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Camino de Santiago Day Four: Laruns - Gabas: We Get Lost. Badly.

Had a restless night, confirming my suspicion that a tiny, windowless room with six stacked beds and no en-suite is not my favourite accommodation. We had our usual latish start, and headed out of pretty Laruns around nine. There's going to be no rushing out the door on this Camino...

We soon picked up a hiking trail that formed a contour path along the valley slope above the Ossau river. Lots of trees had fallen across the trail so the going was slow. At one point we had to cross a crevice in which lay a massive ice flow, unfamiliar terrain for us South Africans, not used to snow. Most of the time the amber green forest we passed through was all hobbit and fairy scenery - tall, hulking trees covered in moss, exotic ferns and cute little mountain streams. All first class hiking fare.

We walked through the small, elegant-looking hamlet of Eaux Chaud - hot water, in French - just before lunch. Similar to many towns we'd passed through so far, there was hardly a soul to be seen. It's known for it's hot water spas, but right now it looked like it had been abandoned a hundred years ago. It had an eerie atmosphere that felt like a haunted asylum. I took a series of photos that I'm sure will show ghostly figures in them when I look at them later on.

As we went on the hiking trail got tougher. It became a familiar pattern - cross a bridge over the Ossau river, steep climb up, level off, downhill towards the river, cross another bridge, up again, etc, etc. When we finally reconnected with the road for the last kilometer into Gabas, we'd covered more than twenty kilometers of tough but very enjoyable hiking.

Gabas is a typical almanac picture town, all green pastures, snow covered peaks overhead and cutesy mountain architecture. According go the information board near the town entrance it's an ages-old (like, REALLY old, try a thousand years) pilgrim stay-over town that featured a long-disappeared pilgrim refuge established to take care of sore feet and aching muscles, and probably wounds from the odd skirmish with wild bears and other forest creatures.

We booked into the small but homely Chez Vignes hotel (darn, no foot rubbing service here), had a tasty dinner (do the French ever NOT make tasty food?) and that was the day for us. Today we really missed all our hiking friends back home.

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