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 - Athletes

From the mountains to the seaside. And well beyond that: from Karakorum to the Atlantic Ocean, where she finally made a dream come true. Tamara Lunger told us everything over the telephone, on the sixtieth day of her long tour in Spain. «I would really like to see the dolphins, I have always longed for that». A few hours later, the magic happens: she is on a boat, close to Tenerife, the splendid animals right there in the water. This is a hymn to life, pure joy after the K2 dramatic events. Tamara wanted to visit the land of Sergi Mingote, her friend who passed away on the second highest mountain in the world last year. Over two months and a half, from mid September to the end of November, she has lived extraordinary moments in fabulous places, together with remarkable people. This is her account.

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Last year you travelled around Italy. This year, here you are in Spain, with a camper van again. How is it going?
«I’m doing fine, even if I broke two toes in Majorca! I have to blame a rock that was hidden in the sand… Nothing too serious, however: the pain is slowly going away. I held my head up high and even tried climbing, wearing a climbing shoe and a boot. I’ve been in Tenerife for a few days now, without the camper van, which we left in Barcelona – the ferry is so expensive! – and I really hope I will see the dolphins. I am staying in a flat but I do miss my “mobile home”: a camper van means having all the freedom in the world!».

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How did the idea of a second tour come about? Has it been much different from the one in Italy?
«I wanted to live an experience like last year’s, following my nature that drives me to live this way. Sergi’s wife wanted to meet me, she wanted me to see his places and his mountains, and Spain was the natural choice. All along the tour, Sergi’s family – exceptional people, I have to say, starting from his parents, who were really happy about me being there - has been a point of reference, a sort of “base camp” in Barcelona. With regards to the Italian tour, where I travelled to all regions, I only focused to select areas in Spain, such as the Pyrenees, foregoing the centre of the country. I also found myself improvising a lot more: I had a precise plan to start with, but somehow I didn’t always stick to it».

Why is that? Did you encounter any difficulty?
«To tell you the truth, in addition to several setbacks such as bad weather, the people I met along the way made me change my plan. They suggested me to go and see different places from what I had planned, which were nicer and more interesting, in their views, and I clearly trusted them – with good reason! I experienced the Pyrenees first hand and have seen that they are engaging and demanding, with intense elevation gains and exposed ridges, and the sea, too showed a slightly unfriendly face at times. I would have liked to reach the Balearic Island with a canoe from the mainland – at least cross from Majorca to Minorca – but the bad weather was unforgiving and I had to give up».

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Has there been an unforgettable day in the tour? Or were they all as such?
«I haven’t actually thought about that. I believe that hasn’t really been an “unforgettable” day”, one that was different from the rest. Every day was great, a constant series of emotions and surprises. As I’ve said, I had a plan, but anything may have happened and that did not scare me. I shared experiences with many people – this has been the main reason behind my trips – and these friendships will last a long time».

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In Tenerife you certainly did not forego going up Teide…
«That’s absolutely true. And I was speechless. That day the weather was very nice, really fabulous. The volcano filled me with positive energy, with its chromatic richness: Teide is 3751m above sea level, it is so different from Etna. I went up there with a geologist, a friend of Alex Txikon’s, who kept on explaining about this and that, from plants to rocks. And so he made the ascent something incredible: I thought I would go on top of a mountain, as I have done so many times in the past, and yet this time it was something entirely different, much more precious».

What is the legacy of this tour?
«I was ecstatic when I left, my head full of ideas. And yet I have learnt that you have to trust your destiny: you may figure out an experience and end up living an entirely different one. This is what happened on Teide and on the Pyrenees, as well, when my knees where hurting and I could not leave my guard: those ridges need the utmost attention as falling off may come easily. Those are marvellous places, I really fell in love with them».

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Did you miss Italy, your mountains? Or has Spain struck a chord in you?
«To be honest I missed water the most. Fresh, good water I can find at home. Everywhere in Spain water tastes bad…».

Do you have any project after your return? Will we see you on the big mountains again soon?
«After the K2 tragedy something went wrong and at the moment I feel no longing to get back. In 2010, too, after Walter Nones passed away on Cho Oyu, I experience a tough moment. It is harder now, though. I was in Pakistan in the last few months and it did not feel right. Eight-thousand metre peaks are my world, I have been completely absorbed by them, but right now I feel I need to follow another nature, not a grey and cold one, but a colourful, bubbly one, brimming with those noises which are only a distant memory on some places. I am looking for something more alive, to come back happy on my wonderful mountains».

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