Our swish apartment was difficult to take leave of after the previous day's tough hike. We wandered around old Sallent, peeked into the local church and then set off on a quiet secondary asphalt road that runs around the local reservoir. We passed by Lanuza and Escarilla, two deserted tourist towns on the bank of the pale blue dam. The area is a repeating Rip van Winkel, only waking up in winter for the ski season. Right now it was fast asleep with not a soul in sight among the peaked-roof, Pyrenees-style apartment buildings.
Due to our late start it was already midday by now and we stopped for some not-too-bad pinchos and a decent coffee in El Pueyo de Jaca. Then the road - advertised in one roadside sign as a bicycle training route - started climbing dramatically for what was probably a few hundred meters upwards. I lost count of the number of switchbacks I sweated out but it felt like an eternity. In the past few days I've become fitter than I've ever been before with all the up-and-down walking. It's not widely advertised, but the Camino comes with a first class, money-back guaranteed get-fit-in-a-week program that really works.
At the top of the hill we paused at a spectacular viewpoint built out over a sheer cliff that drops straight down into the reservoir water far below. It's also one of very few places with a water fountain we've seen so far. They'll hopefull be more frequent now we're in Spain, so we can cut back on the bulky two liters we've been carrying every day.
At long last we reached sleepy Hoz-de-Jaca, quiet except for a bored canine half-heartedly barking at us from behind a rickety fence as we passed through the village. Just outside town we skipped an inviting-looking forested path leading off the road and on to Santa Elena hermitage, but rather stuck to the road, through a short tunnel and over the dam wall. Along the way we caught a glimpse of a small abandoned village, Polituara, that in it's heyday was a pilgrim stop-over. We were now way behind on our schedule and I really regret that we didn't have time to explore it, or the Santa Elena area a bit further on. (Note to self: Try and be on the road in the morning earlier than ten. A LOT earlier.)
At the Santa Elena turn-off we took a quick look at a dolmen (unimpressive, compared to others we've seen on different trips) and then a forest footpath for about 5km into Biescas.
It kept drizzling making the going very wet and muddy, although the path itself was interesting. We passed a strange, overgrown sort of 'highway' that was clearly someone's design folly, and quite a few left-over war hideouts, presumably from the civil war. Sometimes the scenery felt like a movie set - think jungle scenes from Apocalypse Now. A real shame we had to rush past it all.
We walked into a foggy Biescas and after dropping our bags found a decent pasta at a local pizza place. Adeline had ravioli in tomato sauce she loved and I a panzerotti that was a bit on the dry side. While we waited for our food we sat watching the local families - large, extended ones spanning three generations - enjoying their Saturday evening meals. They looked happy and contented, just like us.