La Randonnée la plus spectaculaire du monde.

La Randonnée la plus spectaculaire du monde.

lah rah-duh-nay lah plew speck-taa-kew-lair dew MAWD. Click below to hear this. 

The most spectacular hike in the world.

Let’s get the grammar out of the way right now, because the topic is so much more interesting.

Note the word order: When you state a superlative (“the most…”) in French, the adjective goes after the noun, and has to agree with the noun it describes. You have to introduce the adjective with an article, which also has to agree with the noun. Since la randonnée is feminine, so are la and spectaculaire. (Of course you can’t tell by looking at spectaculaire, since it ends in e anyway.)

But let’s get down to business. What is a randonnée? Glad you asked. It can be anything from a casual ramble in the countryside to a Himalayan trek. A hike, a walk, even a horseback ride or a cross-country ski outing, could all be a randonnée.

Now here comes the fun. The Old French, Frankish, and Germanic origins of this word all have to do with running fast, haphazardly, impetuously–all suggesting a total lack of planning. In fact, the English word random is directly related to the French randonnée and its forebears. (Here’s a link to the etymology.)

The randonnée I want to tell you about, however, has to have involved more planning than any other hike on the planet. Nothing at all impetuous, or fast, or random about it. A Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist named Paul Salopek has embarked on a hike that will take seven years to complete. On foot, insofar as possible (there are a few places where you need a boat…). He began in January 2013 in Ethiopia, and plans to follow the path that migrating humankind took, starting in prehistoric times. From Ethiopia to Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America.

Every 100 miles, he will stop and publish a “milestone”: a view of the earth and the sky at the spot where he is standing, a recording of the sounds he is hearing, an brief standardized interview with the nearest human being. The name of the project is the Out of Eden Walk.

You can follow this incredible journey on Twitter (#edenwalk) or online at You can sign up for emails to notify you when Paul has published a new milestone, or other blog post. As for me, I hope to “follow” him to the end of his 21,000-mile randonnée.

This has to be the most ambitious piece of reporting ever undertaken. It excites me and sparks my imagination as very little else does. In fact, I am trying to restrain myself from using every superlative I know. I will never think of a hike–or our world–in the same way again. I hope you agree.

Alternate audio file link: randonnee-la-plus-spectaculaire

4 responses to “La Randonnée la plus spectaculaire du monde.

  1. Sounds fascinating! I signed up. How do you think of such interesting things to tell us about?

  2. That’s the beauty of Twitter and RSS feeds. Setting aside the computer gobbledygook, that means that I read lots of headlines. If it sounds tantalizing, then I read the rest of the article. If it was as interesting as I thought it might be, I save it to my favorite software, Evernote. And then I wait for the right phrase to introduce the topic with. Sometimes it’s right in the article; sometimes it calls for some imagination!

  3. Back to Bienvenue…if you can’t answer ‘merci’, what is the appropriate reply? Still a wondering welcomer Suzanne

    • Hmmm. Why can’t you say “merci” when you are welcomed? It’s certainly what I would say, and my French-speaking friends agree. Has someone told you that it’s not a suitable reply to “bienvenue”?

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