The chill, the blazing sun, the lost glove, another ascent and MUD, MUD, MUD
(Posted a day late because the host in Alda has never heard of wi-fi or the Internet)
We started out this morning at a little after 9:00am. With our 9:00pm dinner last night, we are officially on Spanish time whether we like it or not. It may be a good thing though. Our hostess in Araia is a keen day trekker into the mountains. She told us that the sun needs to be up for a few hours before the foggy mountain mist gets burned off. She suggested that climbing before 9:00 or 10:00am could be dangerous on the mountains or at least make the trail harder to find and the scenery less beautiful. In the remaining mountains, we’ll take her advice.
It was a chilly walk into town and out the other side. As we got that far, Melanie realized that she was missing a glove. We turned to head 1.3km back to the Casa Rural but we started thinking too. I was 99% sure that the gloved wasn’t on the floor in our room. It either fell out along the route so far or elsewhere in the house. We called the hostess but she had already left. On further reflection, we figured it had to have fallen when Melanie took off her gloves when the rain started yesterday. We weren’t going back to that mountain again. We will replace it in Logroño in a few days.
The walk was an easy and fast first few kilometres until passing through the little village of San Román de Millán. There is a old building there for sale if anyone wants to open an albergue – I’m just saying. Anyway, just behind the village, we began today’s ascent. It was a steep 500m up, the majority of which was over a distance of about 2.5km. It was slow going but we were rewarded with stunning views of the valley we just crossed. I had been warned about a muddy trail but we didn’t have a problem at all. Until….
It seemed as we had just hit the highest point of the days walk when I congratulated Melanie and was about to mention the lack of mud when we rounded a corner. We were then faced with what appeared to be a small mud slide where the trail had been washed away. We tried unsuccessfully to find a way around it but we ended up lowering ourselves down about two meters into the soft mud and crossing it. For the next several kilometres, we spent far too much time either looking for ways around the gooey muck in the thorny bushes, trying to jump from rock to dry patch or just sloshing and sliding through. It was a mess and I lost a rubber tip for my walking sticks for the second day in a row. Thankfully we brought some replacements.
The mud lasted long enough to really get on our nerves but then the Camino provided us with an escape. The trail today seemed very well marked with orange arrows but it was also easy to follow because it was along a red and white blazed GR route. Just as we were really fed up with the mud, the two trails split. The GR trail continued through more mud but the Camino route took us though mountain meadows with lovely scenery, beautiful wild flowers of many colours and dry grounds. We win!
All was well after that point until going over the final small crest leading to a long descent. At that last high point, we were rewarded with a fantastic view of the valley below us with Alda right in the middle – at least we thought. It turned out that what we thought was our destination town, we were actually looking at Ullibarri. Upon entering the town, there was a sign for Alda showing us another 2km away. Oh well. At least two cute stray dogs walked the last bit with us. They kept us entertained the whole way to Alda. The very end of the GPS track put us across the street from our lodgings for tonight, the Casa Rural Biltegi Etxea.
There are no stores, bars or restaurants in Alda but the owner of the home is making us dinner and breakfast. We never have to go out into the cold tonight. The dinner was a full hearty pilgrims meal with chorrizo, a lentil soup, fantastic salad, pork, fries and fruit.
For those following us, prepare to deal with the mud on this stretch if you are walking in springtime or you are unlucky other times. We hear that it is muddy all the time in this season and after a good summer or autumn rainfall. We were actually lucky as it had not rained on that section in two days. If it was raining while we tried to cross, it would have meant mud up to our calves.
Fun fact for the day: I kept referring to the woman at the Casa Rural in Araia as “our hostess”. She was so sweet and helpful that I would prefer to use her name. She spelled it for me but too quickly, with an accent and with letters I am not accustomed to hearing within spitting distance of each other. I was too shy to ask her the repeat herself but I think she said he name was spelled T-x-e-p-i. She is Basque, alright.