Day two dawned and I was feeling strong. I woke mid-morning and by the time I’d showered, ate and packed away my tent it was gone 10 O’clock. Not the rising at the break of dawn and setting off before the sun had fully risen of many a walker. Many people who know me would be impressed that I’d left before 12.
Plentzia lies at the bottom of a green hill which climbs up, away from the sea to a wooded ridge, behind which are the mountains of the inland. I walked up and out of Gorliz, looking back frequently towards the picturesque town of Plentzia. From here you could see all of the town in its corner. The river to the West and the sea to the North with a beach to its East and the mountains behind. A pretty amazing location by any standards. Today I planned a much longer walk; around 40 kilometers. First inland, up and over a mountain or two and then descending back to the coast, thus cutting off a large bulge of coastline. I would reach the coast at one town before walking along it to the next. The distance didn’t matter, I was feeling good.
Once I’d reached and gone beyond the ridge of the hill, out of sight of the sea, I was walking down the steady decline of a shallow valley, along a single lane country road. Fields of light, lush green blanketed the ground softly either side of me as the road made its way down to a small village called Lemoiz. The village lay in a deeper, conjoining valley. It had a high, steep, pine wooded hill on one side and the shallow grassy bank on the other. After my easy walk to the village I had a hard climb out. As I ascended up the small dirt road on that warm summers day, sweating profusely under the canopy, I did ask myself if I was going in the correct direction. Google maps said yes.
With the smell of pine deep in my lungs and glimpses of the immense, densely forested mountains behind I strode on. Thankfully the steep road leveled out but it also stopped. It was replaced by a pathway the other side of a stile. This was more like it, I thought, I’d much rather cross the mountains via a footpath than a road. The path continued to gain altitude gradually until the trees generously dropped away to reveal the Basque mountains in full spender. Only a few heavy duty dirt tracks spoiled the endless woodland. I continued along the narrow path that descended sharply before rising once again. More butterflies than I’d ever seen before fluttered all around me while small lizards made way as I approached. Due covered spider webs also regularly stretched across the path so I picked up a conveniently sized branch to: A. help me walk and B. bash spider webs out the way. As I was looking up at one of the many birds of prey which soared in the sky, I realized I was dawdling in a dreamy manor, not paying much attention to direction. I eventually bumped into a three-way junction where my path met one of the dirt roads, I checked Google maps. After looking at the map confusedly for several moments, I realized that the little blue dot of my location had not moved since I last checked it. My eyes darted from the blue dot to the GPS symbol, it wasn’t there, no GPS. I checked my physical maps but before I had even looked, I knew that this little path or the dirt road it entangled with would not be marked.
I decided just to continue in the direction of a road which was marked, a road which would take me all the way to the coast. With my walking/ spider smashing stick in hand I continued along the track that vaguely lead in the right direction. Without a gate or a sign, the track gave way to a low cut lawn at the rear of a big house. I stopped, puzzled. Two dogs saw me from across the lawn and started barking. One big and one small. They barked but did not approach. Their non-immediate approach coupled with the lack of gate lead me to believe that the dogs must be tied up. I peered beyond the house and saw the fabled road I’d been heading towards. I took a step closer, but as if that was the trigger the smaller dog began to run. Not at full pelt but very much running across the grass towards me. I thought of running away but I knew I couldn’t out run a dog so I stopped, my big branch in hand. At first it had been a spider web remover, then I had found it a convenient walking stick, now it was a weapon. I stood in batsman position, branch two handed over shoulder. The dog came closer but paused about 4 meters from me. It looked back at the big dog who hadn’t moved as if waiting for back-up. Gratefully, his big friend showed no sign of moving, instead howling at a distance. Maybe that one was tied up. I wasn’t taking any chances and backed away, off the lawn, into the undergrowth and the forest beyond.
Then I began to run. I didn’t run back towards the dirt road, I instead ran around the side of the house. All I needed to do was get around to the opposite side. After getting a little distance between me and the lawn I had to slow. To my left the hill dropped away steeply and between many of the trees were webs housing big, brutish spiders in their middles. I am far from being an aracnafobe so when I say they were big, they were big. In here, under the canopy, with the big spiders and the sound of the dogs barking behind me, I felt a new kind of adrenalin. One fuelled by fear mixed with the thought of the craziness of it all. It wasn’t an especially negative feeling though; I still had adventure burning strong within me.
I managed to make my way around to the corner of the long front garden. The house was on a large plot of land containing two buildings, so it took a little time to make my way around. The roof of the nearest building was visible over the rim of its perfect green lawn, it was a very wealthy looking place. There, I was met by another problem. Between me and a lane that linked to the black asphalt road was a dip. A dip full of brambles and stingers and too steep to contemplate tackling. I thought for a moment, thought of the dogs and the stories I’d heard of unforgiving Basque folk. Here, unlike at the back of the house, was a fence. A freshly painted, hip high, white wood thing. I climbed under it, well aware of how it may have looked to any possible on-lookers. I slid my bag under first and then myself. I ran along the edge of the fence, crouching over so not to be seen from within the building. At the end of the garden I slid my bag and body back under the fence on the other side of the dip. From there I crunched my way over some brambles and let out a joyful sigh when I felt the road beneath my feet. I hurried along the road, continuing my journey, just a few small scratches worse off. I didn’t look back at the house.