This time the weather took us to the northern coast of France. No, not Les Hemmes. We parked our car in the TGV station of Calais, being Fréthun, took the train to Boulogne-sur-Mer and started walking back. There is a trail GR120 that runs along the northern French coast and ends up somewhere in Belgium. We were planning on doing that. More or less. This would be also the perfect moment for testing out our small, tiny and light packing for mountains.
Our journey started in a landscape wrapped in a soft mist. All the soft hills of Nord Pas Calais looked even softer, colors muted and wet. A perfect weather for hiking. A slight fear was creeping into my mind when the bullet train approached the station. We were taking a train ride for 20 minutes, and would be walking the distance back. 50 km on foot, a nice way to spend a weekend, don’t you think?
The train dropped us off at the next station, in Boulogne-sur-Mer. The direction was to the coast as soon as we managed to buy some breakfast, some rain ponchos, since we forgot to prepare for the rain when we left home, and a bit of extra to drink. Boulogne is a beautiful city in its own right, it has a wonderful beach and so forth, but this time, we had no time to spend around it. We were facing a hike of nearly 30 kilometers that day, ending up somewhere close to Wissant.
We reached the edge of the nature preserve rather fast as we made our way up the coast towards Ambleteuse. GR120 travels mostly on top off the white cliffs. We were lucky enough to be walking during low tide and there was enough beach available to walk on and we advanced quickly. Once we were at the edge of Ambleteuse there was a lovely surprise waiting for us. It was a river, between us and the village. No bridge in sight. We had to start heading inland, to find a crossing point, which we found about 2 kilometers away. So we strolled through the calm streets, watching people eating giant dishes of sea food.
We walked through the boulevard at the doc and descended back on the beach. On the stretch of a kilometer or two, all the way to Audrelles the beach is horrific to walk on. It is soft and full of round stones that tilt your ankles in all different directions. It makes the advancing slow and tires out your muscles fast. We were happy to find a sign post showing the GR taking a turn to inland through yet another idyllic French seaside village.
Here I must add, that the idyllic French seaside villages, they exist, they are real, and they are just as idyllic and French as you have always imagined.
We found another route sign, that said 4,5 kilometers to Cap Gris Nez. We didn’t give it any more thought and just headed on. Through fields of barley. Oh I love barley fields. The way they smell under the summer sun and the way the wind makes them whisper and the way they wave and the way they just are. It reminds me dearly of home. After a while we began to notice, that the sign post might have lied. We had walked further inland and too much to the east. That meant biting the lip again and heading back. Which resulted in an additional loop of a few kilometers once we finally got the sight of the wind beaten cap.
That was a beautiful piece of our trail. The path goes right at the edge of the cliff, next to some fields. The pink flowers create a lovely contrast for the greenery and the blue ocean. As we climbed towards the cap, we saw a head popping up from the waves. The wind was pushing the water around the cap, forming a strong current and bringing fish with it. Hunting that fish were at least 7 very curious grey seals. There was a group of people watching down at them and the seals were watching up to the cliff at the people. A beautiful moment of common curiosity, I would say.
My knee started to give me quite some trouble right about then. The down hill I went limping back to the beach, as we headed for the last leg of the hike for that day. The beach was luckily hard and smooth and gentle on me. We didn’t make it quite all the way to Wissant as planned. The pain stopped me a couple of kilometers before. So we popped our tent out onto the dune and cooked dinner. I was exhausted and fell a sleep right after 8.
Early in the morning we woke up and started to head for Wissant, just a couple of kilometers ahead. There we raided a very good bakery, well, which bakery in France isn’t very good? and had our breakfast. I slurped my coffee in the company of a very pleasant dog, who reminded me of our old dog. He had the same eyes and the same demand for scratches.
The first strip for the day was to get ourselves from Wissant to Cap Blanc Nez. The other one of the two caps. It was again a very humid day. Mist was all over us and the sky was grey. So far we had been lucky enough to avoid any rainfall. We were hoping that it would continue so until the afternoon.
My knee reminded me soon, that I had limped a little too far the day before. It was not happy about the plan to limp yet another 15 – 20 km. My dear Waffle was offering to run for the car, and pick me up from some of the villages. He got me angry with those remarks. This wasn’t that kind of a trip that would force me to stop.
It took us just a little over an hour to reach Cap Blanc Nez. I had needed a couple of pauses on the go but there we were. And the last kilometers of our journey were ahead of us. From there we turned inland, towards Fréthun again. It was a boring walk of ten kilometers via country roads. But finally we made it, tired and in pain but very happy. We tested out our lighter backpacks, mattresses and the new tent. All is working fine, we are ready to go to the Balkans!
At home we had a nice bath and a cold bottle of G.H. Mumm waiting for us. That is the way you end a weekend of hiking.