The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Peña de la Lobera (719m)

The Aire at Lanestosa

When Mick visited Lanestosa's Tourist Office on Saturday, he was advised against the route marked in yellow in the village's walks leaflet, on the basis that it is not well waymarked. Today we thought we'd go and see whether 'not well waymarked' meant 'abandoned and impossible to follow'.

Looking down on the village not long after we started heading up the hill

Following what appeared to be a very old, but well constructed trackway as it zigzagged up the hill, we learnt that there was absolutely no waymarking at all, but that the route was perfectly followable when armed with the route downloaded onto an electronic map.

It's clear that at some point the old trackway had become very overgrown, as there are still the remains of tree stumps along its line. Not only has it been cleared, but a good chunk had also been recently strimmed.

Then, suddenly, the strimming stopped.

"Do you think we missed a turn?" I said to Mick and once we had dismissed that idea, I joked that the man they had sent to do the strimming had returned to the town hall to ask if they really wanted him to continue his efforts, as no-one ever goes that way anyway.

A few moments later the now-overgrown track suddenly dead-ended on a steep, ungrazed hillside. There was, however, a hint of a line to follow* in that grass and it led us, by and by, to a bit of the barbed wire fence where the bottom strand had been hooked up to the one above it. We duly crawled under, noting that we were still exactly on the line of the route I had downloaded.

Photos never truly represent how steep a hillside is. Falling on some bits of this would be ...unfortunate.

Reaching the top, it felt a bit like Marilyn bagging can be - the highpoint was just a limestone outcrop in a field of cattle. We were barely any higher than the road that joined a few farms up on this ridge.

Mick strides towards the top

As unsatisfactory as the top was, it did afford us a view of the hill we went up on Sunday that made it look far more dramatic than it had felt when we had been on it...

...and the outlook in the other direction wasn't too shoddy either:

Elevenses was had on the top, watching a bull, about 100m away, that was watching us. We didn't feel unduly threatened, feeling sure he wouldn't be inclined to charge over the limestone pavement where we were perched.

Looking ahead to where the lollipop route was to take us next, a return along our outward route (the one where I had exclaimed "I'm glad we haven't got to come back this way" in respect of the steep ungrazed bit) came to look the more appealing option. Thus, retrace our steps we did - or as close as we could. It took us a while to find the right line across that steep bit, and we came out the other side thoroughly prickled having waded through gorse and done battle with brambles.

It was thus pleasing to regain the strimmed track, whereupon we immediately spotted the turn we had missed on our outward leg. Exactly where we thought the strimming stopped, there was a switchback, where the cropped grass continued. We can only assume we were distracted with the view across the valley as we strode on past it - and perhaps we should have just backtracked a few paces when I'd said "Do you think we missed a turn", but we weren't helped by (once again) the person who had recorded the gpx track having done exactly the same as us.

Back at Bertie, the outing had come in at 4.7 miles with 1300' of up and whilst it wasn't offensive, neither of us classed it as a good walk. It wasn't a patch on the one we had done on the other side of the valley. It's just a pity we didn't have today's weather for that one. As you may have noticed, today we were blessed with a perfect sky.

(*I wonder how many people have downloaded the same gpx file as I had, and thus have helped wear that same vague line through the long grass on that steep hillside, crawling under the same bit of barbed wire fence, because in the absence of waymarking, they only had the gpx route to go on, with no way of knowing that the person who recorded and posted it had gone awry.)

Sunday 29 October 2017

Sunday 29 October - Peña el Moro (821m)

Of the waymarked routes local to the village of Lanestosa, only one visits the top of a hill, so that, naturally, is the one we selected for today's outing. The fact that the lady in the Tourist Office had advised us that it was also the best waymarked was a bonus.

It was very well waymarked too - provided you walked it in an anti-clockwise direction. Having set off clockwise (because that's the direction taken by the person whose GPX file I had downloaded from, it took us a while to realise this, as I merrily navigated from the map on my phone.

