Saturday, 25 June 2016
The hardest Camino walk we have ever done and on my birthday.
This morning we left our hotel in Zumarrage in good spirits and looked forward to a nice 22k walk that would take us through some interesting towns and villages before summiting Arriurdin at 1273mts. The first section went as planned as we followed along the Calle Ipanarrieta towards Lepazpi and was indeed an interesting history of the areas deep tradition of steel works and engineering. Lepazpi was a beautiful small town but after a quick coffee stop we continued into the picturesque Mirandaola Park where surrounded by distant hills we followed small streams to the village of Telleriarte. Through the village and with darkening rain clouds overhead we started a steep climb on a small tarmac road to the beautifully tranquil Barrendiola reservoir. At the reservoir we marvelled at the scenic views across the still water and down into the valley below. The walk on the muddy path around the reservoir should have warned us of what might lie ahead. This is where things got extreme as we cut up a narrow stone and mud path that would lead, 5K later to a wet, cold, and very foggy summit. Climbing 1273 mts on slippy, muddy, stoney and very dangerous paths is no joke and indeed very dangerous. On any other Camino, in this condition, the path would have been closed. Since we were so close to the top and indeed past the point of return, when the thick fog rolled in, it would have been more dangerous to turn back, so our only option was to continue.. At the top visibility was down to about 50 mts as we looked for marker signs that would lead us to the downward path. Eventually, tired, cold and damp we came out of the fog on a steeply descending rocky path and felt that at least the worst was over but on a day like this anything can happen, and it did. The path had turned to a sea of mud which in turn had created a mud slide that was slithering its way down the mountain. Slipping, sliding and falling we continued down and eventually arrived at the Santuary of Arantzazu almost three hours after our scheduled arrival time. Wet, cold, covered in mud and totally exhausted we had finally arrived. The worst days hiking, ever, and on my birthday, what a bummer. One high point of the day was being able to witness, just after the summit, at least 12 enormous eagles fly up in front of us after having feasted on a dead deer. The sound of the beating wings was frightening but to watch them glide in circles above us was special. My advice to anyone doing this walk would be to skip stage 2. I could have said more about these extreme conditions but quite honestly the old body and mind are exhausted tonight so tomorrow is another day and hopefully better than today