A dull grey sky greeted us this morning as we pushed open the shutters at the Casa Rural Zadorra Etxea in Agurain. Our friends Zazpi and Josemari were due to pick us up at 8:30 and then we would go to where we would do a short walk from the village of Maestu to Santa Cruz de Campezo, around 11 kms. Today was more about renewing friendships and not so much about logging another long Camino stage. It was a quiet Sunday and the short route we would walk would allow us all to catch up as we walked along.
A bit more information on Zazpi and Josemari. These two Basque guys are inveterate hill walkers and have covered almost every meter of the Basque Country since childhood. They know every nook and cranny and are wise mountain men. They also happen to be two really fun guys with beautiful fun wives as well. Zazpi leads a group of retirees on weekly walks and is involved with another group that does longer walks in a series of stages. The main point is that they are always up in the hills walking. They are very fit and the retirees that walk with them are also very fit. In fact I haven’t met anyone that they are associated with who isn’t fit. They are all like mountain goats. They just start walking and whether it is up or down, no worries , off they go at a brisk clip. Robin and I have first hand experience trying to keep up with them. Keep in mind these are mostly retirees. Impressive fitness. No couch potatoes in this group.
So back to today’s walk. Zazpi suggested we walk a Basque “rails to trails” route that passed nearby and would take us to Santa Cruz where we would then part company. The Basque government took up the challenge to convert an old, abandoned railroad into a beautiful long distance hiking trail. It runs from somewhere near Zumarraga to Vitoria/Gasteiz and onward to Estella on the Camino Frances. I am not sure of the exact distance but it is certainly well over a hundred kilometers. It is a level packed gravel trail that is firm enough for mountain bikes and perfect for hikers. It was splendid. So we walked along and at the appropriate moment Zazpi would peel off to move the car ahead and then walk back to meet us so that the car and all of us wound up in Santa Cruz together.
We first met these guys 3 years ago in January on a mountain top near Agurain, where Zazpi lives. Robin and I were walking the Camino Ignaciano from Loiola to Manresa (27 days) and as we reached the summit of a mountain near Agurain we saw these two guys standing in the snow finishing their lunch. We all exchanged hellos and have been friends ever since. What a blessing.
So once we said goodbye to Zazpi and Josemari Robin and I hiked up to the Plaza Mayor (town square) looking for a restaurant. We found the restaurant and also a local señora who, when asked, advised us that mass was about to start in a small chapel nearby. So off we went to mass where we happily, and prayerfully, gave thanks for the many gifts bestowed upon us. It was a wonderful and memorable day.
We were in Santa Cruz and our beds for the night were in the neighboring tiny pueblo of Genevilla. We stayed there three years ago at the Casa Rural Usategieta where we met our hosts Guy and Mirabel. I had been on the phone with Guy and he agreed to pick us up. So with lunch done followed by a quick carajillo (coffee and cognac) Guy suddenly appeared and we were off 5kms to Genevilla. We are now relaxing in front of a warm fire, sipping some vino and just catching up. We are off to Laguardia, in Rioja, tomorrow. The weather looks favorable so we should be just fine. Signing off to continue relaxing.