Peak practice

“Is there much farther to go?” says the plump woman behind me, her voice weary and imploring.

She’s saying what I’m thinking, with every aching fibre of my body. I can feel the runnels of perspiration on my back, and my feet are beginning to boil even though they’re sandalled. We’ve been trudging upwards for almost an hour, and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold up.

‘Pleasant uphill hike,’ said the guidebook. ‘Best attempted early morning or late afternoon, when the heat is less intense.’

It’s midday, it’s punishingly hot, and my water bottle’s empty. And I’m staring at a tall German’s khaki-clad bottom, as we all thread our way to the top.

And then, when all hope seems lost, we reach the crest.

The scrubby, parched incline gives way to a view. The most wonderful, awe-inspiring, wide-screen view you can imagine.

The hill drops away, sweeps vertiginously down to the sea, which stretches and stretches to meet a delicately nuanced sky. One vast blueness that blends together with imperceptible gradations.

Overhead, a seagull wheels and squeals. A sea breeze chills my drying sweat.

“Oh,” says the plump woman, unscrewing the cap of her water bottle to have a well-earned swig. “Oh, I say! It was all worth it in the end.”