Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hiking to a party...a Basque pastime!

Sidenote:  This blog was meant to be published about a month ago...but since we didn't have internet yet at my new apartment, I kept forgetting to publish it when I went to internet cafes.  So, while it is outdated, I thought you still might like it.

While you have read of my crazy hikes in the past month, the recent hike Joseba and I did was one with a party as the destination.  You might remember me writing about a mountain named Ernio, where we trekked up to the peak of a mountain half-covered in fog.  Ring a bell?  Well, this weekend we headed back, but not just for the hike, but for a Basque festival atop a mountain!

Each Sunday in the month of September, Basques from all over hike up the mountain and celebrate the fiesta which honors this old pilgrimage route.  Dressed all in hiking clothes, everyone gathers at two buildings on a flat grassy area.  Blessed with a cloudless day, we were able to fully enjoy the day and all it brought - which for any Basque party means food, drink, dance and music.

After the hike up, hungry tummies are happy to eat sandwiches with chorizo (sausage) or bacon (which I thought was kind of an odd sandwich option, but was happy to eat it).  To drink, Basque cider is always on hand, but we opted for the chicken broth drink, which is typical on cold hiking days.  While it was sunny, the brisk mountain breeze called for the warm drink.  As a dessert, I tried roskillos, a Basque cookie that kind of reminded me of a wafter covered with a sweet meringue frosting.  We arrived quite early to try and beat the crow, which was pointless, but after we finished eating, the festive live music started which always prompts anyone who knows a traditional Basque dance to rush towards the dance circle and show off thier toe-tapping moves.  I don't know any dances, but am completely entertained watching.  The moves, while they appear to be easy little hops, are so quick that it looks like the women are running from a scurrying mouse, while hopping, clapping and snapping thier fingers above thier heads while turning around all the the beat of the music, which on this occasion consisted of two singers, a tamborine and an accordian.

While we stayed where the party was happening, a good amount of people climb to the peak.  With a narrow path, the way up and down looks like a constant stream of people, and although we didn't go up, the people we talked with told us it was packed up there!  Atop the mountain, the trek becomes more sacred - with the crosses dotting the peak.  Also, before the last few meters to the top, stands a large steel cross with several metal rings hanging from it.  It is said that if you pass your body through the metal rings, that you will be free of illness for the year to come.  Along with that, besides the spectacular view,those who make it to the top get a small token to remember the trek - three ribbons and a bell pinned together to display on your best hiking shirt.  The ribbons are of course red, green and white - the colors of Euskadi (Basque Country).

Even as we hiked down the mountain back home, I could still make out the music and the occasional hearty laugh of an old Basque man echoing in the wind.


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