New Zealanders on the GR1

A Guest Blog from Rob and Debby McColl

A GR1 adventure 28 April – 17 June 2016

We surprised ourselves in 2012 by completing the 3000km Te Araroa Trail from top to bottom of New Zealand just a few months before Rob turned 70 and Debby turned 60! Everyone kept asking us what’s next, so we felt obliged to keep going.
Rob and Debby

In 2013 we walked 200km of the GR7 in Andalusia, Spain, followed by the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo to Santiago de Compostella, and the West Highland Way in Scotland.
Approaching the Collada de Lois
In 2014 it was the 1000km Bibbulmun Trail in Western Australia - and, in July 2015, the 223 kilometre Larapinta Trail, Australia.
To be honest, by 2016, we wondered if we were getting past tents and dehyd food. Until along came John Hayes’ GR1 Guide: it looked like a civilised walk – a hotel bed and restaurant every night, and the prospect of lunch at a wayside bar. YES! And the delightful possibility of a 7kg base-weight pack, WOW.
Santa Cruz de Campezo
In April 2016, we headed back to our beloved Spain to walk the GR1 from  the Cantabrian Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea. We started in snow and finished in temperatures around 30C! Every day was different - wonderful landscapes and biological diversity, amazing historic and social heritage, hospitable Spanish people who befriended and helped us, the delightful Casa Rurales and the food our hosts provided. There were plenty of challenges though: sometimes finding accommodation was a struggle and our limited Spanish didn’t help – but we never missed out in the end. We found some climbs challenging until we got fitter, there were one or two places where we were out of our comfort zone, we got lost once or twice, and some days walking we never saw another person.
From the top of castle in Olite
We made our own rules: we missed out some flat stages before Olite and Banyoles, bypassed the exposed section before Espunyola and avoided a badly waymarked section before Montanana, but we walked 1050km and loved it. And the cost of our new-found walking luxury didn’t break the bank.
Was it hard? – yes; did we get up each day looking forward to the day ahead? – yes; are the guide book and a GPS device indispensable? – yes; was it one of the best walks we’ve done? – absolutely; is it as easy as John Hayes makes out? Hmmm, we’ll let you find that out for yourselves.
Noguera-Ribagorcana Gorge
What you may really like about walking this trail is a growing sense of belonging to Spain’s villages and rural society. You become not a tourist but a welcome visitor and friend, at least that’s how we felt.
In the Mediterranean - journey's end

Thanks, John Hayes!

For the whole story please follow the link to Rob and Debby's wonderful blog

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