I thought this was going to be a tough day, and it was, but not for the reason I expected. The guide book gives a total upward slope of 1332 metres – more than even the hilliest day in the Basque country. I thought it would be tiring carrying a full rucksack up all those hills.
In fact, the worst ones were the little ups and downs near the beginning, crossing over and under the motorway, so small that they barely showed on the profile. The main climb was on a shady path through the woods, and not very steep.
What caused the problem was a short, sharp, downhill stretch which looked to me like scrambling rather than walking. Perhaps I could have got down the first rocky step, and the second, but I could not even see the third. And if I went down one if two, would I be able to get back up again? It was unlikely that anyone else would be coming that way to help or advise. So I went back to the last proper road I crossed, adding at least 6 km to the day’s total, and arriving at the monastery complex just in time to buy food before the cafeteria closed at 5.
This place works on a different timescale to most of Spain, the timescale of the day trippers. At least a dozen tourist buses passed me as I walked along the hard shoulder – more like two dozen I would guess. So, according to the web site, everything except the basilica closes before 6 and does not open early. Vespers with monks and choirboys at 6:45. Compline is not advertised.
The geography is spectacular, but being in a hurry I didn’t look around. Will try to be more attentive on my way out tomorrow.