This morning we said goodbye to the tranquil Franciscan sanctuary of Arantzazu. We also said goodbye to the travel agent, Luis Renes, who walked with us for the first three days. He told us that he would like to continue to walk with us, but his Australian-born wife has recently given birth to their second child and he needs to be at home to support her. His organization of the pilgrimage has been impeccable and we will miss him. Still we can contact him by phone if we need to.
We took the bus back to Araia where we commenced our day’s walk at 11.00am. Today was a third mountain climb in a row. It was not as difficult as Stage 2, but it was physically demanding nonetheless. From the top of Mount Entzia we enjoyed spectacular views.
Then we descended into the picturesque Arana valley which is very rich farm land. We arrived at Alda a traditional Basque village at 6.10pm. We are staying at Casa Rural Biltegi a family-run guesthouse in the mountain village of Alda. Our Basque guide Fermin left us at Alda to take the bus back to Araia. Although Fermin did not speak a word of English and none of us could speak the Basque language, we managed to communicate with him and very much appreciated his guiding us through the mountains which are not well-marked. We thanked him, sang the Pilgrim Song for him and gave him a small gift. He was very touched and wept.
The owner of Casa Rural Biltegi had organized Mass for the group at 6.30pm, so we walked over to the church in our hiking gear. The priest was waiting for us. He unlocked the church and set up the altar for Mass. He told me that was responsible for nine parishes in the region. I put on the vestments over my sweaty shorts and tee-shirt and said Mass for the group. I was so stiff after the day’s walk that I found it hard to climb up the stairs to the sanctuary.
At 8.00pm we had a lovely meal including fresh salad.