Day 22 GR1 Paulas de Sarsas

Totally massive day, and apart from a 15 minute break I walked for 10 hours and 30 minutes and covered 40 kilometers. There was significant climb as well with 4 passes to cross. Another wonderful day, amazing scenery, lovely trail and so much to see.

Said goodbye to Piluca at the casa rural at 8.45 in Nocito and the next person I saw was a shepherd, stick behind his back with three wildly barking dogs, leading his flock of sheep up the hill to Las Bellostas. That was about 9 hours later and he was clearly surprised to see me.

Even more than yesterday the evidence was everywhere that this was a countryside which was full and is now empty. I had my lunch next to a church at the abandoned village of Nasarre. In front of me was a grave where a man had been buried in 1962. As I said yesterday it's all happened in my lifetime. Just down the hill, set amongst neglected terraced fields, is the large and impressive farmstead at Pardina Villanúa - you can still the blue paintwork on the beams in the front room. From the distance Otin looks like it's occupied - there is stucco on some of the houses and some have ornate metal balconies but, despite a sign on a wall pointing you to the bar, Otin is as empty as everywhere else.

Echoes from the past in Otin
People leave the country everywhere but in Spain the process was particularly dramatic. After the civil war the economy was in the deep freeze. In the early sixties things opened up and urban Spain experienced the fastest growth rates in the world. The contrast between life on top of a mountain, no running water, no electricity, and life in the city suddenly became extreme, and within a few years all the young people had gone and villages like Otin ceased to be sustainable.
Puntón de Guara
The impact of rural depopulation made today's walk interesting but the scenery alone would have been enough for a great walk. For the first half of the walk Puntón de Guara dominated and in the afternoon it was a snow covered wall of the Pyrenees. I only had time to glimpse into the mouth of the gorges just beyond Otin but alone they would have made the walk worthwhile.
Waterfall near Bara

The trail itself was generally similar to yesterday, essentially the old mule road that used to link the settlements, completely inaccessible for vehicles. Although there was nothing to quite compare with yesterday's yellow bottomed river there were still plenty of waterfalls and, if you had the time or the inclination, there were places to stop for a swim.
The Pyreenes from Nasarre
My only problem was that I didn't have enough time. After walking through seven abandoned villages (Bara I don't think is abandoned but there was no-one there today) I didn't get to the not exactly busy village of Las Bellostas until 5.45 and I still had at least 7 kilometres to walk.
Leaving Nasarre
7 kilometres on a road was a bit of an anticlimax after such a day, and if there had been any traffic I would have hitched a lift but, apart from the shepherd it was totally traffic free. By the time I got to Paulas de Sarsas the battery on my phone was on its last legs and it was getting dark. I rang the Casa Rural de Fina to try and find out where it was. As usual the woman I spoke to didn't understand a word I was saying and as I spoke I shoved the phone into the hand of a young man who was in conversation on the side of the road. He found he was talking to his mother and in an instant all was fine - brilliant, my last navigational problem of the day was resolved.
On the road to Paulas de Sarsas
Christine arrives tomorrow, good job she didn't arrive yesterday, she would not have been pleased with a 10 hour opening walk. I can't wait to see her.

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