Thursday, 2 July 2015

JULY 2015 : SPAIN : El Camino del Norte : Day 3 : Deba - Marquina -Xemein (23.5 kms - 8 hours)

Spain is suffering a heatwave and we seem to be getting waves of it. Fortunately, today, although it was humid and we didn't have to suffer searing temperatures forecast elsewhere.

We left Deba at 8am after breakfast at a bar across from the albergue. It was an extremely well run hostel and although not providing a kitchen, pelegrinos could access bars and supermarkets easily.

                                        Deba was a former whaling centre. 

       Now pleasure craft abound. We set off over the bridge and another steep ascent up as 
       we move further west.

         Hydrangeas used in public and private gardens.

     Some information along the way about Basque culture. Here is a sporting competition
     dragging heavy blocks of stone.

    The size of the stone blocks used.

      Gorgeous pastoral scenes

Only one opportunity for food along the way in Olatz. It was a well-run taverna with excellent snacks and drinks. We were chatting with a Dutchman, who walked this route with his daughter several years ago ('it was hard') and now was driving his wife around the area, showing her the memorable sections.

           A very happy Frenchman taking a break from walking in the heat of the day.

Lots of steep ascents.....

      Questionable paths....

    And knee-wrenching descents....

Walking into Marquina- Xemenin, we walked by the hexagonal Sanctuary of San Miguel de Arretxinaga, founded in the 11th century around three Megalithic stones.

   Marquina-Xeminin is a working class town with a big heart. Descending into the valley through dense pine forests, which must employ some workers, we saw a huge stone quarry, which must provide the town with the most employment.
We are staying at Auguso's, a private albergue with very friendly hosts.   Washing,drying of our clothes breakfast included .. 15 euros.

            Pinxtos at a local bar....while we wait for restaurants to open...Spanish time....

     Fabulous, and totally unexpected, a delicious pilgrim meal at a local restaurant. A three course   
     menu for 10 euros, which has been the standard price along the route.

     A very taxing day but according to our Irish friends the most challenging day, which augurs well
     for the rest of the trip. The secret is early starts to cover greater distances in the cooler parts of 
     the. Our friends, Julie and Bob, have decided to bus it to Bilbao from here to escape the heat and 
     let their feet recover.


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

JULY 2015 : SPAIN : El Camino del Norte : Day 2 : Zarautz - Deba


I woke this morning, after a very sound sleep, with a few battle sores from our first day of walking. I have 4 stigmata ( well, it is a pilgrimage) on my shoulders and hips from my pack. Solution immediately found with my pack re-strapped. Feeling a bit like Reece Witherspoon in the movie, Wild. 
We left at 6, after having our breakfast purchased at a local supermarket last night. Sensible decision as we did not find anything open for a few hours after we set out.

Zaraurtz at dawn.

Our first major climb of the day. Up and up and up and up.

Views to Zumaya. A port town with an impressive wharf. But we didn't reach there for a few hours - after some strenuous ascents and descents.

Breathtaking countryside.

Humid conditions for walking - 26o. Worries with blisters for some and heatstroke for others.

A welcome respite at Zumaya. Juice, coffee and pastries and an interesting view.

Basque Country - and so proud to display their unique culture.

Still climbing but with views of the ocean - and benefiting from the sea breeze.

We stopped for lunch in Itziar. Our Lady of Itziar, in the local church of Santa Maria, which dates back to the thirteenth century. She was a focus of pilgrimage for seafarers along the Basque Coast for centuries.

Some weary bodies rest after an extremely strenuous morning.

A bit of graffiti along the way. Some kindred spirits feeling the demands of the terrain.


Quite a descent to the town of Deba so there are two lifts which transport you down to the city centre.
Our last visit to the coast for a few days.


Two attractive pilgrims waiting for the Tourist Office and albergue to open.

An exquisite Maria and child in the church in the main square in Deba.

The albergue, full tonight, is part of the railway station. It will be interesting how well we sleep tonight.

Good, clean facilities with restaurants/ bars (with wifi) and supermarkets nearby.

One of the views from the albergue.

Drinks and dinner in a local square with families out enjoying the balmy weather and having family celebrations.

A day of struggles with blisters (not me!) and the heat but we are all positive that we will settle into a trouble- free routine relatively soon.

Buen Camino!


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

JUNE 2015 : SPAIN : El Camino del Norte : Day 1 : San Sebastián to Zarautz

Day 1 : San Sebastián to Zarautz : 23 kms ( 8 hours with stops in Orio and lunch at a bar at the top of the hill before descending into Zarautz)
Maximum temperature : 32o

The terrain was undulating and quite steep a times. For the first stage out of San Sebastián, after the first steep climb, we walked on shady paths with views of the ocean. There were several sections of road with no shade which was testing for us, particularly for those feeling effects of the heat. 

There was a steady stream of walkers, which is encouraging, and we hope to get to know some along the way. We chatted to a woman from Montreal in Canada, who is walking with her niece and there were many young men and a few couples starting out on the route.

Zarautz was a very welcome sight and we've all enjoyed a swim in the surf with the thousands of holiday makers. The public albergue does not open until tomorrow, 1st July, so we are staying in a small modern hotel, Olatu, in the city centre, close to bars and restaurants, which we will take our weary bodies to for an early meal and then bed, so that we can start out fresh tomorrow about 6 to avoid another scorching day's heat.

General map indicating El Camino del Norte route.

The path and elevation for today. It goes from right to left as we are walking east to west.

         We are being guided by a book, which we ordered from the Confraternity of St James in London, which gives detailed directions, historical notes and suggestions for accommodation. We are also armed with an official credential which enables us to stay in albergue said, and is proof of our commitment to the walk, as it contains a stamp ( or sellos ) from each town we walk through.

We left at 6.15am following the signs along the promenade outside of the Hotel Niza.

                          Setting out at sunrise. Last views of Playa de la Concha

We followed other pelegrinos out of the town following the direction of yellow arrows, a symbol of all the Caminos.

We climbed up stone paths until we were on top of a ridge with wonderful views back of San Sebastián.

                                    Provisions left for thirsty walkers by local families


                                   Traditional Basque farmhouses along the coast.


                  Shady pathways


                Some road -walking by farms, vegetable gardens and vineyards.


By the time we reached Orio, on the River Orio, the heat was taking its tole, so we stopped for a drink by the river. They was a lot of activity with students on holidays enjoying play equipment, kayaking on the river etc.


           Our first view of Zarautz after a step ascent, light lunch at the top to recover and then down to      
           find our accommodation, just booked yesterday when we realised that the albergue would not   
           be open. We got the last 2 rooms at the Olate hotel.


            The seaside town of Zaraurtz. It is historically important for its shipbuilding industry, one 
             Important commission was for the explorer, Magellan's boat, The Vitoria.

        A cooling swim to end the day with the view back to the day's memorable trail and achievement.