Before I set out on my Pyrenees adventure I knew that I was going to have to face my fears in whatsoever form they presented themselves. Alone, exposed at 2,500 meters there would be no hiding place.

As is so often is the case they tended to arrive in the most peculiar of ways! For some reason I’ve always been frightened of cows (and bulls come to that) – they’re just so ..well big and there are always stories about people being trampled on when they are calves about …… in June/July when I was there! The first few days passed without too much incident, on the cow front anyway and, when I did come across them, there was a state of armed neutrality where I would be able to make a small detour thus allowing both parties to save face. But inevitably there came a time when I had to front up. I had been climbing for several hours and had passed field after field before following a narrow track which contoured along the side of the hill with a barbed wire fence one side and a heavy thicket and a very steep drop the other.

I rounded a bend and there my worst fears were realised, perhaps 10 – 15 cows with calves milling around a long water trough. I weighed up my options – to walk through them … I don’t think so! To turn back and try and find another path further up … a non-starter, I was already tired and it wasn’t even midday and I just couldn’t afford the time to tag another 3 or 4 miles on to what was already going to be a long day. The thicket to the right of the path was dense and that coupled with a very steep drop left me with no alternative but to climb over the barbed wire fence and try and find a way through the brush and brambles and then re-join the track when I was safely past them.

The cows stared at me in disbelief as I perched precariously on top of the barb wire fence and launched myself into the brambles the other side. I slid along the fence feeling my legs and arms being caressed by the thorns and nettles but I finally found myself, grazed and battered a few feet past the cows with a potential crossing point back on to the path using the side of the water trough. I took a leap of faith and somehow found my footing on the side of the water trough, one foot went in but I found purchase with the other and jumped onto the path in one seamless movement, running as fast as I could away from the somewhat startled cows. After 50 metres I turned back to see that the cows hadn’t moved an inch but I still like to think that I brightened their day and that they will remember the fence jumping, bramble negotiating, trough walker who came to visit them that day.

As for me? Well that was just one of my many encounters with the cows on that trip but by the end, whether trough tiredness or familiarity we both accepted each other and I was allowed as a visitor to their paths and fields!

Coming soon – Moving Mountains the book.