Monday, July 22nd
The thunderstorms kept threatening all night, which gave me little sleep. Under an already bright sky I get up, rested nevertheless, to start afresh, and find rather quickly the indications after turning in the direction of the observatory. For this I need to walk through a field of ferns, where I fear for the adders, but since I made it so far with no snake bites, I tab on my luck. After descending into the valley I walk into Bidarray, a small outpost really, as only a supermarket next to a restaurant will service the buses of tourists for which, I presume, they are building an enormous parking lot (shaded by white removable plastic tents). Is this ecological management in the third millennium? The only banking outlet that one will find for another week moreover isn’t open (Monday? or just the usual arrogant opening hours of financial institutions, in today’s capitalistic society, where most work more rather than less to get by?). I halt and take an excellent meal (black sausage with fresh potatoes if I remember well) and the well deserved “quart de litre de vin”. The pain in my muscles subsides, and the red liquid helps me for the next days to come. I become very eager to see St Etienne de Baïgorry of which the TopoGuide tells me so much and make my way for the next ascension by 13.00 hrs ; charging the battery of my portable phone would prove another challenge during this quest for self assessment, especially over the last days of it when I wasn’t even able to catch decent emission, I tried to load with the screen, provided with cellular software to that effect (whether it really worked remains a question, but I doubt that I would have been found, if I’d been in difficulty).
Pic d’Iparla (1044m), Col d’Harietta (808m), Urdos (I see it from the top of the mountain ridge) Astate (1022m) and finally the most memorable one, as it will bring me back into another valley, Pic de Buztanzelhay (1029m). A person I met later on explains the name to me: Buz = buse and Zelhay in which you find the old ‘sel’ as the Romans used to define the territory by having the centurion throw a stone as far as he could to mark his territory; something similar happened in this Bask country where you find many circular fields, remains of the old delimitations as a circle being drawn with that obtained radius (ingenious practice and inviting corruption if you ask me). You can see the buzzard’s tail and imagine how hard the descent will be. And indeed, I find myself at 19.00 hrs still on top of the ridge, looking into the valley to find my way, and finally I call the taxi driver whose address I got at the restaurant and to whom I passed the shopping bag which I carried since my shopping in Ainhoa. He assures me that it is only another couple of hours walking, and though exhausted (I take a lemon and tomato to refresh myself) and thirsty, I start descending in my happy go lucky way. I didn’t find the trail again, and followed the sheep going to their coral which brought me a bit nearer, yet it remained searching until the end of the day. I enter at dusk and find myself a way to the ‘gîte Mendy’. The owner who shows up rather late (I made a reservation) is panicking as he sees that the dormitories are not really well prepared by his cook (?) – [who is losing money on this, when no jobs are available and all who work need to do the work for two in order to keep their job? But what do I know about their internal kitchen; the breakfast will turn out to be a little meager though (no cheese or animal proteins which hikers need)]. I don’t think I’ll give this camping a good rating on this point.
I sleep above a young fellow who searches the meaning of his work which I understand to be that of a social worker in Paris, and hopes to find inspiration at the forest of Iraty? (What I’ll see of it two days later doesn’t allow me to believe he found what he looked for, given the terrible shape it is in; I did find the meaning of my work for that matter, which is writing this journal). As he smoked a lot, and had caught influenza, his tossing and turning kept me awake for most of the night. The morning nevertheless found me afresh, as a sweet girl the previous night lend me her bar of soap for a refreshing shower.
Talking of a sound sleep: just when I was about to snooze off, at midnight, my cellular phone started ringing (it still worked then), and Jean Baptiste, the loyal taxi driver whom I never paid the second delivery (34 Euros! whereas the going rate must be around 8 Euros) of my food transport (1 plastic bag not weighing 10 pounds, which probably made its’ way through various cars and for which I had to wait the following day at the Châlets d’Iraty – I hope he forgives me) announces his arrival at the shelter Mendy, where I recuperate it for 13 Euros.
Now it seems to me that these first days, before reaching the heights, were the most enjoyable ones ; isn’t that what is said about Life in general which gives food for thought…