Walking

Walking

I’m not exactly sure where walking ends and trekking begins. Maybe if you get particularly worried about weather or equipment then you’re a trekker, getting ready to tackle long multi-day trips; while if you simply hit the trail you’re a walker, happy to be out and about for the day, taking in the local sights and sounds. I’ll give an example. Central America, last year. Ometepe Island is Nicaragua’s natural jewel, sitting in the region’s largest lake and boasting not one but two perfect volcanoes. With its abrupt peaks and 30 km length, you could do some proper trekking there, but it’s also a perfect destination for walking – in a couple of days there I walked along beachside trails, through cloud-forests (and getting a soaking for the privilege), and contoured rich volcanic slopes. Each morning I’d set off with some water and food and a rough route in mind, and each day I’d end up happily wandering aimlessly, before a late afternoon swim in the lake’s cooling waters. That to me sums up what makes walking so special. It’s idle exploration – some exercise, yes, but it’s more about chance encounters with locals and travellers, seeing where the path might take you, coming to a fork in the road and choosing one route over the other on a whim, then seeing what follows. The gentle rhythm of a walk is perfect for taking in the world around you. Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains are famous as a trekking destination, but a walk in the country’s lower reaches – like the Todra Gorge and the Dades Valley – is equally spectacular, the utter silence of the valleys only punctuated by the conversations you strike up with the friendly Berber people who live here. A wander here feels the right way to see the world – moving as locals do, and have done for centuries. Walking improves the landscape. But that’s not all – it also improves what comes afterwards – the cool beer or glass of wine as the sun sets, the warm welcome from the owner of the local restaurant. Every trip I take, one thing’s for sure – I’ll always want that joyfully random element that a good walk guarantees.

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