Marie and Nil are halfway through a 6,000 mile European journey by foot from Portugal to Turkey. Along the way this French couple is cleaning up trails and packing out trash. Read more about their journey below and give them a follow on instragram.
The summer season is ending and the alpine peaks are covered with snow. The region is under Meteo alert for the next days, people are getting ready for a big winter storm, in the bars they keep talking about the torrential rains announced, schools and businesses that will remain closed and probable damages of all kinds. This chaos sounds for us the death knell of this chapter. We made this crazy bet: to include the entire alpine arc in our crossing thru Europe. Surely the longest and most difficult trial of this adventure. Without doubt also one of the most beautiful.
We have already more than 3,100 miles in the legs since departing in February, completing roughly half of our journey from Portugal to Turkey through 17 countries of the European continent. For now we have crossed countries that were more or less familiar to us, Portugal, Spain, France (our native country), Switzerland and Italy. But soon will start the total unknown!
A different approach to thru-hiking
While preparing this project we had several ideas in mind. We are both outdoor lovers, passionate about autarkic expeditions, and also curious to meet and spend with new people in new cultures.
Understanding others is necessary to live together and this is perhaps the main theme of this trip: simple and spontaneous encounters always rich in surprises.
Surprise is necessary for us. This is also clearly why we did not choose to follow a well-known and beaten trail. Creating our own route was more exciting at the time of trip conception and it's a choice we absolutely do not regret.
In terms of logistics, our thru-hike is not an easy ride. Of course archiving video and photos can be a real headache, but simple things like receiving a package can quickly become a nightmare. Across 17 countries, it's nearly that many new laws and new languages...It's fantastic but also dizzying at times.
The diversity of a continent
We have crossed magnificent coastlines, forests of all kinds, swamps, deserts, screes and glaciers, canyons and highlands, from 0 to 14,800 ft, and have had favorite places which will remain with us forever. We've experienced a diversity that we could never have imagined.
Hundreds of “Oh” and “Wow”, which sometimes cost us Herculean efforts. Steep paths that have taken courage and also sure footedness!
In sandals? Here?
Bedrocks have nearly accompanied us in all terrains below 11,500 ft. Some people we passed thought we were two reckless idiots sandal hiking in such technical terrain. We could not help but think that they were mad to put their feet in such rigid shoes that constrain their movements and give them a false sense of security at the expense of balance and reactivity.
Hiking in sandals was discovery for us. With the weight of our packs and the difficult terrain ahead, we thought that hiking in sandals would not be an option. Discovering that it was possible with how comfortable and secure Bedrocks are really changed our footwear outlook on trail. Normally, we always bring a pair of spare shoes on a hike. It is a real sacrifice on weight and space but a real security too. Our sandals have become much more than a second pair of shoes. They serve us on river crossings, at camp, and on on our feet sandal hiking whenever possible. When it's hot, when our feet beg us not to lock them again in shoes…
1KG FOR THE PLANET
Since we’ve started our trip, we took up the 1KG FOR THE PLANET challenge very seriously. After hiking for 2 years and living outside most of the time, we decided that we should take this opportunity to do something for our environment.
So we had hundreds of reusable bags produced out of recycled plastic bottles. Both of us carry one of these bags and this way we leave those places cleaner than we found them.
We, as well as all people willing to be part of this movement, share the pictures of our collection on Instagram with the #1kgfortheplanet and on the Facebook Group 1KG FOR THE PLANET. According to us, this is a way to inspire more people to do it!
Atlantic coast in the Algarve and Alentejo, Portugal.
In Spain, the magical and wild Sierra de Gredos.
The Bardenas Reales desert put us on our knees.
From the beaches to the marshes of Camargue in France.
The Calanques National Park and the Port-Cros National Park are also places to see at least once!
In Switzerland and Italy, the Alps are something mystical.
Bedrocking everywhere, even in the snow!
Every day, we prick up our ears tense in case we forgot something, places we have not included in our itinerary that people advise us at the corner of a bar conversation or via Internet! In fact, we love to make stories on Instagram and Facebook to show them that, on their advice, we did not hesitate to hike 25 additional miles to see this place that was important to them. This is one of our ways to link online and this real life that must be lived to the fullest.
A trip to share
This interaction with others is something we wanted from the beginning. Many people do not have the opportunity to live this kind of adventure. While sharing can inspire some, it also allows others to travel through us.
Many people tell us: for them, it's a moment of escape. Yet, we do not sell dreams. We present the field of what is possible, what we all possess, nature, culture and human relationships and what we can offer.
This crossing is done together, we, the people who follow us, those we meet and all those who will join us where we have already joined for a section of the trail.
Marie & Nil
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