Travelled : 46 miles to Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry in the Basque-Pyrenees
Visited : Pico Gorramakil and Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry
Stayed : Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry municipal camping area, €12.70 with service and good wifi. N 43.11.048, W 001.20.132
Expenses : 25 days @ €78 per day.
Not a day of driving long distances, but driving up and down mountains.
We slept in a little after yesterday forced march. Pam did the washing, I did a bit of a clean up of the living area and gave the floor a vacuum. It was a leisurely morning really, we sat and had coffees enjoying the vista of the mountains surrounding our campsite in Ainhoa.
We finally got the washing in and the bed made about midday and headed of across the border into Spain. It’s all a bit of a let down really, there’s not even a sign saying Spain or a sign saying France in the late afternoon as we returned. Only the GPS and a white line on the road announced the change. Must say however the Spanish signage and turn left from the right lane are going to take some getting used too.
The road continues to climb steadily after we cross the border, by the time we each Otxondo we are at 600 metres and stop at a little road side aire. There are a group of cyclist lunching and we have a broken Dutch x English conversation. They are very buoyant and happy as they tell me they will be at the Atlantic this evening. As Otxondo is the last big climb on the Pyrenees, it’s all down hill from here. My guess is they are all in there late 50s and 60 perhaps, so they are my heroes for getting up that hill.
We turn here for the Pico Gorramakil (Pico is Spanish for mountain) and the climb really begins, during the next 15 kilometres we climb another 500 metres. The road is poor, very narrow and at times a little threatening. We pass numerous small horses or ponies grazing on the roadside, bells attached, we think the keeping of small horses is a Basque tradition. There is the odd herd of black faced sheep and goats as well. We stop for lunch adjacent to the communication tower and take in the vista. At 1090 metres the Hymer still has plenty of grunt and we are happy with how easily it accomplished the climb.
The long descent begins and we return to less than 300 metres (asl) over the next 25 kilometres before turning at Bozate (Spain) back toward the French border. Bozate another Basque village is itself quite special. Almost all buildings are cornered in pink stone, most have flower boxes and well cared for. On the other hand the streets are very narrow and there are several sections of the main road through town where we only have a 100mm each side of the Hymer as we squeeze through.
The climb begins all over again and we cross the border at Col d’Ispeguy (600 metres) another white line on the road. There is a small car park adjacent to a restuarant with a fabulous view of the valley below. Whilst we are looking at a pony standing at the back door of the Hymer, there’s a commotion just across the car park, a car has reversed into a camper car ! It’s time to move on and we do. We start the descent again, this time in France. The road is much wider and safer to negotiate coming down this time and we are soon driving through Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry looking for a campsite.
No aire again, so it’s the municipal campsite at €12.70.
Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry sits on the River Nive des Aldudes, it’s long and narrow as is the valley of the same name.
Very pretty Basque cottages well maintained as they mostly always are. It’s a wine area and there is a large winery operation in the village. We visit the wine cave and Pam particularly enjoys the rose brut so we get a few bottles for the Midi. Then it’s back to the camper car, beer and rose. It’s salmon on the BBQ tonight so it promises to be an easy evening.
Michael and Pam