Spectacular hiking trail through the green hills and forests in Basque Country | Day 13 of GR11
We had a big plan for the day to do 16kms and looking at the terrain map we saw that it would be quite challenging with lots of ups and downs and 500m of elevation change. We just hoped for the weather to help us to cover all the distance.
We woke up with the sound of the owl in the scenic spot we found the day before. We had a peaceful night there with no wind and no other sounds. The spot was wonderful because on one side we had the river stream and on the other beautiful beech forest growing on the steep slope of the hill. The scene was especially beautiful in the morning soft light.
The day started with the steep and slippery uphill and it took us quite some time to go through, as we had to go slow. It was only 1.5km long but it felt hard to do the first thing in the morning when the body and muscles weren’t awake and warm enough. But the scenery was beautiful of the forest awakening with the first rays of the sun.
The weather for the first time in 3 days was sunny and clear in the morning with no fog but still very humid. The wind was quite cold and so we had to wear coats at the start.
Then we came out to the top of the hill, had to cross the farmer’s gate and went along the mountain hill stepping on the grass. There were pasturing lots of sheep and horses too. We started to see some great views from that point as well. After the trail turned to the farm route going through the shaded forest and it went downhill. It was only 2kms long so we were able to do it quite fast. We met quite a few hikers on the way too, as well as cyclists.
Soon we came to the parking lot where we crossed the car road and had a little break before tackling the uphill. There we saw a very common sign of mushroom the meaning of which we just realized at that moment. It meant that the area was very clean and there were growing the eco mushrooms.
It was around 11am at that point and the sun was getting higher so we wanted to do the uphill as soon as possible. So at first it went on the farm route and wasn’t too steep at all. It was all in the shade as well for which we were very grateful. Then it went deeper in the forest and turned to a narrower path that went steeper too. But because of the cool wind and no sunlight it was perfectly doable.
At one moment the trail came out to a more open space and began to follow the green hill climbing up. It didn’t last long before we came to a sign post where we turned right to continue to follow the slope. We’ve noticed that there were several other GR signs like GR12 for example on the post with the same marking of course so they could be easily confused. We always checked our map in case of doubt.
From that point on the trail didn’t go very steep nor made long uphills or downhills. It was doing small ups and downs all the time and the marking was well done so quite easy to follow. We got to enjoy there spectacular views on both sides of the ridge, the French on one side and Spanish on the other. The green hills and fields seemed to be endless and they were waving and intertwining with each other in the most elegant and beautiful ways. There we decided to stop and have lunch right at the edge of the hill.
We could have sweared that we were able to see the blue ocean line somewhere far on the horizon. We’ve enjoyed it thoroughly and it was one of the most scenic parts to follow so far on the trail. It lasted for a good several kilometers and went through many cow and horse pastures.
Then the trail made a drastic turn and started to go downhill, first following the green slope then the rocky part and coming to the foresty area again. There we met quite a bit of small houses looking like refugees with benches and water but we were not sure what they served for. After that the path turned to uphill again and it was the beginning of the many small ups and downs area.
The route went along the metal gate for quite some time and there exactly was passing the Spanish French border and as we were walking alongside of the hill we could see both sides of France and Spain. Also there we noticed a sign of the Great Crossing of the Basque Country trail and thought that it was interesting to know also.
So despite of the major downhill we did already we still had several small climbs to do – quite steep and all in the sun which were daunting enough at the end of the day. But all that time we got to enjoy amazing landscapes and scenery and so couldn’t complain at all about that part. In the end it was the GR 11 mountainous pass – the challenging and demanding trail and this is what you should expect from it. Sometimes the scenery was reminiscent to a New Zealand even though we have never been there and only seen it on photos because of the green hills it looked very similar.
Finally, we came across the major downhill starting from some refugee or haunting house and we decided to follow the farmer gravel route since then. We were getting close to the water fountain we marked as a possible camp spot and were on the lookout but could not see any for the moment. The slope was quite steep and covered in dense fern plantation so there was no possibility to camp whatsoever.
So we had to stretch further down the trail for several kilometers until we found the water fountain with the nice clean water with no need for filtering. From there we filled all our containers and bottles and hoped to be able to find the flat spot soon. But the slope continued and continued for the next couple of kilometers and all we could see were the hilly fields with lots of cattle on them.
In the end we had to cross the gate and wander a bit in the field to find still a very uneven spot on the hill but at least it was not seen from the trail even though it was very close.
It was already 7pm when we set up a tent and so we had very little time for everything. We took our shower, cooked rice and laid out our sleeping gear. We were very tired from the challenging terrain we had to through and also because we had to make more kms than planned. But at the same time it meant that the next day we wouldn’t have to do as much so it was comforting to know.
We enjoyed the variety of landscapes for that day from the beech forests to rocky terrains and green hills with ideal grass. The weather was a big helper again too with cool wind and some clouds. We went to sleep thinking about doing more chilled out next day..