Then we got to a fork in the path, where the only visible waymark was just behind us (i.e. perfectly obvious which way to go if you're heading the other way; of no use if you're heading up the hill). Both paths looked good, so we forked right, per the downloaded route. Steeply we went up, until the path became a trod and then petered out. Carefully we picked our way down (very rocky + fallen leaves = recipe to twist an ankle), to reach a path we could see below, which put us back on track. We had just learnt that the track I had downloaded was not the same as the waymarked route. The waymarked route whose marks we could only see by looking behind us and conducting detective work at junctions...

We were helped by the route being, effectively, a circuit at the bottom with a lollipop sticking out of the top. For the lollipop we were walking the 'right' way, so it was only when we rejoined the circuit that we had to pay attention again. Following the route on my phone went smoothly until the very last bit of the descent back to the village, where we found ourselves bashing steeply down some rough ground beside a fence and jumping down from a wall to the road below. It was a surprise to then see a waymark arrow pointing up the hill a few moments later. I still vaguely wish I'd poked about a bit more to find out where the path actually lay, because I'm pretty sure the fenceline/jumping-off-wall shouldn't have featured.

Starting and ending at the motorhome parking area, the walk came in at exactly 6 miles, with 2100' of ascent (and I was very pleased that the descent didn't involve as much ascent as the ascent had involved descent...). Here are a few snaps, with a bit more of the story:

It all started simply, but a bit brutally, with 200 or so steps, too many of which were spaced awkwardly so as to keep using the same leading leg:

At 10.58 I declared we would stop for elevenses at the first to occur of a bench or a view. Unsurprisingly, no bench appeared, but as we broke out of the trees we could see a cliff-clinging 'walkway' above us and thought that would make a good viewpoint:

It was a good viewpoint, but not good for sitting, so on we went until, after ascending a flight of stairs, we landed on a lovely level bit of grass, with a fine panorama. A red kite circled us as we supped and ate:

After pausing to allow a shepherd and his flock to move away from our path (together with his four dogs, or two dogs and two lambs or two dogs and two pigs, we couldn't quite decide...), we rounded a bend, ascended a bit more and then could clearly see our objective before us:

Mick preceded me up to the ridge and forewarned me that I was about to see 'a bit of an oooh'. He was right. As my head cleared the top, I couldn't help but exclaim 'Oooh'. Six griffon vultures then flew straight past us, and I managed to grapple with my phone fast enough to catch some of them in a shot:

Often we find European summits marked with crosses. This one was marked with what appeared to be an upside down fire-suppression sprinkler:

The initial descent from the top was steep and eroded, calling for careful footing. The need for care wasn't helped by distracting views... was just a shame there wasn't a blue sky and good air clarity to show them off better.

Bonus stats:

Number of times I nearly fell over: 6
1) rocks (big ones!) that rolled completely under a foot: 2
2) slips off the edge of a rock: 2
3) an excess of acorns on a path acting like ball bearings under foot: 2

Number of times I actually fell over: 0

Friday 27 October 2017

Ruta Valverde de Laredo

I just thought I'd throw these in at the top of the post, just in case AlanR drops by

After our few days in the Urkiola Natural Park (i.e. where we were when I last posted here), a couple of nights were spent in Bilbao, where all of our walking was of the 'city tour' variety. From there we headed to a spot with a cracking view at the top of a low sea cliff overlooking a bay, popular with surfers...

The view to which we awoke yesterday morning
...unfortunately the location was a bit of a disappointment in terms of doing anything beyond watching surfers, there being a lack of access to walk anywhere (unless we wanted to walk along a main road, which we didn't).

