No matter where I am in North America, it feels like home. Whether a hike in the Rockies, a paddle down the Missouri or a stroll in the Appalachians – I’m comfortable. Skip across the Pond, and it’s a whole new world… or is it?
Beyond the obvious language differences, currency of choice and consistent use of the metric system, hiking in Europe is not a lot different than back home. Take the tourist destination of Pont du Gard just outside of Nimes in Southern France, for example.
Arriving at the visitor centre, there was a steady crowd of school groups, tour bus groups and random tourists such as us. Our backpack was loaded with a map, binoculars, cameras, picnic lunch, water, sunscreen, raincoats, first aid kit and sun hats – a mini grab bag of the 10 essentials of hiking. On our feet – good hiking shoes.
With the mob we wandered down to the ancient Roman aquaduct and bridge, taking the requisite touristy photos. Up the other side, we climbed a few hundred feet to a panoramic view overlooking the river, passing others carrying lovely purses and wearing pretty sandals. It wasn’t long before one slipped on the rough stones and whacked her knee hard on the rock.
A group crowded around for support and seeing that she was in good hands, we hauled out a map, planned a route through miles of trails criss-crossing the Mediterranean woods and within a matter of minutes, escaped the masses.
No matter where you go it seems, hiking is hiking.