Day 11 | Liedena to Izco
I think we have rented the noisiest little casa in Berdun! We think that the residents must be so used to the noise that they don’t hear it anymore. Or maybe we live in such a quiet corner of rural France and we’re not used to the noise of the metropolis? (bearing in mind there are only around 200 residents in this little hilltop village) Every night we’re ready for bed around 10:00pm but that’s when the village is coming to life. Old ladies gather under our apartment window and chatter and laugh and no doubt share the village news. Children seem to enjoy kicking a football around in the church park above the house and last night we were sure they must have been walking a sheep up the lane? The dog across the road gets very excited about all the passing traffic and barks and as the house is on a bend at the top of steep hill, cars need to rev their engines to make it to the top… and if that wasn’t enough the lady who lives on the floor above us seems to move her furniture around every night… we kid you not it really does sound like someone is dragging a bed or a wardrobe across the floor. Anyway… it’s noisy. But do you know what? We kind of love the noise. It’s full of character. It’s Spain.
Before going to bed last night we sat out on the terrace and watched a light show in the distance on the hills beyond Pena Monastery. Flashes of lightning flew across the sky and dark clouds passed in front of the moon. We expected a storm but for us nothing happened.
This morning, as with every morning, the village came to life sometime after 5:00am… we sleep with the windows open as there’s a glorious cool air that blows through overnight and so we now also wake around that time. Do they never sleep here? It’s still dark and we both just try to go back to sleep; I wish I’d brought earplugs with me. Today we managed to doze until around 6:30 but in the end we decided we were awake. But sometimes getting up earlier than planed actually makes you lazy and we were slow getting ready; it was gone 8:00am before we left.
We’re not moving forward today but rather we’re walking the variant of this stage of the Aragones. I’ve read that the Foz de Lumbier (Gorge of Lumbier) is spectacular and a sight worth seeing. We put Foz de Lumbier into the sat-nav and set off along our usual route. As we approached Sanguesa and Liedena the sat nav directed us to a small road. It felt wrong to me as Foz de Lumbier is a popular tourist destination and there would be signs. We followed the track for a few minutes until we realised that we were heading towards a cement factory. There was no road and our little car was getting in the way of great big lorries. We carried on and looked ahead and saw that our white dirt track disappeared over a hill. This was clearly not right so we stopped and turned around and headed back to the motorway. Google sat-nav was a bit cross with us (make a u-turn – make a u-turn) but we ignored her and followed our noses. Returning to the cement factory I saw a chap walking and thought he looked like a pilgrim… but why would a pilgrim be here? But we were gone before I could take a closer look, back on to the motorway and the right road!
We arrived, I spotted my first yellow arrow in Lumbier which always makes me feel happy! We parked and followed the other tourists heading to the gorge. Today we decided not to follow the arrows but to take a circuit around the gorge. Our plan (we thought) was to take the harder higher path first and then afterwards take the second lower route . Everyone else took the low road… but not for us! Up and up we went. The track was very rustic in places and only wide enough for one foot. Sometimes it was a case of scrambling up the rocks and grabbing the sides as you went. Up and up we walked until we popped out on a gravel service road. We saw the big wind turbines spinning and it gave us hope that there might be a breeze today. There was more up to go but it was much easier. However, the track was very exposed and we could already feel the sun even though it was only 09:30 in the morning. Up and up we continued until finally we reached the top.
The website for the gorge had said that we would spot lots of different flora and fauna and see the giant buzzards flying overhead. We didn’t. We walked along the service road, admiring the distance views but it wasn’t quite what we’d expected and we were following a trail under electricity pylons and the buzz and crackle from these giants always makes my head fizzle. I picked up speed to try and get this section done and shortly we were rewarded not only with a right turn away from the pylons but we also spotted a yellow arrow… Later I would wonder why… but for now we thought we’d joined the camino.
Our umbrellas came out as it was just too hot and we carried along a stony path which reminded me a little of the down bit of Alto de Perdon… thankfully not as steep. Partway down I spotted some shade and shouted back to Gerry that we should stop for a drink… he replied oh yes please… make mine and Gin and Tonic with an ice and a slice ! He had water like the rest of us!
Down and down we headed and the road ended and we joined another service road. This one was much steeper and the trail was covered in white dust and small stones. It wasn’t difficult to walk on but it was steep and it reminded me of the Rota Vicentina where I fell. That was also on a dusty slope and now I always feel a bit nervous. But I had good trail shoes on and I remembered that you should stride heel first, plant your heel and make sure you don’t lean forward. So this is what I did. Down and down we walked. It seemed a long long way down… more that we’d come up? We’d get so far along, think it was over but the trail would switch back and go down some more.
As we walked Gerry explained to me about how cement was made. He explained that the origin of cement goes back to ancient Greece and Rome. The materials used were lime and a volcanic ash that slowly reacted in the presence of water to form a hard mass. This formed the cementing material used for Roman mortar and concrete 2,000 years ago! Got to love walking with this chap… he teaches me so much! He said that I’m the entertainment committee and he’s the educator. I’m not sure why I’m the entertainer (apart from my job) but I guess I keep him amused!