Yesterday we arrived in Laredo, which hadn't been entirely our intention. A quick shop was done at a supermarket on the edge of town, but their car park wasn't a suitable place to stay put for elevenses, and I was too hungry to wait until we got to our destination. So, we drove a couple of kilometres to the beach, and we're still here now. It's a huge beach - 5km long and very wide:

It wasn't until this morning that my mind turned to wonder whether there are any walking routes hereabouts. I wasn't optimistic, but a quick search on showed my pessimism to be misplaced. I soon had this downloaded:

The arrow on the left shows where Bertie is parked; the arrow on the right shows to where we extended the route

A bit of trouble was had with following the route through the old town, so we ended up ascending the hill to the left of the church, rather than to the right, then looping back around on a pleasant cliff-top path to rejoin the route. It afforded a good view of where we were going:

After walking consistently (and sometimes steeply) uphill, the advertised route would then have had us join a road to drop straight back down again. I couldn't understand why it didn't include the 350m each way detour to take in the nearby high point, as marked with the arrow in the above photo. We did make that detour, which afforded good views over Laredo...

...and of shapely cragginess of the coast to the east:

It was the best bit of the outing.

There must have been quite a small-holding community up in that area within the last fifty years, but now there's a scattering of abandoned buildings. Some had been abandoned after substantial building work - including one in a stunning position (albeit with no road access), that was marked as being for sale. The outside and roof were in good nick - it just wanted for windows and a bit of work inside (like floors, fittings, fixtures, plastering etc.).

The stats were around 5 miles walked with 900' of ascent.

Monday 23 October 2017

Monday 23 October - Urkiolagirre (1011m) and Baskonia (973m)

We woke to fog this morning, but I felt sure that it would burn off in time, so we tarried and set out at 11. It was still foggy as we made our way up the same path as we had walked in the rain yesterday...

... but there were signs of brightness, so if it didn't burn off before we reached the top, we hoped to be treated to an inversion.

It wasn't long before we were in clear air, with this view being the first we saw:

With the best of both worlds, there was also an inversion over to one side of us...

...whilst in the direction we were heading, it was perfectly clear at all levels:

What a contrast to yesterday:

Same spot, 24 hours apart

In the delay before we set out I'd done a little research about the highest point on the ridge shown in the snap above. The chap at the Visitor Centre had discounted it as 'difficult' and, as I was keeping him from his lunch, I didn't question him as to the nature of the difficulty. The description I found this morning told me that it was easy until the last pull to the summit, which involved an easy climb over polished rock with exposure. That settled it: polished rock + exposure = no visit to the summit for us!

We did wander up onto the ridge, though, and enjoyed elevenses in a lovely spot with cracking views:

The person in this shot is not Mick - he was sitting next to me as I took it

Not far away from us on the ridge was a small prominence with something marking its summit (we couldn't quite see from a distance what it was; a very small cross, we guessed), so we thought we may as well nip up there and at least have visited one of the high points on the ridge, even if it was far from the highest (the top I'd discounted is actually the highest point in the whole of the Natural Park).

Looking back to our elevenses spot, there are three buildings in this snap - two that looked like substantial shepherds cabins and the other was a small chapel. They blend in well, so they're possibly not visible in this reduced-size snap

Mick was making good progress towards the summit when he suddenly pulled up with an 'oh' and told me to be careful. As is common in limestone areas, there was a hole in the ground. Having given this one a wide berth, we then crawled back towards its edge and peered over. It was almost perfectly round, about 2m in diameter, and we could not see the bottom. We crawled away and continued onwards.

The little rocket thing marking the top helpfully had the name plate telling me the name and altitude of the lump on which we were standing.

After a short retracing of the steps, a slightly different route (a grassy rather than a muddy one) was taken to the track that was to return us to Bertie. It turns out that I was uncharitable towards that track in yesterday's rain, when I said it was through forest, with no views. Under today's perfect sky I noted that not only were there glimpses of views through the trees but there were also quite a few tree-free sections. It also seemed a much shorter return leg today than it had in yesterday's soddenness.

It wasn't a long outing, coming in at just 5.25 miles with 1500' of ascent, but it was quite lovely in today's conditions.

