Day 3: Zumaia to Deba

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations

Author Unknown

The Camino must be preparing us each day to face a harder challenge the following day. Every day the test has become harder and harder.

We walked out of Zumaia in great spirits reveling in the beautiful Basque coastal scenery that continued to dazzle us every step of the way. After a short while, we came to a junction where we had s decision to make as to whether we take the coastal, spectacular scenery but very challenging track or the high track that climbed steeply at first then plateaued out and appeared to be less arduous. As it turned out, this was a good choice because even though it turned out the be quite challenging, it was apparently nowhere near as challenging as the coastal track which out friends, the two Simones took.

Again, the outlook was spectacular through high mountain areas with cropping animals and pine forests and tantalizing glimpses of the Bay of Biscay gradually disappearing ad the pathway followed the mountains away from the coast deep into the forests. Hot day, very hot day and very hilly terrain.

The track deteriorated into rough stony ground which was hell on the feet and took a lot of focus not to turn an ankle or two. But we ploughed on, becoming more and mire exhausted as another hill reared its head just ad soon as we had ascended and descended one. This happened several times until late in the day we stopped at a cafe in Itzar to take a breather only to discover that the highest hill of the day was still ahead of us! Needless to say, we pushed on under the relentless dun and reached Deba totally exhausted and happy to have made it.

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Day 2: A taxing but spectacular day.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in seeing with new eyes.

Marcel Proust

Rising early in order to enjoy a breakfast of bread, jam, fruit, cheese and coffee we were out of the albergue by 8.00 am and on our merry way. The morning air was thick with a layer of delicate mist that hung low over the river as we crossed the bridge and headed out of town.

It was so lovely and fresh as we climbed above the mist and out of Olio with the sun sparkling on newly-damp grass beside the path. Then it was uphill for most of the next 2 hours. The initial path became the dreaded cobblestones and these continued in a steep upward direction for a kilometre or so. Very taxing on the feet and knees.

We trudged on ever upward towards Zarautz and were treated to amazing vistas of coastline stretching as far as the eye could see. Then it was down down down into Zarautz for an early coffee.

We set off again accompanied by a lovely German girl we had befriended called Sina. She was dragging her pack behind her in a trolley thing that was attached to her waist. Looked awfully cumbersome, but she managed it very well.

The heart sank a bit as we looked up and saw the track rising steeply before us yet again. Nothing for it but to put one foot in front of the other and trudge on. The view up and over the hills was astounding. What a beautiful piece of coastline this is. Blue blue sea reaching blue blue sky, sandy beaches, towering granite headlands and cliffs, and almost everywhere, the stark white sails of flotillas of yachts looking like tiny toys floating in the calmest of seas. 

We passed through a variety of terrain, from open land supporting burgeoning grapevines to wooded areas and even a small forest if eucalypts, and of course fields dotted with sheep and cattle. Eventually we stopped for a snack and to rest our weary feet. This was welcome relief and we spent a very enjoyable time sitting in the grass.

We crested another hill and the small town of Zumaia came into view. Yet another beautiful vista met our eyes.

Then it was steeply downhill into the town and on to our accommodation for the night the Albergue Convento San Jose. We soon discovered this was the most basic of basic accommodations with many rules – no food inside, no shoes, no poles ( standard for hostels), no breakfast, no dinner, doors shut at 10.00 pm and everyone out by 8 am! As this was a Donotivo (no charge – just donate into the tin),we could expect no more, however, we resolved not to stay in another one if we could help it.

We then repaired to the beautiful beach boasting some amazing prehistoric rock formations for an ice-cream and a bit of lazing in the bright sunshine and chatter.

And so the journey begins…

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.

Tony Robbins

The day dawned bright and sunny as we took our first steps on the track to Santiago, Muxia and Finisterre. Having ascertained that there was no accommodation in Zarautz, we phoned ahead and found available beds in Albergue San Martin at Olio about 7 km before Zarautz. With all that settled we took off in two groups, Cheryl, Kym, Margaret and myself leaving from our Albergue near the start of the trail, and the two Simones setting off from their accommodation in the old part of San Sebastián.

The first section was directly uphill – reminiscent of the thousand steps in Mt Dandenong National Park back home in Melbourne – except more steps lol. The stupendous view back to San Sebastián and the Bay of Biscay was just reward for all our hard work. This view continued as we followed the coast high up on the mountain with the ocean always on our right.

Eventually, we turned a little inland and , with the ocean just out of sight, made our way up and down a little narrow path through densely wooded hills and vales and with easier walking. Some time on, we found a little fountain with trickling water that was mentioned in the guide book as being drinkable. We stopped here for a while to refill water bottles, have a snack and generally rest our feet. It was heaven to offload the backpack for a while and refresh ourselves.