Anyway.. we continued to walk down. It seemed to go on forever. Down and down on the white dusty road. The sun was so hot we just wanted to start on the trail back to the start. As we got lower it dawned on us that we were actually walking back to the cement factory that we’d driven through earlier. And then we realised that we were walking on the trail that goggle wanted us to drive up! And then we started to think… we’ve gone wrong! But how? There was only this road. We could only come down. What should we do? Should we continue? Was it correct? Should we go back? Lord no please don’t make us walk back up that hill! We decided that as we’d seen no turning we should continue. We ended up in exactly the spot where we had turned the car around. This wasn’t right. We were virtually back in Liedena. There was nothing for it. We had to go back up. Oh lordy… did I mention it was baking hot! Gerry started humming Bonnie Tyler… Turn Around Baby… I never liked that song!
We spotted a couple higher up about half way down the hill. We walked upwards and upwards and at some point we expected to pass them. But they never reached us. This made us think that maybe we’d missed a turn. Upwards and upwards we walked. I was so hot and tired. Please let it end soon! Up and Up until we spotted another couple… one minute they were on the trail and the next they were gone. We knew there was a turning. Up we walked and there it was. A marker taking us off the white dusty path and down to the river valley. We must have gone wrong when we spotted the cement factory… we must have been so distracted and surprised to see it that we just kept walking. But oh yeah! We made it back and we were on the right path. But oh no! What a difficult scramble down it was. The brollies had to go back in our pack so we were very exposed.
Back in January I hurt my shoulder. It got progressively worse until I couldn’t move without terrible pain. My doc ordered a scan but that only revealed a healing torn tendon. But I still couldn’t move my shoulder and the pain awful. He referred me to a shoulder expert who diagnosed a Frozen Shoulder. I’ve since had a procedure in the hospital and a few weeks of physio and it’s so much better than it was BUT… today I realised how much I missed having an arm I can use to reach out with. The trail going down was very stony and steep… it was really tricky. I had no poles with me and I found it hard to reach out and grab the sides of the trail to steady myself. Added to this it was just sooo darn hot. It felt like an age scrambling down and oh I was so happy to reach the bottom and another flat white dusty path. It didn’t take us lone to realise that if (at the bottom of the very steep hill by the cement factory) we had just turned right and kept walking, we would have been on the path that we were now walking on… and we wouldn’t have needed to walk all the way back up the hill nor have to scramble back down again. Oh lordy! That was a costly missed marker but at least we had a good workout!
Onwards we walked along the flat path. We passed green and white Lumbier markers and also the yellow arrows. This was the camino… I’ve no idea what the arrows were at the top of the hill? But we were happy. Some walkers coming the other way asked what was at the end of the trail. (They were French)… a cement factory we said. Any shade? Not a bit we replied. They huddled together and a few minutes later we heard them walking behind us… they too decided it was far to hot to be walking. Up to now we had been quite disappointed with our walk. That was about to change. We walked through a long dark tunnel and popped out into Jurassic park. Well not quite but we were in the gorge. Three things instantly were better… it was shady and cool and the views were amazing and it was flat. Oh happy days. We walked along and ooh-ed and ahh-ed and we even spotted one the great big birds they mentioned on the website. It was pretty wonderful.
All too soon it was over. The actual gorge was only about 1.5km long but our fitbit told us we’d walked nearly 14kms… and when we jumped in the car the temperature read 36c. Oh my it’s too hot!
We decided to have lunch in town. We drove up through the streets to find a restaurant but quickly decided we should just park and walk as Lumbier was perched on a hill and old towns always have narrow streets and no parking. So we stopped and walked again. There were little yellow markers on the road and I was sure they were camino markers… sure enough they led us to the church and continued beyond. Gerry was still not sure but if they are camino markers I vote that every town adopts them! It was so easy to follow!
We found a little restaurant beside the church and opted for the menu del dia… fabulous food and the the bill was 25€ including 2 rounds of drinks! And so much better than yesterdays!
We were unsure what to do next. I’d wanted to go and walk for a few kilometres around Izco as that was the next village on the camino. We drove there but it was 37c degrees when we arrived and Gerry was too hot. We meandered around the village and found the church and also a pool! There was a pool and my swimming things were in the apartment! Darn it… I would have been in for sure! Lucky pilgrims who stay here… they can use the municipal facilities! But not us. Instead we decided to head home, stopping off at the supermarket for a few supplies.
All in all it was a good walk today, even with the hiccups, but I’m not sure which path I preferred; I honestly think I enjoyed yesterdays walk more. If I had to choose I think I would get a bus or taxi from Liedena or Sanguesa and go walk the gorge (it’s only 1.5km so wont take long)… and then I’d walk the original path that we took yesterday. But… if I couldn’t do that then I’d probably want to walk through the gorge, just to see it. Thankfully now we don’t have to make the choice. It’s going to be even hotter tomorrow… we might leave early!