A map snippet of what we did. The black line is the route I downloaded. I've drawn in the blue line where we deviated from that route. I tried, but failed, to also draw in a line to show where we went further NW along the ridge.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Sunday 22 October - Urkiolagirre (1011m)

We didn't travel far when we finally left Elorrio after four nights there. In fact, as the crow flies, we are only just over five miles away, although we did drive rather further than that, due to a lack of roads over the lumpy bits that lie between the two places.

It had been a bit of a toss up as to whether to head for the coast, or further inland to some more hills, but inland won and Bertie slowly hauled his bulk up to an altitude of 720m, whilst Mick marvelled at the Spanish tendency to put four speed limits in the space of 200m (approaching a hairpin bend you get 60, 50, 30 and 10 in such rapid succession that you've barely read one limit when the next is before you. I wonder what a Spaniard would make of winding lanes in the UK, where we are trusted to use our own judgement as to the sensible speed at which to take bends? But, I digress).

It isn't very warm up here, but the weather yesterday afternoon was much better than forecast (i.e. mainly dry, with a bit of blue sky). Believing that today was going to be the better day, the only activity after we arrived here was a quick trip to the nearby Visitor Centre for some mappage, and a stroll to the 'Three Crosses View Point':

Looking back from the Visitor Centre towards where Bertie is parked. Our plan for today was to visit the ridge in the background.

One bit of the panorama from the Three Crosses

A slow start was had today, but we suddenly put a spurt on when I looked at the latest forecast to find that it had now changed to predict four hours of rain, starting at noon.

Half an hour later we stepped out of Bertie ... and then stepped back in again to change into waterproofs. The rain had come a couple of hours earlier than expected.

Back outside, the rain let up not once as we strode uphill, into the cloud:

We knew there were stunning views around us and now wished we'd made the effort to do this walk yesterday afternoon.
At least we weren't alone in our madness of being out in the cloud. Many groups (some large) were seen as we completed our circuit.

Mick studies the topograph, not that it meant much today.

There was clearly no point in making the out-and-back detour onto the limestone ridge in today's conditions. However, we didn't simply backtrack, but dropped down the other side of this grassy hill (being well grazed by bell-toting horses and cows) to complete the rest of our intended circuit.

Our return track lay below the cloud, but ran through forest, so we didn't get to see much even then, aside from plenty of other walkers out for their Sunday exercise. The bread seller who had set up his stall in the car park had looked out of place as we walked past him on our outward leg. When, by early afternoon, the car park was full and he was doing a roaring trade, we saw the sense in his enterprise. Locals come here for a bit of a walk on a Sunday morning, then pick up their fresh bread on the way home - a win-win.

As I type this we are still sitting in the same car park. We are both wearing two fleeces apiece and have blankets over our knees. Whilst we could easily drop back down to sea level for a bit of extra warmth*, we're toughing it out here this afternoon, as tomorrow's forecast is for sunshine and there's still that ridge calling to us.

(* We could even put the heating on. That may yet happen.)

Saturday 21 October 2017

Friday 20 October - Erdikoatxa (1042m)

It was the work of just a couple of minutes to look at Open Cycle Maps and find the name of the hill we had admired during Thursday's low-level walk, then to visit and download a gpx file of a route from Elorrio to its summit. Here's a screenshot of that route, which was described as 10.5 miles long, with 3800' of ascent:

As indicated by the map snippet, the first four miles of the walk in (and, as it was an out-and-back route, the last four miles of the walk out) were along a forest track, which wasn't dreadfully exciting, although in the latter stages we did start to get tantilising glimpses of the dramatic landscape around us.

Reaching our departure point from the track coincided with us leaving the forest, and also coincided with us pausing for elevenses.

We couldn't help but notice at this point that the wall-to-wall sunshine, that was forecast to be with us by that time, hadn't materialised, so we comforted ourselves that the clouds made for a pleasant walking temperature, and tried to ignore the thought of how much better the jagged lumps of limestone would look under blue skies. (As it goes, I would have been happy with the extra warmth of sunshine - my hands got quite cold as we topped out at 1042m.)

