Urdax to Amaiur (16 km)
Saturday, 1 October, 2016
As I set out that morning from Urdax in the rain, my host cautioned me that the path started 300 m from his door, just before the monastery, and that it was quite steep for the first part. He advised me to take it slowly and eventually it would ease, but that it would continue ascending for quite a way.
He was not exaggerating. And the smooth rounded stones of the path were extremely slippery, which made my progress even slower than normal. I had spent most of the last twelve months in Montevideo, Cape Town (Green Point) and Uppsala, none of which are vertically challenged, so my body did not quite know what had hit it.
But eventually the incline did indeed ease and the thumping of my heart reduced to a less noticeable level. I sometimes forget that carrying a relatively heavy backpack has its physical cost, and that I have been on the wrong side of 50 for a few years now.
At one point in the ascent, I came around a corner to be confronted by a small herd of horses, five in all. They looked extremely healthy and fit, although very wet, and they paid little attention to me. As the path was narrow and steeply wooded on both sides, I had no alternative but to walk among them. One of them, a quite young horse, was very curious, and came up and nuzzled me.
Eventually the path started to descend and much of the descent was in cloud, with a light drizzle.
The going was much easier in the descent and before I knew it, I was in the village of Amaiur or Maya in the Vasco language.
I had to go through the village and back along the main road for twenty minutes to find the Casa Rural, where I had booked a room for the night.
Amaiur to Ziga (18 km)
Sunday, 2 October, 2016
To avoid having to walk back along the main road, my host showed me a path which he said was a shortcut back to the village. Unfortunately, he omitted to check whether I had a brought a machete with me, for in parts the ‘path’ was overgrown with brambles and nettles. I eventually emerged in the middle of the village with some scratches and stings, quite convinced that my host had not used that path in recent years, if ever.
For the rest of the day the going was relatively easy, at least when compared to the previous day. Lots of descending and ascending, always ending up higher than the last ascent.
The route passed through Arizkun, Elizondo – the largest town in the Baztan valley, and Irurita.
Finally, after a last ascent, the village of Ziga came into view.
Once again I had a room in a beautiful Casa Rural, run by a charming couple. There was no restaurant in the village, but the woman made me a baguette filled with cheese and ham and included a bottle of local wine.
Never has such simple food tasted so good.
And I slept through until dawn, and the ringing of the church bells.