I love alcohol dearly, which is why I have it very seldom and only in small amounts. In other words, I’m one of the people who would easily go raging alcoholic if I didn’t restrict my drinking to a minimum. My relative abstinence also springs from the awareness that even moderate drinking is genuinely harmful, increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease and all things bad and sad – no matter what well-funded universities in Bourgogne and Rioja sometimes conclude. I also find that alcohol grows more and more incompatible with the kind of life I wish to lead. For one thing, it sits really unwell with ketogenic eating. For another, there are too many mountains to climb, too many books to read, too many cities to discover and too many inspiring projects to pursue for me to want to spend my precious weekend mornings hung over, however slightly.
That being said, I do drink on occasion. In Sweden, I have a couple of glasses of red wine once, or maybe twice, a month. In Spain, evenings are warm, delicious options abound, and the struggle to keep to the good habit of abstinence is all too real. Yesterday, I decided that it was a good idea to open a bottle of dry Cava that our Gaucín hosts generously treated us with upon arrival. And it was a very good idea indeed, since it was the most delicious Cava I have ever had. I had two big glasses of pure bliss, while saying to Kristoffer “Yes, of course we’ll still go hiking tomorrow morning.” And so we did, since I find abandoning plans due to having had a drink utterly unthinkable.
We chose a neat 8,5 kilometer hike down the Genal valley, to the river, and back up to Gaucín. Although relatively short, it was estimated to take between three and four hours, which testifies to its hillieness. During this hike, you lose and gain 500 meters of altitude, which, of course, is true for most routes in this mountain clad area, where even going to the grocery store equals a minor hill climb.
On the way down to the river, I did feel quite out-of-order. My balance was a bit off and I had a hard time coping with the rising mid day heat. This being the easy part of the hike, I realised I’d be up for a challenge once we started the long ascent to the village. After a prolonged break for lunch and a swim, I really didn’t feel like going on. Of course, I hardly admitted this to Kristoffer, since whining about being hung over is the last thing I would do. After all, I drank the beautiful Cava entirely voluntarily and went out on the hike in the same manner. I didn’t fool him at all, though, judging by this picture from our lunch break:
As seen on the top picture, this particular route from one of Patrick Elvin’s books – now officially renamed “Hung Over Hike Up Heart Attack Hill” – is pretty much a descent into the valley and then a very long and steep ascent back to the village. We managed to do the ascent in the worst possible time, which is around two o’clock, when the scorching sun beats down on you with the full wrath and love of God. Having brought plenty of water, we made it just fine. After all, you’d have to be dead inside and out not to treasure a view like this:
Half way through, we came upon one of many unfinished buildings sprinkled across the Spanish countryside in the aftermath of the credit crash of 2008, providing us with some well needed shade.
So, what’s the lesson? “Don’t drink and hike”, would be an obvious and true slogan. This particular bottle of Cava, though, prompts a rare exception from this rule.