Having made good time along the forest track, even though it was uphill all the way, the going got significantly slower once we left it, as we picked our way through a landscape of limestone.

There was no path as such. There were well-camouflaged cairns and vague trodden lines, although with horses, goats and sheep grazing up there (jangling their bells as they went), not all of the trodden lines were helpful.

Our objective, the third and final summit of the ridge, looked impressive, with a huge cave entrance visible in the rock just below it. However, the final approach also looked very rocky and steep, and perhaps a little more difficult than we fancied. On the other hand, the second summit on the ridge, below which we happened at that moment to be standing, looked quite straightforward.

Still overcast at this point. Beyond Mick is the summit we had originally intended to visit, and you should be able to see the huge archway in the hillside too.

It was straightforward, but what we couldn't see from below, but soon discovered, was that this summit was tiny, with a sheer drop on one side and a sharp one on the other. I held on for dear life, took a few snaps and we retreated, getting a few minutes down hill before I realised that such had been my concentration on not tripping over a rock up there and thus becoming too acquainted with those drops, I'd completely failed to take in any of the views.

Don't let go of that cross, Mick!

A different (trickier, and very slow) route was taken to get back to the forest track, although not by design. Repeatedly we found ourselves being enticed further down the hill as the line we were on would hit a rocky outcrop and there always seemed to be a nice grassy trod a few meters below us. Interestingly, if you look at the route I'd downloaded, you'll see that whoever recorded it also took a lower line on their return. Every time I looked, we were exactly on that person's track - so maybe it's just the obvious line to take when heading east to west along that hillside.

By the time we stopped for lunch, at the same spot as we had enjoyed elevenses, the sun was finally winning over the cloud. By mid-afternoon, there was no longer a cloud to be seen.

Having gone for the easier summit, our final distance walked came in at exactly 10 miles, with 3100' of ascent (the third summit wasn't 700' higher, so either the advertised 3800' was an exaggeration, or I undermeasured). That's the furthest we've walked in a while, with the most ascent, so it was pleasing to be sufficiently ache-free this morning to go for a gentle jogette in a town a few miles further towards Bilbao.

Friday 20 October 2017

18/19 October - Around Elorrio

Elorrio sits not-very-far-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things inland from the north coast of Spain, in the Basque Country, in between San Sebastián and Bilbao. It's not on the tourist trail, but, when abroad, we tend to choose the places we visit based on where there is somewhere good to stay, rather than choosing a place and then looking for somewhere to stay. As I mentioned in my last post, Elorrio has provided a motorhome parking area, complete with service point (both free), and so we came here.

The star marked 1 is San Sebastián, 2 is Elorrio, 3 is Bilbao.

It was a bonus, on our approach to see big lumps of limestone in front of us:

With no prior knowledge of the area and with the Tourist Office only open on the weekend, we lacked information about the surrounding hills, and thus started (based on a search for the name of the town on, which gave me some routes recommended by the Tourist Office) with a low level route to the east of the town.

We set off to walk it on Wednesday morning, but after almost two weeks of blue skies, our luck had run out and the forecast came true with rain starting the moment we had locked Bertie's door behind us.

We set out regardless and after about ten minutes declared that we needed to break out the waterproof jackets. Being warm, we didn't bother with overtrousers.

The views of the nearby hills which had been so good the day before were marred by the rain

Through some woods we went...

A very pongy sulphur spring in the woods

...during which time the rain started to come down hard. Our exit from the shelter of the trees also marked the point where we needed to cross a road. A road that offered a direct route back to town and the comfort of a bar for coffee. What to do? No contest - we cut short and our shorts steamed gently in the bar for an hour or so. We had walked just 2.4 miles.

Yesterday was a day of much better weather. so we took the opportunity to try again with the circuit around the town, although, for a bit of variety, we tackled it in the opposite direction.

