Off the tracks

After traveling 4 months, I finally had a place to stay. It was such a great feeling to take a break, have a place where I could cook, invite friends over, play music and just relax a bit.

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Everyday, I more or less woke up with the sun hitting my face in my cabin (around 8) and would swim in the ocean to get a fresh start. Then, I would just go to Sailor’s bay (the main bar) and speak with local sailors and play guitar with them.

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Fred, one of the first sailors I met here !

Then I would buy vegetables from the local market and cook nice meals to share with friends like good old Lucas.

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And swim again, speak with other sailors and invite friends for the night 😉

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or just go out with some others friends 😉

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I also became pretty close with neighbors (they were amazing cookers) and spent a long time with them !

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Concerning my research I could not find anything new.
However, I really started to know people and eventually found jobs. I was helping sailors who needed a hand for maintenance and cleaning. It was easy money and I was learning more about the sailing world.
No matter what happened, every night I would come back to the boat and invite my friends for dinner. I could not believe how much I missed cooking !

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Whereas we were drinking coffee with Lukas, we met Luis, another boat hitchhiker. As he did not know where to sleep I hosted him a couple of days (and also because he had such a cool acoustic guitar).

DSC_5151.JPGAnyway, after one week of this cool life, I finally had the big news that was going to change my whole travel !

Serge, a professional conveyor, was looking for a crew member for an Atlantic crossing. He heard about me and contacted me through his friends, who happened also to be mine. All of them strongly advised me to go with him since he is such a great expert and had sailed all over the world.
I finished my glass of wine and walked to Serge’s pier with excitement… It appeared I also knew him.

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We spoke around some rum to get to know each other. I loved him straight away. I don’t know if it was about the Led Zeppelin music playing in the background or his relax attitude but I had a good feeling. Indeed, we spoke one hour without even mentioning why I was here.

At some point, he finally explained a bit more about his plans.
He knew someone from Belgium who had a 42 feet sailboat in Martinique and who wanted to sell it back in Europe. However, that person did not want to sail himself from Martinique to Belgium and hired Serge to do the crossing.
Serge just needed crew members (insurance policies).
He proposed me to go with him from Martinique to Belgium via the Azores for a 6/7 weeks journey.
We would leave beginning of May from Las Palmas, fly to Martinique and arrive in Belgium in July. I wouldn’t have to pay for the flight and would just share food expenses. He would teach me everything he knew about sailing.

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Well, it’s true I was still looking for a transatlantic but this was the wrong sense !
Moreover, if I went, I would come back even further from where I started my world trip. That did not make much sense to me.
However, (after some rum) I thought a bit more about it and I could see it in a brighter side. Indeed :

  • I did not have so much plans until the Atlantic crossing season (October).
  • I would learn how to sail with a true professional.
  • This sailing route is way much more interesting as the weather is challenging.
  • I would be back in Europe in June which still gave me 3 months to come back to the Canaries islands until the Atlantic crossing season is on.
  • It would give me a lot of experience which would help me find a boat more easily in October.
  • And damn ! I would do a FULL ocean crossing (back and forth) instead of one single way… How cool ?!

Since we were leaving in 3 weeks, I decided to use my legs as much as possible and hike the whole island.
To celebrate this amazing news, I launched a last party on the boat with my friends who were available.

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I was honored to be with Lucas, Luis, Krystina, Marc and Alba visiting from Spain.

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We were just supposed to have dinner but we spoke all night long. We stayed on board with Luis and just played guitar just to finish it softly…

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In the morning, we cleaned the boat and closed it. I truly felt like I could have not ended my time here in a better way. It was so good to put my backpack on my back again…

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I still did not know at that time but I was about to witness some of the most beautiful sunsets of my life over the following days…

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Finally, just before leaving Las Palmas, I came to a restaurant where I ordered some burgers. When I went to pay, the waiter told me that Spanish group close to me paid my dinner… I could not believe it ! I had barely spoken with them.
I felt I had to speak with the waiter. He was from Cuba and gave my his family contact that I had to visit when I’d be there + Cuban pesos to buy me a nice cigar !

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Next morning, I started my trip inside the land and joined my friends. They wanted to start the first hike together. We drove a couple of miles on the way to Agaete, the northern part of the island.

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We found a hike leading to a small hidden beach where we spent most of the afternoon…

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After swimming, relaxing and sleeping a bit, it was time for them to leave. We could have gone much longer together but unfortunately, not everyone had as much time as I had.

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Being alone in the wilderness for 2 weeks… I had no idea of what to expect so as usual I just made the first step and kept going.

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Turned out that it was the perfect timing to see the sunset. For the first time, I could see the island of Tenerife floating over the horizon.

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And when the sun went down, I could clearly look at the highest volcano from the Canaries, el Teide (around 3000m).

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As I gave my tent to Tufik (a Moroccan friend), I just slept with a small mattress and my sleeping bag under the stars.
I knew there was nothing dangerous around but when I started to hear nature noise I became a bit nervous. Indeed, there were birds and some other animals making such crazy sounds that were really unusual for me. Fortunately, since I can’t hear anything on my left ear, I just slept on my right. Problem solved.