We set off again and, high up on a hill, the track changed completely. We saw a sign which explained that the 3km of rugged stony cobblestone road ahead, is the longest medieval cobblestone road surviving in Europe. It was mainly downhill all the way and I swear it was harder on the feet and knees than all the previous uphill slogging! It was a matter if slowly picking your way between rocks and stones and making sure you did not turn your ankle!

I was quite pleased when the track changed again and the terrain opened out to show off superb country views for miles over the valley and down to Orio.

With my pack feeling ever heavier and my feet and knees feeling the strain, we eventually arrived at Albergue San Martin, to find it closed until 2 pm. It was now 12.15 pm. So we shouldered our packs anew and headed down down into Orio and found a bar open so we enjoyed some lunch and a welcome coffee. As we were looking around for a supermarket, we met up with the two Simones who had just arrived so we showed them where to have lunch, did our shopping and made our way back up the arduous road to the albergue which was by this time open.

So now, showered and refreshed, we are sitting in the garden overlooking a stunning view of the valley below. Tomorrow is another day and I look forward to a new adventure!

The penultimate day in San Sebastian

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.

Ellen DeGeneres

Love that quote!

We have enjoyed 3 days in beautiful San Sebastian staying in an albergue that is fortuitously close to the starting point for our first day of walking tomorrow. We have a room to ourselves and have been joined by a friend of Kym and Cheryl who they met on their first Camino in 2014 and who also walked a week with us on their second, and my first, Camino. She will walk the first few days with us before returning to Ireland. We also met up with the two Simones who will share the whole journey with us so now we are six!

Whilst here, we have enjoyed lots of pintxos and wine and especially loved walking the length and breadth of the old city and the beautiful beach. Such an awesome place!

Thoughts on starting the walk tomorrow? Contemplating the big hill ahead is somewhat daunting. The trail is marked out by the familiar yellow arrows and they seem to disappear upwards pretty sharply, but no doubt we will be fine once we start. Already, we have found out there is no accommodation available in Zaurutz where we were hoping to spend the first night so we will have to trust the universe to find us a bed. The reason for the lack of accommodation, is that there is a big triathlon occurring there over the weekend.

Cheryl, Kym, Simone, Simone and Lynne

Nearly there …..

The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting – Andy Warhol

Well here we are in Biarritz after an amazing 9 day tour of Morocco which was wonderful, but is a story for another day.

Today, Cheryl and I met Kym, who flew in from London, at Biarritz airport and we are currently filling in a few hours before catching a bus to San Sebastian. Here we will rest a couple of days before meeting the two Simones and beginning our epic walk. Fingers crossed for good weather but the weather forecast does not look good so the wet weather gear will get a good workout.

Beautiful Biarritz

New Travel Arrangments Bring Further Excitement!

Since my last post, ideas for extending our stay in Europe have been developing. After all, if one has forked out all that money to fly from Aus to Europe, one really ought to get full moneysworth out of it!

My sister  has recently returned from an extended trip overseas to attend her son’s wedding in Canada and to spend some time with her daughter  and her family in Germany. She will be returning to Berlin at exactly the time we will be completing our Camino so the opportunity to spend time with her  and her family is too tempting to ignore, so I have decided to spend a further two weeks in Berlin at the conclusion of the walk. Another very attractive reason is that another niece has also moved from Russia to Berlin recently and will probably be there when I arrive. All in all, I will be spending close to 3 months overseas from end of  May to mid August!

I am slowly getting my gear together and flights and accommodation around the walk organised (we will be staying in Refugios or hostels whilst on the walk). So the flight from Melbourne to Madrid, Hotel in Madrid, flight to Casablanca and flight from Casablanca to Biarritz at the end of our Moroccan adventure, have been booked. Hotel in Biarritz is booked as well. From there we will journey by train to San Sebastian where we will have a couple of days of rest before starting the walk. Cheryl and I will meet up with the other walkers there and explore some of what San Sebastian has to offer. Continue reading “New Travel Arrangments Bring Further Excitement!”

Yes! Its another Camino!

“Another year is ending but something is pending.”

Ernest Agyemang Yeboa

Well here I am again back in this blog which mysteriously went silent a couple of years ago and remained unfinished. I have some deep regrets about that but things became too difficult and I eventually stopped the blog.

However, I did not stop my Camino! We arrived at Santiago on the appointed day and then continued on to Finisterre and Muxia approximately 900 km in all. It was the most challenging and amazing adventure of my life. Now, we are doing it all again but a different Camino – the Camino del Norte across the top of Spain starting in San Sebastian and finishing, of course, in Santiago. We will then continue on to Finisterre and possibly Muxia.

Before beginning our walk, Cheryl and I will fly to Morocco for a 9 day adventure trek before flying to Madrid, then train to San Sebastian where we will meet Kym and two Simones to begin the trek. I am training hard and can’t wait to begin!