Updated: Sep 23
Following on from the last feast, day 11, Thursday, 18th April 2013
The Col du Somport, 1 hour
Photo: the start of the Cold du Somport basin, time 15:48
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
When a zebra runs from a lion, it isn’t having an existential panic attack, it’s running because there is a real and very present danger of being shredded. I think we have all experienced the fight or flight response to a scary predicament. It is odd how people don’t mention the third option, the stand still and poo yourself option. However, the unique pain of being able to contemplate our demise and absence from the future is reserved entirely for the human species, a sort of cosmic dubble bubble.
My first out of four close up and personal brushes with death was on me quicker than a charging cow. It was in fact, a charging cow which I managed to body swerved with a tin foil width of air as a safety margin. The second time was a simple dip in the Indian Ocean. One moment splashing around, the next, being spun round and round, like a pair of underpants in a washing machine. Literally, just seconds. The wave would throw me onto the beach and drag me clawing the sand back into the maelstrom. Without my brother, I would have drowned, for certain.
The third time I was watching events unfold slowly around me. I was crossing the Col du Somport, in the Pyrenees (click for R.I.P.). A “col” is the lowest point between summits, this col was like walking along the bottom of a giant soup bowl. Snow-capped mountain tops in front and to the side. I was very aware of the weather changing. Slowly at first but gathering pace as the minutes ticked by. The blue sky churns to white, and the wind picks up and chills down. I knew these signs, it meant rain or more probably at this height, snow. I guessed I had maybe an hour to get through the col to the safety of the road but it all changed, so quickly.
My life choices became to stay still and die or walk and live … maybe.
I was lucky, lucky for all the reasons which allowed me to walk out but more importantly, lucky I was in the situation in the first place. Too much of our modern living is about mitigating risk or even avoiding it altogether. We put up with soul-destroying jobs, toxic relationships, and damaging habits out of fear. We say "no" when we should say "yes" because we fear change “better the devil you know …”. We say “yes” when we want to say “no” because we fear people’s bad opinion. We say exchange quantity for quality but do little with the extra time. We wish for adventure but without risk, which is basically an amusement park, and then we wonder why we feel unfulfilled.
Photo: the last two hundred meters across the border to the Tobazo Hotel
As I walked towards the last 200 meters across the border to the hostel Tobazo, I knew my life had changed.
Photo: my rather hilariously sunburned face after the days traumatic events