Monday 13/5/13 – Roncesvalles to Zubiri
22.88km / 626m Ascent / 1,028m Descent
After an excellent early breakfast, we were back out on the road by 8.15am. It was cool this early, but brighter skies augured well and the temperature soon began to rise.
|A reminder, if one were needed .....
A level track set off through woods beside the road towards the next village – Burguete – from where a series of tracks and lanes led across fields and through woods towards Espinal. It was pretty busy on the trail, with a fairly constant stream of people always in sight, but with yesterday’s big day behind us, and better weather today, the mood was noticeably more relaxed.
|Sunshine and easy paths
A shorter, easier leg today meant there was no need to rush, and it was nice to be able to take our time and enjoy all the trail had to offer. It was only about seven kilometres to Espinal, but it was a good opportunity for a brief stop so we called at a bar for coffee.
Judging by the posters and the feel of the place, Espinal is a hotbed of Basque culture and reflects their wish for independence. Whatever you feel about that, there’s no doubt it is situated amongst beautiful countryside – some of the best encountered all week – with superb views across to the Pyrenean foothills now that the early cloud had all but burnt off.
|Looking back to Espinal and the Pyrenean foothills
Carrying on, we climbed gently out of Espinal into shady woods, and crossed the N135 at the Alto de Mezquiriz. More woodland followed as we descended to reach the Rio Erro, where the waters were cool and the stones slippery. An undulating path then brought us to the village of Viscarret where we were tempted into a lunchtime stop at the bar (sausage baguette and beer/coffee).
It was a pleasant spot, with plenty of walkers milling around and more cats than an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical/T.S.Eliot poem (choose your preferred cultural reference) generally getting in the way. We made it just before the crowds arrived, but as others rolled in there was no problem sharing space – the atmosphere proving very convivial – and we were joined at our table by Emmet from Washington DC, who became a regular companion over the next few days.
|Viscarret: loads of mangy, whiskery creatures yowling for food - plus some cats
Lunch over, and another stamp in our Pilgrim Passports collected, we set off again, skirting the small hamlet of Linzoan before climbing through more woods to reach a ridge path that ran high above the surrounding valleys for seven or eight kilometres, with superb views through the trees all the way.
|Shady woods near the Alto de Erro
After a while we took a short break, then crossed the N135 once more (at the Alto de Erro) before beginning the steep descent towards Zubiri. Although nowhere near as tough as the previous day, the cumulative effects of the two days gave rise to such familiar walker’s afflictions as downhill knee and late-in-the-day hip, but we arrived in the village mid-afternoon in pretty good nick, all things considered.
|Sound advice, or an admonishment?
The same couldn’t be said for everyone, though: Emmet, for one, finding the last downhill section rather uncomfortable on toes given a bit of punishment during yesterday’s long descent from the Col de Lepoeder beneath a heavy load. We dug the Compeed out of our first aid kit and left him to settle into the hotel and patch up his feet, while we went for a look round the village and a well-earned beer.
|The River Arga - from the Bridge of Rabies, near the Leprosarium
We all ate dinner at the hotel (J – fried Salami, a regional speciality dish of stewed Cod, local cheeses / C – Rice Sausage, Tagliatelli, Raspberry Sorbet) and chatted the evening away. It was a more relaxed day today, with plenty of time to stop and enjoy the route or talk with people along the way. It was still busy, but the improved weather made a big difference, as did the opportunity to soak up some nice views. A great day, and all in all much more like we imagined the Camino to be.