Monday, September 3, 2007

Urkiaga to Casa Pablo

Woke up inside the tent to the sound of rain. Crawling out of a warm and dry sleeping bag in the tight confines of a mountain tent is hard enough without having to eject yourself half dressed into a cold rain, pack up and have a quick breakfast of cold porridge, throw 20 kilos of wet pack on your back and off uphill. The track was nothing but mud and as we moved higher the mist grew thicker. There is a poem by Antonio Machado that goes "Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar" (tr. Walker, there is no path, the path is made by walking). We had been warned yesterday about the very poor state of trail directions and markers in Navarra, and today we really began to understand how bad it was. At 1200 metres altitude, visibility was down to a distance of 20 mtrs with cold drizzle and wind . We lost the way at this point and descended steeply into a valley to try and find our way. We were lost in a thick mist. We retraced our steps, a steep half hour climb. Chris B went off to scout and found an old marker. The track was nonexistant but we knew the heading we had to take so headed downhill into another valley in the mist, taking about an hour to climb down about 300 vertical mtrs til we came to a river. We followed the river for 2 kms and came to a road. Another kilometer and we arrived at Casa Pablo, a "Refugio" with bar, restaurant and bunk rooms. We were soaked but very relieved. Lunch and a cup of hot coffee went down really well! There were only 2 other guests at Casa Pablo, 2 very fit guys from Cantabria who were determined to walk the entire GR11 in 30 days. They were complaining bitterly about the lack of decent signage on this section of the GR11 which had slowed them down. Casa Pablo was run by a couple of "Guardians", a guy and a woman who were paid by the local district council who owned the Refugio. Casa Pablo was way out in the countryside with no retail stores within walkin distance, and I needed to by some fuel for our gas cooker. I explained my problem and the guy offered to give me a lift to a gas station where I could buy unleaded petrol, which my cooker could work with. After that we sat down to a brilliant hot meal cooked by the woman, and drank wine and celebrated walking the GR11 with our 2 new Cantabrian friends.