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IT WAS QUITE AN ADVENTURE!
"An adventurer at heart" it was all well and good talking about it but I also needed to prove it! What better way of realizing your dream than to go hiking with friends, setting off to explore new horizons with your backpack, tent and sleeping bag. 21-year-old female student from Lille: it's exactly what I wanted when I came to do my placement in the mountains.
I bet you're wondering how I found myself loaded up like a mule, running around on Alpine mountain paths?
It's very simple: I was asked to go bivouacking (something I'd never heard of) and because any new experience can be valuable, I set off to find out.
But what is a bivouac? It's a temporary, outdoor camp. Bivouacking involves setting up camp in the evening and then taking it down the next day (at sunrise.)
The most difficult thing was taking the bare minimum without forgetting the essentials. I didn't know anything about it and wasn't equipped so my first instinct was to ask around for basic equipment like a tent, mattress, sleeping bag and backpack. Then I had to think about the essentials: toothbrush, weather-appropriate clothing, an external battery pack so I wouldn't miss a shot, and something to eat and drink.
Any type of camping involves hiking; after all, let's not forget that when I set out to go bivouacking, it was my own two legs—not a car—that got me all the way to the camping site.
When you come to the first hill climbs, that's when the preparatory stage of packing your backpack becomes really important... and that's when I regretted taking too many biscuits because I was worried about dying of hunger in the middle of nowhere.
But the hard work eventually paid off; the countryside, with its infinitely varied landscapes, gradually came into view and we finally caught sight of the small hamlet where we were going to spend the night!
At long last, it was the moment we'd all been waiting for when we could put down our belongings and start building our own little home.
Rather surprisingly, despite the age-old clichés, pitching a tent isn't rocket science. Instructions in one hand, eyes closed, standing on one foot... and my tent was up!
No, it wasn't a 2-second tent... nice try. But I was very proud that I'd managed to put up my hoop tent in 10 minutes with the help of my sleeping companion.
Then it was off to find wood to make a fire. OK, we let the boys deal with that but next time I'll make that my aim.
Pitching near a stream would prove to be a practical and strategic choice when it came to cooling off and doing the washing up.
To my great surprise, the site, which was quite well known to the other campers and hikers, was very well maintained from an environmental point of view; it would seem that respect for nature really is all the rage.
Let me inspire you: imagine yourself stretched out under a starry sky, looking for constellations, enjoying a great evening of games, music and roasted marshmallows!
A pesto-pasta based feast for the girls and freeze-dried food for the boys. The length of time they took to prepare was obviously different but each to his own. I didn't know anything about dehydrated food but it does have the advantage of being useful for camping.
For me, the best thing was the human dimension. Establishing friendships, getting to know people, finding out about other people's experiences, methods of camping and physical fitness levels was very rewarding and meant that I really enjoyed the trip.
What you have to remember is that however difficult things get, there's always a solution. Adversity strengthens relationships, is a great source of hilarity and, most of all creates memories...
The night time toilet trips will remain forever etched in my memory.
What about you? Where will you take us? I hope that I've inspired you to take off, experience the joy of living in the moment and enjoy the beautiful nature that surrounds us. See you soon for some new adventures!