9. Spanish Border
After dusk the truck arrived. All of our party, except one guide, sat on the floor with a huge tarpaulin thrown over our bodies. The truck stopped at the end of a two-hour drive, and we crawled out and began the march. There were no roads now and we walked on trails. There was no moon, and the only light was provided by the stars. The trail became steeper. The long uphill climbs were punctuated by short downhill walks as we ascended the mountain range. Each step became a greater task than the last. The guides were up and down the line whispering loudly "Allez, Allez." I heard that word a thousand times that night and the next night.
When mountain streams were found, we drank from them and washed our faces. Rest stops were infrequent, and we pushed onward and upward at a steady pace. Shortly after dawn we arrived at a mountain farmhouse. The farmer did not seem surprised to see us and showed us the hay mow. The house and barn were in one building. The farm animals were stabled and penned in the bottom floor, while the living quarters and hay mow occupied the top floor. I fell asleep on the hay as the sun rose over the mountains.
Most of us were awake by mid-afternoon. Tonight we would cross the border. There was much conversation and speculation on what we would do after we crossed into Spain. The guides thought there would be no difficulty in contacting the nearest British consulate and securing help.
The farmer's wife had prepared a large kettle of meat stew. It was nourishing, though not tasty, but we ate it ravenously. Food had not been plentiful during the past two days.
After sunset we left the house. We pushed forward eagerly on a steep but well-worn trail. The trail soon diminished to a narrow rocky path. Only a sure-footed goat could negotiate such a path. As we climbed higher, the mountain seemed to become a solid rock. In the dim starlight, I could often see steep precipices below the path.
At midnight, the guides estimated that we were within three or four kilometers of the border. Extreme caution was now required. Weeks of work and planning could be lost in a single minute. We stopped often to listen and peer into the darkness.
We crossed what appeared to be the highest ridge of the mountains and continued down the rocky path. The guides were confident that we were now across the border, but we should push on deeper into Spain before daylight. In this rugged country it would be easy for the Germans to range into Spanish territory and capture us yet.
The path became better and now ran alongside a swift mountain stream. Thus far we had eluded both the Germans and Spanish border guards. The toil and suspense of the last three nights seemed like a dream that had never been true.
Down the trail we could see smoke rising from a chimney. One of the guides went ahead to investigate. He returned, and we walked down to a Basque mountaineer's house.
The Basque family sold us a little food and wine. The wine was in a skin bag and required skill to direct the small liquid stream into the mouth. Our stomachs and spirits were warmed by the wine.