Perks of sleeping indoors: no wet tents to pack!
I run back to the owner’s house to give him back the key and we made our way out of Caro. R is leading the way and we realize after a few miles that we are no longer on the GR10. I have little signal so I cannot use my GPS app (Geoportal, it’s free). We continue towards a town we see where I finally can check my phone and fin the best way back to the GR10. We can either backtrack but it looks a bit complicated, or follow the road until it leads us back to the trail.
We will have a bunch of close encounters (in my opinion) with dogs in not fenced houses that are also not on a leash. They seemed to strongly feel that the road passing in front of their house was part of the property and that we were trespassing. I tried not to show my fears but I appreciated having a taller person in front of me to scare those dogs away.
We finally got back on the GR10 and run into a farmer working. He had a lot to talk about and we learned all about vultures. If we had admired them before because of their grace and beautiful colors, we looked at them in a different light once he was done telling his stories (he is the one who told us about the eaten hiker on Iparla). A while ago, farmers would leave their dead animals in the mountains where vultures would feed on them. Not so long ago, people decided that it was not good and natural to feed the vultures and that it should be stopped. Because the birds of prey had been used to easily find food in their natural habitat, their population had grown exponentially and they had not enough carcasses to feed them all. So they had to look elsewhere. They started to fly further down in the valley looking for food and attacking weak or small animals but also cows calving: they would smell the blood and go… well, I will not go into much details but let’s say the poor animal would be cleaned from the inside with the skin left intact. It gave me quite a few shivers when I would run into one of them near the trail. Now the farmers are trying to get compensation for the dead animals but even if they have video proof of the birds attacking, it’s not always accepted. It is an ongoing battle in the Pyrenees around this issue.
We continued our way up on the actual trail. There are not a lot of trees and we are hiking through ferns which is not very pleasant and do not provide shade. It’s very hot (35 degrees C) and we soon stop for lunch. We see a hiker that we had not met before with a large black beard and a small backpack: it’s E! He is also doing the GR10 (he finished it late October in one go). He continues his way up the mountain and we finally get up and start hiking again. R’s knees are killing him and he struggles to make his way down Handiague to Esterençuby. It is so painful for him to hike that he considers leaving the trail here to rest and maybe continue once the pain subsides.
E arrives as we are enjoying a Monaco, he offers R some voltarene (an ointment) to ease the pain and we talk about our experiences on the trail. He decided to quit his job and use the trail as a way to think and reflect on his life. For him, we (me and R) have understood what it took him years to figure out. Working just for working is not a way to live, that what we do every day should be meaningful and bring us happiness. To always work towards that goal and not give up. He jokes that he is not roughing it up like us stealth camping but is doing it “Bourgeois” style meaning staying in hostels (called gites) along the trail. It allows him to travel quite light but prevents flexibility in his schedule as he needs to call ahead to book a room. In my opinion, he misses out on some spectacular views as well.
He is planning to stay at Kaskoleta’s hostel for the night and pushes on. We decide to take a rest by the river – small bath for R, nap for me. R’s knees are much better thanks to the voltarene and hiking up does not hurt as much as hiking down. We manage to buy some bread at the Inn where we got our drinks and braced ourselves for the big climb up to Ithurramburu (Basque is so difficult to spell!). It is again super hot outside and we finally arrive to Kaskoleta where we meet E again. We may or may not have left sweat prints on the chairs outside… oops!
We rest a bit at the hostel before pushing on to make it to the top of Ithurramburu before the sun sets. Once again, I have a close encounter with some patous (just leave me alooone!) that actually follow me for a bit barking like crazy. There are some shepherd’s houses at the top, far away from the sheep and a faucet where we can get water. The views are once again incredible and we see the beginning of Pyrennes rocky peaks. Some steep climbs ahead and in particular Occabé, the highest mountain I will climb on the GR10 this year (2,000 m – 6,561 ft).
Disclaimer: I did this trip in September