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A bit of stretching to start the day…

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I walked the whole morning on the way to Tejeda, a village lost in the middle of the island.

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Gran Canaria is a volcanic island and has thousands of small caves. That’s cool because as there are not that much trees, it gives you shade to relax.

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The one thing I loved the most about hiking was just showering in any waterfalls.

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The more I went up, the more trees started to appear.

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But I was still too far to enjoy their shades. I left the track and climbed a bit to reach this amazing cave where I finished my night.

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The landscape changed all of the sudden and I felt I was back in the Alps.

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I had not met anyone and suddenly I encountered Canaries people all around. They were all celebrating and invited me to share dinner with them.

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I walked a bit more and settled my camp under trees and just felt asleep around 8pm.
I started to get that new natural rhythm. I was just living with the sun. At 6am, I was already up full of energy.

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As I was going inland, the landscape started to change and become drier. Canyons and high picks replaced trees. Far away, I could see one of the highest cliff of Gran Canaria, Roque Nueblo (on the left).

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That day I did not meet anyone.

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In the evening, I found another nice place to gaze at the night sky. I put my camp on top of a cliff dominating the city of Tejeda.

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I did a bit of climbing and found a nice view to meditate.

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I followed the cliff until Tejeda and finally reached the city where I could get food and water… it was clearly needed.

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I was getting closer to the Roque Nueblo pick… I could not wait until I would get on top. However, as it was a foggy day I decided to wait and changed my plans. I would only climb it when I would get perfect weather.

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As I was going down the street, I heard someone calling “Arthur” !
I thought I heard it wrong. How could someone here know me ?
Well, Gran Canaria is a small island… I met my friend Julien from the port who was hiking here too with a nice girl from Canada.

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Around 4 pm, I hit the road again and asked for water in a house nearby. One more time, I was invited for lunch and even for sleep over. People from the Canaries are the nicest !
I just took the water as did not want to disturb or stay too long…

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So I kept walking with a fresh can of tropical beer… Gracias hombres.

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I left the Roque Nueblo and promised I would climb it when the good time would present.

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I went down almost 800m this afternoon.

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And found a nice flat ground to sleep !

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Over the horizon, I could see the sea coming back.

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I really started to feel so well in the wilderness.. life is just so simple and pure.

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Living with the sun was the best rhythm. I woke up with the morning light and witnessed a spectacular sunrise.

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I walked to the nearest village (el Carrizal, 20 people).

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and knocked on a door to refill my bottles.

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I met Pepe y Teresa who were living in a cave (with all modern comfort) ! We enjoyed breakfast together as I had so many questions to ask them about this cool lifestyle.

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I learnt a couple of days later that this day was the warmest one of the year so far… Walking here costed me 1L of water / hour !

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I walked for 5 hours and accidentally found an artificial lake where I could just wash and cool down…

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I just jumped inside all dressed. Laundry done !

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I spent the afternoon in San Nicolas de La Aldea, bought some food and went on the way to la playa de Gui Gui !

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I had heard about it through locals. It’s a “secret” beach you can only access by foot. There was only 2 ways to get there. I took the long one (7 hours)…

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That trail was not easy and went very high. I was however lucky to climb it under the shade and even luckier to arrive on top for the sunset…

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Cool still on the track.

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Once again I was completely alone.

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The view was so fantastic that I decided to sleep on the top of that mountain and found the perfect place… A CAVE !!

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The access was horrible and it took me some time to figure out how to climb it with my backpack. But damn, once inside, the view was fantastic !

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And slowly the sun went down… No one, no noise, nothing.

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In the end, it was a very quiet and a well-rested night for a cave.

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But I was full of dirt and sand… it was really time to rush to take a swim in la playa de Gui-Gui !

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I had been walking in the shades most of the way but around 10 am, the sun went up and started to hit hard. The landscape here was so arid.

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I don’t know if I mentioned what I was eating. Well, it’s important because this whole hike was revolving around food. I was constantly eating.
In my backpack I had a lot of different food but the main base was composed of… Tortillas ! It was cheap and so compact. I was eating 500g a day !

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A lot of sweat later, I finally reached the beach…

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That place was out of this world. The sand was black and so tiny… the beach was therefore so soft and warm.

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I found a nice area to sleep and play guitar.

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The sunset came…

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There was no network, no house and we were only 4 people for the whole beach.

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The sky was clear – there was no light pollution.

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Just when I ended the hike, I met Azoze and his friend from Switzerland.
They were about to hike and we made our backpacks lighter by sharing some food  🙂

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Then I went to the southern point of my travel, the city of Mogan. It was 20 km by foot. I was kind of lucky because the weather was cloudy and protected me from the sun.

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All vegetation made me think I was in Mexico. It’s incredible how Gran Canaria can have such a diverse environment.

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For the first time in the week, I had so much energy that I could have walked the whole day. I watched the dark sunset from the mountain behind Mogan.

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Sleeping in this dry mountain was very impressing. It has such a powerful energy.

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I was alone in this little storm… I was safe in my sleeping bag but felt like nature was just tolerating me here.

