Kilometres walked: 33km / Total kilometres: 175 / Elevation gain: 1280m / Elevation loss: 830m / Time walked: 8h7min
When my alarm vibrates at 5:30 and I remove my earplugs I hear music. Apparently the town party is still going strong. Only at 6:30, as I make my way out of the camping, the music stops playing. Bleary-eyed drunk teenagers watching the sun come up in the town square. And me, walking through, trying not to draw too much attention to myself. It works.
Today is easy walking. I’m combining two stages from the Ciccerone guidebook. First to Isaba. Mostly easily graded gravel road, a bit boring, but with some nice views. I put on a podcast and before I know it I’m on top of the hill ready to descend into Isaba. The descent is through forest, on a steep path with dirt and gravel, rocks and dry leaves. I slip a few times but somehow manage to keep my balance.
One of the hills on this road offers a first clear view of the mountains that are ahead. They are coming! I can’t quite believe I’ll be there tomorrow already!
Just before town there is a small church or chapel, with shade and water and flowers and it’s all very pretty. Ten minutes later the trail spits me out on Isaba’s main road. There’s a bar ahead and I go inside.
There are three other people, and I position myself and my backpack strategically in a corner. Within 10 minutes, the bar is packed. Church is out, time to meet up and drink! A gang of older ladies joins my table, notice my guidebook, and ask all the questions they have (alone? how far? where do you sleep?) before concluding I am very brave. I love the church ladies. They even help me navigate out of the bar, maneuvering people so me and my backpack can pass through.
On towards stage two! This one leads to Zuriza, a campground & refugio up in a valley. There are two routes to choose from; the official easy one that follows a river, and a longer and harder one that takes you to your first ‘real’ mountain. Since I’m combining stages, I pick the short route, and it’s mostly a very pleasant walk through a gorge that opens up into a valley. I take a long break where I eat some mashed potato and sit in the river (cold!) and late afternoon I arrive in Zuriza.
Waiting on the terrace is the little merry band of hikers that I met before Ochagavía. I guess we’re a hiking bubble now?
The campsite is situated beautifully, but has a very neclegted feel to it. The showers and toilets are very gross and the camping store is closed so if you don’t need any of the facilities it’s probably better to camp down near the river.
I cook some ramen near my tent, hang my clothes to dry in the last evening sun, and am soon off to sleep. Mountains tomorrow!