Ascent: 1500 metres (Cum: 2540 metres)
Time taken: 10.4 hrs including 2 hrs stops (Cum: 18.8 hrs including 3.4 hrs stops)
Weather: overcast, turning to sunny periods; perfect walking weather
After yesterday's deluge it was nice to wake to the sound of .... nothing. Camping next to a cattle grid had produced the inevitable - a flock of sheep who would prefer to be the other side and were going to broadcast that fact as loud as they could. It was quite amusing although I was on the same side as the sheep, who eventually wandered off into the rainy night.
It took me just an hour from getting up at 7 to leaving at 8 for the pleasant ridge walk down to Bera, a sizable town.
Jays were floating in and out of the trees, whilst Griffon vultures were gliding above them. They came very close. I must have looked like carrion...
I stopped at length in Bar Miljar in Bera, after entering the town via an ancient bridge with a memorial plaque to the men of the Rifle Brigade who died defending the bridge from the French in 1813. Avenues of plane trees then led to the town centre.
Socks and trail shoes, soaked from yesterday's rain, were slowly drying, and a sort out in the café failed to reveal any other wet items. The 'new dry bag every year' policy had worked. The Keen trail shoes had kept my feet dry for most of the day but had given up towards the end.
From Bera, a hot ascent to the summit of Santa Bárbara had the sun tan cream out for the first time. Shorts and t-shirt had been deployed early on and were ideal for today.
The paths were excellent. Most would fall into 'bridleway' or unsurfaced lane categories in the UK. A few motorbikes and trial bikes were using them. Fair enough, the riders were polite.
Hunting towers, rickety as ever, appeared at intervals, as they had yesterday in this rolling, forested landscape that always reminds me of mid Wales.
A couple of day walkers were seen after I'd lunched on a grassy sward beside a track lined with foxgloves and lizards. Then I came across a couple, relaxing in the grass below the Usategi bar-restaurant (closed), a give away Cicerone guide beside them. Tobi is from Germany and Carol is from the USA. This is their first major backpacking trip so they are learning as they go. They set off on GR11 on Monday, but had a very short day yesterday after they reached Bera during the deluge and had the sense to find a hotel.
They are camped next to me tonight on this broad col where my tent is shown. It was well worth carrying an extra two litres of water for three hours to be able to halt at this splendid spot. Though (and Conrad's right) I do hope the jangling horse bells will take a break at some point - or maybe they'll just lull me to sleep in the absence of the sound of running water. The shepherd has visited and he doesn't seem to mind us being here. "Aren't you cold?" he asked!
Both vultures and red kites are investigating our presence.
Other features of the day:
- The route is very well signposted - a map is arguably superfluous as each turn is also described in the Cicerone guide.
- Eyebright and Mullein lined many of the hedgerows.
- Black redstarts and many other small birds appeared to cheer as I passed their gorse top perches.
- Horse flies were briefly encountered; the first of many? Thankfully both campsites have been insect free.
Next Day - Day 4
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