Ascent: 1100 metres (Cum: 4800 metres)
Time taken: 8 hrs including 1.2 hrs stops (Cum: 35.1 hrs including 6.6 hrs stops)
Weather: woke in a cloud, spent most of the day in a cloud, rain all day (what do you expect from a rain cloud?)
It took me an hour and a half from waking at 7.20 to leaving the campsite with a view I never saw, partly due to faffing with emails and other stuff in the confines of the tent.
I'm sure there were great views from today's high ridges, but the Basque country likes to keep its little secrets.
I made my way uneventfully over well grazed turf, following waymarks that appeared through the mist if you looked ahead with optimism, to reach the road at Puerto de Urkiago in a little over two hours. This is the end of Stage 3 in my guide book, but there are no facilities and wild camping would be difficult. There is accommodation, with free transport, at a hostel 6 km down the road.
The woodland path from there passed some impressive concrete bunkers. One of them comprised a tunnel about 10 metres into the hillside, then a right angle turn to 50 metres more tunnel, and given the presence of padlocked doors I suspect it was much more extensive than that.
Nearby, two men were chopping their way through a vast pile of logs in the rain.
The path rose to over 1200 metres again. Not a pleasant place to be today, albeit only a t-shirt was needed under the waterproof jacket. The slithery plunge through steep woodland to the Barrack Odia wasn't all that pleasant. Nor was the bridge at the bottom - shaped like the top of a small sphere, I had to hang onto slippery wooden railings to avoid sliding down from the apex.
Soon after that, Albergue Sorogain provided a hearty eggs and ham lunch, the energy from which I needed to get through the rest of the day.
First, there was a fairly brutal ascent to the top of a hill at 1181 metres. Then, and this will amuse Gibson if he turns to page 54, I mistakenly navigated from the top half of the page, not realising that was the morning's route. I even noted some 'incorrect' heightings! So I was on line 9, turning right and dropping down steeply when I should have been going straight on. I bumbled about for quite some time, gradually getting more frustrated until after half an hour I realised my error and returned to the fence with a stile. It didn't help that my GR11 strip map shows an old route that I may have been on, but even that is no excuse for heading west.
The summit of Menditixipi, at 1213 metres, may be a good viewpoint. I was there but I wouldn't know.
Soon after the less than dramatic summit I got a shock. Having seen nobody all day, I suddenly found myself walking next to another rucksack clad hiker. This was Mitxel (Michael in Basque). He is on his first long walk at the age of 60, having got his children off his hands and sent his wife to work (the latter are not his precise words). He is ardently Basque, living in Bilbao, whose football team he admires. We walked and chatted all the way to Burguete (also known as Auritz, its Basque name). Mitxel walks a bit quicker than me and his English is good but limited, so whilst we may not walk together again we may enjoy the occasional encounter. His ardent Basque identity contrasts with my comfortably regarding myself as European.
I found the Hotel Loizu and Mitxel went off for a beer, then he may sleep under a plastic sheet in the churchyard. He says he is not strong enough to carry a tent.
Washing is done and hopefully drying, and it's now time for dinner.
I hope to be able to transmit this sometime, but my emails and Internet connection aren't currently available - it seems the server doesn't want to talk to me. 'No response from server' is the message I get. But if this does ever see the light of day I must have got a response!
A typical hunting cabin scene
Mitxel on the descent to Burguete
Next Day - Day 6
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