The best kind of ´High´
Hecho Travel Blog› entry 35 of 43 › view all entries
Formerly called Sublime to Surreal (Madrid stuff is now a new blog)
Pamplona only improved - we were invited to stay with a friend of Juans for the night. It was a complete surprise to enter their appartment in a suburb near to the ´old town´ and find it decorated very similar to my own home with lots of Asian influences. It was so clean and fresh but had a lovely welcoming energy. Our hosts are a physiotherapist and bombero (fireman).
Paco is a fantastic cook and both of them love to eat healthy organic food. It was such a treat to have home cooking, especially fresh from a nearby organic garden. Lunch and dinner included a marvelous organic tomato salad, simply blanched, peeled and cut, drizzled with olive oil and rock salt.
For dinner Paco made one of his specialities, a revuelto which is a type of egg dish and often found as a ´racione´in bars. He had come across some wonderful setas (wild mushrooms) which he first sauteed and then a load of roughly beaten eggs added on very very low heat, slowly cooked until just beginning to set (about 20 mins) It was like cream!! Accompanying this was a large plate of evenly sliced boiled potatoes smothered in rich olive oil and sprinkled with pimenton (similar to paprika). Simple food cooked with beautiful ingrediants and prepared by a loving hand! Even the honey on our morning tostada came from a large glass jar with a carefully handwritten label telling the date, weight and area the honey came from.
It was a 3 hour drive for Pamplona to get to the last village called Hecho and then a slow drive along a cliff face to the Albergue at Gabardito. The scenery was spectacular as you would expect and the houses in the little village of Hecho all had large distinctive clay chimneys to quickly move the smoke away in the snowy winter days.
We left the car parked safely and began our first afternoon walk (only 3.5 hours) towards the first Albergue called Linzara. The path for Senda de la Camille is sporadically marked with blue paint on rocks in the shape of a bear paw. Very cute; the route is named after the Camille bear, a protected species in this area of the Pirineos.
It was a steep ascent from the start and soon levelled out only briefly for me to catch my breath. My pack was a little lighter than the Camino so I was not troubled with the weight but the narrow rocky descents required a lot of concentration and careful manoeuvring with my 2 poles. I could feel an old war wound begin to act up in my knees but pushed on, crossing fingers.
We passed through a beautiful valley populated with a mixed herd of vacas and caballos (cows and horses) all with their distinctive wooden and metal bells attached to thick leather necklaces clanking away musically. It was idyllic with the late afternoon blue sky and surrounding mountains in shades of grey and blue. For most of the walk there was no-one in sight but occasionally we passed day-trippers who had walked from Gabardito and were returning after a lunch high up on one of the peaks.
I had a ´now I´ve seen it all´moment when we were passed by a group of French and one of the older ladies was wearing nothing but her bikini and her pack! Not to be outdone, a little further on we passed a Spanish man in his jocks! And I thought the Europeans were prudish! Not really clothing for walking in the mountains but it was unusually hot and they were day trippers so a little lenience.
After 3.5 hours the Albergue was in sight. Tired, dusty and very sweaty, we headed for the door and a welcome shower but were greeted with a huge sign on the door ´No Hay Agua´(there is no water). Mierda! The pipe to the Albergue had burst and it would be several days until it could be fixed. The solution was a large beer at the bar where we were told that there was a nearby fuente (fountain) in the bush we could walk to.
The natural spring fuente was in a lovely wood, about 50m from the dirt track. We stripped to underwear and had a chilly but really welcome wash. I was just about finished when three of the hippy staff bounded in and started filling large plastic containers with water for the Albergue. They took no notice of me starkers (except for my knickers) and carried on as normal.
A couple of them fooled around doing circus tricks (as all 21C hippies do) and we helped them to fill the bottles (now fully clothed) with the beautiful spring water. The sky started to turn a little grey and looked ominous. In an instant it broke into a mountain storm and heavy drops of warm rain engulfed our little troop.
Sleeping was (for me) a nightmare after the Camino. There I had been fortunate to only have to deal with a few people most nights and at least had space in the albergues. Linzara was at full capacity and the bunks were pushed up next to each other. I had a semi-naked Spanish man and his wife snoring on one side, 2 above me and Juan on the other. It was stiffling in the little room and I barely slept. Get me back to the Camino!
Morning was a fresh new day and I was optimistic as the weather was now fine and sunny.
The track was more extremely steep paths up and twisting rocky slopes down. The views as each pass was crossed and another came into view were glorious and worth the difficulty to get there. I could not imagine living in these mountains but for hundreds of years, rugged people farmed the valleys in the summer months and took their animals south to Navarra in the winter.
As with the day before, there were many herds of free roaming cows and horses. they were reasonably tame and at one point I was able to pat one of the horses! How can I describe this sublime experience; the light clean air, the changing views and terrain, the circling Buitres (vultures) and Aguilas (eagles) and a picnic lunch of cheese and jamon with my feet dangling in a freezing mountain stream. I´ll allow you the gift of your own imagination.
By afternoon, we had to formulate a plan to cut the trip short and took an alternative trail, the GR11. This led us through a valley 3km long and home to a little roichuelo (stream) curling it´s way through the gorge and providing water on tap for the dozens of animals here. Once through the gorge, we were unable to find another track to the next Albergue as it is rarely used and may have grown over.
It was getting late now and with tiredness taking over, we decided to travel only 100km and stop for the night. A beautiful Casa Rural in a pretty pueblo called Ayurbe was home for the night. The owner had painted nearly every inch of wall and ceiling space in lovely Trompe L´oeil and decoupaged everything else. It was quite tastefully and done with a lot of love and pride. There was a beautiful patio full of lush pot plants, wicker chairs and plenty of cushions. My bones and muscles felt like new after a shower, a little relax and some tapas.
The local panaderia was recomended as THE place for breakfast and after we had devoured our first round of pastry and café, we realised just why.
It was a very hot drive (37C) and Madrid was a welcome sight when it finally appeared on the glistening horizon at 5.30pm.