Pension Usoa (30€)
We leave Ronsavalles after an elaborate breakfast. We notice a large group (about fifteen) – an organized walking tour. We later meet Judy, their guide from “Spanish Steps,” based in Aspen. Her group will arrive in Santiago in thirty-five days and average 28-32 kilometers/18-20 miles a day. She is very nice and generously informative. There is no one on the trail when we set out. The day is overcast but good for hiking. The walking is level at first through lovely forests and two small Basque towns. Suddenly there are lots of walkers, all apparently day-hikers. We can’t figure this out. Most of the walkers are wearing Camino shells and there are kids, families, big groups. It turns out that there is a marathon tomorrow (which is why we had such trouble making reservations) and today, Saturday, is for walkers (with Sunday for runners). The way winds through pleasantly forested country, with meadows here and there. We stop for lunch in a small village and share a sausage sandwich, coffee and chips. For company, there’s a passel of kittens. We walk on to the next town, still tons of people everywhere. We stop for two tonics and then proceed up a VERY STEEP hill, part now of a walking wave. The going is very hard and very hot, but the mountain scenery is gorgeous and we carry on. Finally we arrive in Zubriri at 4:15 PM. We cross a bridge and see many hikers happily soaking their hot, tired feet in the river below. Our pension is easy to find and we have a tiny but charming room. Love it, with our landlady equally charming. We walk around the town and find everything a bit out of sorts. Fiestas everywhere, but no food available until later, and way too many people to compete with. Finally, after checking out all the dining possibilities, we settle on a small, rustic hotel. We wait until 8:30 for them to open and are glad we made the choice. Before dinner, we meet a man, an American, who is having a very hard time. He started in St. Jean and does not think he will be able to do this. He is fat and slow and was stranded on the top of the pass overnight. We sympathize, offer what advice we can, escape for dinner. Excellent: soup and peppers, pasta Bolognese, veal stew, ice cream (for Nick), cheese (for Bonnie).