DSC_5658Next day, in Mogan I bought water, food and checked the weather forecast.
It was about to be hot as hell and very clear so I decided to head for the Roque Nueblo !
There was a way starting from a village (25km trail) a couple of kilometers ahead. I left my thumb and got the first reversible car of my life !

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Then I walked the whole day, taking rest from time to time when I found caves to relax.

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After one week of hiking, my body was showing amazing performance. I was completely used to walking and could just go on for hours.

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Around 7 pm, I made it back to the forest. After 4 days of sleeping on hard rocks, I found this amazing place. All flowers covering the ground, smells, birds singing… made that forest a true paradise.

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I settled my camp. No point of going anywhere else.

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I woke up with the sun and kept walking until I could see the Roque Nueblo in the distant horizon.

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It was still far away but I knew I would make it. I had time so I took it easy and slept a bit. If you look well, you still see the peak of Tenerife over the horizon.

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I walked and faced a lot of heat. It was 2 days without showers and I was wondering what would be the next one. I was guessing rivers, water but I never could have imagined finding this pool in middle of nowhere.

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I was now close to the Roque Nueblo mountain. I had no more water so I hitchhiked to the next place to buy some. This is how I met two nice French engineers, Cedric and Guillermo.

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Full and rested, I started the final hike with great energy.

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It is the second highest point of the island. The way to get there was so steep. I was rushing to make sure I would not miss a bit of the sunset.

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The more I walked, the more I started to understand I was about to witness the most beautiful sunset of my life.

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As I had expected, it was perfect conditions. No fog, almost no clouds. I could not have been more lucky.

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I climbed and found a nice place to gaze at the sunset.

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As soon as the sun vanished, the cold felt much more powerful. I had almost forgotten that we were at the altitude of 1900 m. I had to find a cover soon because it started to be really freezing. I rushed a bit and found this tiny cave in the main rock.

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I went inside and put all my staff. I could barely move but I realized soon I made such a great choice. Indeed,

  1. I was completely protected from the wind.
  2. My body soon started to warm up the cave.
  3. The view was amazing.
  4. I was hidden from everyone (therefore in security).

I felt all good and went outside to look at the crazy beautiful lights !

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I was completely alone now in on top of the island.

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After some time, I felt completely frozen and went to the cave to warm up.
The wind was so cold and strong and I felt it hitting the mountain while I was completely protected inside the cave. I was sleeping deep inside that rock and felt it was taking care of me.

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I went out of this “womb” and took my breakfast freely standing.

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Some guys noticed me and went to ask me if I knew that place. They were students from England and made that travel to climb this rock.

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We shared some tea (of course) and they offered me to climb a bit with them. They were experienced and went straight for the steep way (7a). They were so flexible and skilled. A small crowd of fans were now gathering around them, just watching  !

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I really wanted to thank them for what they just did for me.
I found out that they wanted to go to some nice beach. I thought I had to share my experience of playa de Gui-Gui (as they did not know how to get there)… We drove together in the afternoon and started to hike in the evening.

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 I would never have imagined to be back here with other people !

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We went fast to the top and we discovered that the valley was still sunny.

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And one more time, we just arrived in time for the final ray of sunlight.

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We slept in the same place where I had been couple of days ago… We all gazed at the stars and collapsed after such a day.

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We woke up quite wrecked as a damn cat just spent all night cuddling and walking on our faces. I said goodbye to my friends and came back to el Roque Nueblo to finish my hike.
Back in the north, I found back all this greenery and this vegetation…

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I settled my camp on top of a hill. On the horizon, I could watch Las Palmas. It was such a strange feeling to see all this life over there and knowing I was coming back to it.

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I woke up under the clouds and the fog… welcome back in the north !

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The vegetation was now everywhere and took every kind of shape…

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I went down for a couple of hours and around midday I saw Teror, the last city before my final objective.

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I walked inside and sat around a big cup of coffee.

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That’s it. I have just done it. Being alone 12 days hiking was just one of the best idea ever. It’s not hard and it is really good to leave what we call “civilization” to reconnect with our roots.

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I’m now ready for that 6 of navigation…. I think I walked what I had to walk.

In blue : hiking
In red : hitchiking

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I came back to Las Palmas and enjoyed the last days with my friends from the port.

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I told them goodbye. See you them back in 4 months !

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I would never have thought I would first cross the Atlantic on the way back, hitchhike back to Canaries and then finally start to look for a boat to cross the Atlantic (on the right direction this time) but… what a story no ? It made me met amazing people !

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See you in September !

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5 thoughts on “Off the tracks

  1. Ma- gni- fi- que !
    Jamais je n’aurais osé partir seule faire une telle randonnée par peur de je ne sais quoi.
    Tu as bien raison d’être plus courageux que moi et de vivre des moments aussi intenses et je te remercie de les partager avec nous !
    Bravo mon fils
    🙂

    Like

  2. Très belle idée de dormir sur ton oreille qui fonctionne pour ne pas entendre les bruits alentours! J’ai tellement ri à la lecture de ce passage…!!

    Merci pour tout ça, hate de faire un petit bout de route avec toi !
    Profite de l’océan et à bientôt mon ami !

    Like

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