It was pleasant, with some good opportunities to oggle the nearby hills and the local architecture...

...but it wasn't anything spectacular, with over half of the distance being on tarmac (albeit small, quiet lanes) and most of the rest being in woodland.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my mind turned to ponder whether there were any routes up the nearest hill, and on completing the circuit we repaired to the bar for coffee and I set about asking wikiloc that very question...

Thursday 19 October 2017


All has been quiet on this blog since I conquered the towering Marilyns of Denmark back in the middle of August. Here's a quick synopsis of what's gone on since:

After a visit to the birthplace of the monarchy and Christianity in Denmark, at the visitor centre at Jelling (highly recommended, if you should find yourself passing), and a quick trip to Legoland on the same day, we journeyed down to Ribe - the oldest town in Denmark. Three nights were spent there, which was a little naughty, given the 48hr max stay, but we very much liked the place, and having arrived at gone 9pm on the Friday night it didn't seem too cheeky to stay until early on the Monday morning (or maybe I mean: it seemed likely we would get away with the overstay, what with it being the weekend).

Ribe church

Leaving Ribe, we left Denmark and spent 10 nights in northern Germany. I soon learnt (as Mick already knew) that northern Germany is very flat and very agricultural. I also soon learnt to look for motorhome parking opportunities that were next to either rivers or lakes, because otherwise it wasn't very interesting. Whilst nowhere we went stood out from a walking point of view, I loved the flatness and the abundance of off-road cycle routes from a running point of view.

The castle next to which we parked for a couple of nights in Germany

Then came a few nights in the Netherlands, which is right up there with northern Germany for flatness. More running and more bimbling around lakes ensued.

Taking a horse for a swim

By then it was the end of August, and time for our Chunnel crossing back to the UK.

We woke up at home on 1 September and stayed there for a month, soon discovering that mud season has come early this year. As a result, we didn't visit our local paths as extensively as we ordinarily would when at home. We did, however, thoroughly exploit all of the local pavements in an attempt not to fall into complete idleness (thank goodness for the Fitbits; without them we would have become sloths for the month).

We went home with a whole list of things to be done, and things to be ordered online, but as is so often the case, it was only when we had our next departure date perilously close before us that we went into a frenzy of trying to work through the list. It defeated us.

Notwithstanding the incomplete to-do list, at the beginning of October I booked our passage back to Europe, and we set off again three days later. Two big days of driving took us to a location just north of Bordeaux, timed so that we could join in with a ParkRun there. Then we slowed down considerably as we moseyed down the coast to Spain.

Dune du Pyla, SW of Bordeaux, is the tallest sand dune in Europe. A couple of miles of barefoot walking along its ridge left me with a calf so sore that I was out of action for a couple of days.

The intention on this trip is to stay longer in each place. Ordinarily, we move every day, staying two days at most in one place. Lots of motorhome parking areas have limits of 48 or 72 hours, and there are few (if any) campsites open in this area at this time of year, but where a motorhome parking area coincides with walking opportunities then we will stay to the limit of our welcome.

Dramatic sea at El Peine de los Vientos at San Sebastián

We're in Elorrio, in the Basque country, at the moment. It's a lovely, welcoming place with the town having provided motorhome parking, a motorhome service point and an excellent audiotour of the town, all for free. The bar in the square is a good place for coffee and pintxos - and has good wifi - and the baker sells huge cakes. Moreover, the tourist information office has uploaded some recommended walks to Wikiloc (I'll write a separate (hopefully less rambling) post about our perambulations). The motorhome parking here is not in demand at this time of year, but as there is a 72hr limit in any one week, and as we registered with the local police when we arrived, we feel that we should move on tomorrow, even though we could happily stay here another night or two.

Short work was made of this huge chocolate covered cakey thing

(As always, I'm wittering on daily about our doings at, but will post here either with occasional updates or when we do a walk that I consider merits a mention on this blog.)