strong but I wanted more than anything to be on the other side and continue my journey to the peak of the mountain. I was determined. I saw the path, I was so close yet so far and there was no other way but to cross the damn river. Fortunately, I landed confidently on the firm trusted ground once more. Here I go, one step in front of the other, I could feel the air becoming thinner and my walk becoming slightly wobbly due to the change of altitude.
At last, I make it to the top and reward myself with a candy that I really relished while enjoying the astonishing beauty I was surrounded by. Unfortunately, It wasn’t long until I realize that the clouds were moving in quickly so I started making my way down not paying attention to the fact that I was no longer on a path which made my descent that much more rocky. It was a race against mother nature.
“Ain’t got time for that!”
All I knew was, you need to find the river, cross the damn river again and you’ll be fine”. So I made it to the river but this time I was much higher up and there was a patch of snow layering the part of the stream I had to get over. I could see steps but they were not human steps, they were wolf’s steps and I knew that because I had seen remains of food, bones a little earlier.
I looked around me, looking for some rocks that were heavy enough that could somewhat represent my weight so that I could pitch it and see if the snow was sturdy enough to hold my weight. Unfortunately the rocks were not heavy enough and it was cold, I couldn’t risk walking on the snow path and being caught in the current so I walked down the river and when I found a spot with enough rocks to hop them, I gathered my balls once again and I fearfully traversed. But the heart palpitating moments did not stop here.
There was no path on the other side so I had no choice to hike the steep mountain on my hands and knees until I made it to a man made path. I was exhausted, cold, frightened and all alone. I thought I was out of danger but with the temperature dropping almost 10 degrees since the start of my descent and no visibility… the worse had yet to begun. I had to call the hostel and ask them to come find me. Juan confidently said, “I know where you are, I’ll be there soon”. I called him 20 minutes later and he said, “Did you hear me scream your name?” I said “no”. He asked me if I crossed the river and I said yes and then he said, “we need to call fire rescue.” Shortly after I receive a text message from a fire rescue team asking me for my coordinates. Now I don’t know how I had reception but thank god I did. I googled my location and one of the links indicated I was in Ontario. “Do you know how f****n far away I am from Ontario GPS, I’m in EUROPE! At least get the continent right!” I googled another link cynical of the first result I got.
At this point, I had to make a “do or die decision”. If I waited for fire rescue, given the temperature and visibility, they would’ve had to come by foot. Now that’s if I got them the right coordinates, maybe 45 minutes which was enough time to develop early signs of hypothermia. I was already shivering and staying still waiting around in 2600m of altitude, in mild rain and cold weather just sounded like a bad idea.
It was the hardest decision I have ever made because I was leaving the location of rescue to go somewhere that I didn’t know whether I was digging my own grave deeper in the Pyrenees or to the contrary find a path that would lead me to the hostel. So I grabbed trees branches, rocks, anything I could find that was solid and just climbed. Rocks were falling between my legs in the emptiness, branches breaking and my heart palpitating … I was holding on to my dear life. I was talking to myself out loud because I was my only source of support. 20-25 minutes later (which felt like an eternity), I finally hear someone screaming my name, I hear a whistle and with my last bit of breath I scream “ Over hereeee!” I couldn’t see him because of the visibility but I followed the sound of his voice with the little push I had until I finally saw Juan.
I had never been so happy to see someone in my life. We called off fire rescue that still wanted to come see me because I was told, I was in a winter storm but I thankfully declined. Juan rushed me inside, I took a hot shower and here I was looking down my naked body and all I could see are cuts, bruises, and swollen parts.
Flashbacks started coming back to me of moments I hit my legs while climbing, my arms when I fell on them and branches who ripped through my clothes. In the moment while in the mountains, because of all the adrenaline that kept me going, “the survival mode”, my mind could not comprehend anything else but “DON’T STOP, KEEP GOING!”
It was once I was in the shower and that I could see the injuries that I started to feel the pain. Juan gathered his first aid kit, warm covers, hot water and lemon. We used the lemon to rub my hands that were irritated, itchy and inflamed by all the wild plants I touched.
Here’s a picture of what I woke up to.
It was a rough night and an even rougher day but the moral of my story is by trusting my instincts, trusting my inner voice, I made it. My inner voice saved me and it just never seemed to deceive me. Next time your inner voice speaks to you, listen to it, trust it, you are one with your body and if you just work together instead of overpowering with thoughts, you may just discover something beautiful. You see I truly believe that my journey in the Pyrenees taught me that It was ok to be vulnerable.
I used to think that strength was putting a strong front, show no negative emotions and always smile to whatever life would put it my way. Showing strength, hard work and determination was what I thought inspired people but as I started to unbuckle my armor and share my most vulnerable moments, people approached me with more ease. I realized that showing the “undefeated invisible image of you” is in fact what intimidates and in fact keeps people from opening up to you. Being real is showing that you are vulnerable, showing that you just like me, are human beings striving to make it through the obstables of life. That my friends, is the true definition of strength.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” Brene Brown