Passing through Spanish Basqueland

Whenever we drive through a town, I can’t help but imagine ourselves living there for a moment. Is this the place we will come back to after our wandering?

The farming communities on the border of Navarra and Aquitaine are picturesque; big and broad homes with white walls and wood trim painted in green or red. Sometimes there is a flock of sheep and a small garden close to the side. This is the Basque heartland, and it is like a fairytale.

We stopped in Elizondo, in Baztan Valley two days ago and walked around a bit before finding a hiking trail and a camping spot on a nearby hill. Yesterday, we drove further north toward the border to Zugarramurdi. The caves of Zugarramurdi are where pagan rituals were organized, and the Spanish Inquisition accused 300 townspeople of being witches around 1610.

We then crossed the border into France. After so many border towns in West Africa and South America, this was a little surreal. No gate, no customs, no Spanish or French authorities, nothing. Welcome to Schengen Area.

Now it’s time for us to remember all the French we’ve forgotten since leaving Mauritania. À la prochaine fois!

Artazu and Puente La Reina

Navarra is breathtaking; lush hills and valleys, villages and churches built with ancient stone, a distinctive Roman bridge, wind turbines, and the requisite Basque aupa in response to hola! While we just arrived from Logroño yesterday, I’m astounded by how much there is to see just outside Pamplona. I read Navarra leads Europe in the use of renewable energy and Spain in education.

We spent yesterday night near Artazu, a village on the Arga river. The air was much warmer than the night before, and we opened the back door of the van to take advantage of our new two burner camping stove.

The next morning we walked a loop around our camping spot next to a small ermita meeting some Sunday cyclists on the way back. We did our daily cleaning (hand broom, vacuum, shake dog bed, etc.) and took off. A few kilometers away is Puente La Reina. It’s the meeting point of the camino francés and camino aragonés and there are guest houses and restaurants catered towards pilgrims.

We stopped at Casa Martija mostly to charge the MacBook but enjoyed a delicious vegetarian torta de txantxigorri with a coffee. As we walked through the town, signs of the massive national huelga feminista were everywhere. It is amazing to see how much feminism permeates even small towns.

Finding a good camping spot can be tricky some days. We try heading down a bumpy road only for it to lead nowhere. Or we rely too much on coordinates found on a van camping app and it ends up being underwhelming.

But other times, we find those gems through no doing of our own; empty patches next to rivers tucked away, or a dirt road winding up into farmland outside the city. We’ve learned a lot camping through California to Oklahoma and with the van in Andalusia. One things keeps resonating with us; don’t force anything.

On our way back from the afternoon’s walk, we were treated to grandeur.