Come join us for a hike

We start to gather

This past weekend we answered an invitation from some Basque friends who we met while walking the Camino Ignaciano. The invitation was simple. We are holding our annual hike in Agurain please come and join us. Pretty straightforward, but not exactly. At first I thought this was some sort of hiking club and this was their annual outing, but that was not the case. Yes, apparently there was a small group of locals who use to mountain bike all around the area. A couple of these friends eventually passed away and it was decided to honor that long term friendship by creating an entity that is called KA-Hiru. The letters K and A are the first name initials of the deceased friends and hiru is Basque for the number three which is noteworthy because the group challenged themselves to bike up the three highest peaks in their region. So here is the interesting part. This past Saturday, 120 people gathered, not to celebrate an organization (KA-Hiru exists in name only) but simply to celebrate friendship, and it’s power to bring people together in a positive way. That is how I distilled all the multi lingual explanations, but having witnessed this remarkable event I think I am pretty close in my assessment. The people of Agurain (which is a 20 minute drive from the regional capital city of Vitoria-Gasteiz) are closely connected to one another as a community, but they are also closely bonded to their Basque culture, and to the land. It is those bonds that continue to draw crowds of people both young and old into the mountains for a day for celebrating the friends in their lives, the Basque culture, and the beautiful land they are blessed to call home. I wish more of us would wake up and say, ” What a brilliant concept, why didn’t I think of that?”  As a sidebar, I found it extraordinary how fit these 120 people were. I am sure they all have TV sets and computers that could distract them, but somehow they spend enough time out and about to stay in great shape. Our group of 120 hikers ran an age gamut of perhaps 75 to 8. There were two walks available. One was 20 kms and the other followed the same route but started further along and it was 11 kms. Robin and I walked the 20 kms route and it was a serious workout, and we are use to this kind of thing. But the entire group clipped along pretty darn quickly up some steep pitches, and appeared none the worse for wear for doing it. One guy, probably in his early 60’s was watching me try to negotiate my way through a barbed wire cattle fence, simply bounded over the whole thing. Yikes! I have now met superman. It was a grand day. The weather was cloudy and then the rain caught up with us and by day’s end. As we picked our way down a broad rock slab, a cold 30 knot wind collapsed umbrellas, and vainly attempted to delay our crab walk to the finish and the warmth of an ancient stone hermitage that awaited us.  Friends celebrating all the things that are important to them is a wonderful thing to behold. But, truth be told, it was our amigo, Zazpi, who in his role of “master and commander” saw that an organization came together to provide hot food (sausage and potato soup, wood grilled lamb chops and custard for desert), ample drinks (keg of beer, crates of wine, orujo, pacharan, water and soft drinks, and cauldrons of coffee), and bus transportation back home at the end. All the food was cooked on site at the hermitage and the whole fiesta came together splendidly. I have attended many parties in my life, but this one was one of the best organized ones I have ever been to. Plus it was great fun. The whole thing wrapped up with traditional Basque music and dancing that I was told is how they conclude every party. As we finally coaxed aching muscles up the stairs of the awaiting buses I felt certain we all gave our own version of a blessing for the gift of friends, and the day we shared together. Perhaps that sense of joy was what finally warmed me up, but full disclosed there were some adult beverages in play as well. What a day.

Our approach path

   

Approaching the “sheep path”
The sheep path
Local fauna
A look back early on

 

 

Robin and Josemari

 

 

Shepherd’s hut half way shelter
On the move again
Robin and Josemari
Cave entrance that goes on for 2 kms.
A little more elevation gain
Home at last (almost)
Let’s eat
Lamb chops on the grill
Our skilled chefs

 

 

 

View from the door
Our arrival slope
Our skilled musicians
A fine day for a party
Zazpi (master and commander) closing the fiesta.
A last look

 

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