Camino Del Norte

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Stage 2: San Sebastián- Zarautz, 23 kms, Cloud, Wind, 15

A Damp Medieval Road

After a rain day (oops, sorry Annemarie...a vacation day) yesterday, we are beginning to feel the jet lag departing and our sleep slowly finding this time zone. I’d like it to find me a bit quicker, but I guess it will arrive when it’s time. 

We are beginning to settle quickly into the Camino process. Up reasonably early this morning and finding our way into a small cafe where we were cheerfully greeted by the proprietor who provided another brief Spanish lesson. A continental breakfast tucked under our belts and we were on our way out of this beautiful town that is San Sebastián in the morning gloom. You see, it was a bit dark this morning with the rain having ended just moments before we stepped outside. At first it looked promising as we walked the length of the strand.

However, before long it looked less and less likely that we were going to see much more than a glimpse of the sun. 

The strand is about 2 kms long and the Saturday morning joggers and walkers were out in force no doubt preparing for yet another feast of pinchos and vino tinto at lunch. Why not?! We were planning to do the same:)

As we climbed out we caught a last glimpse of the city. A lovely city and somewhere we will likely revisit when we eventually spend ‘that winter in SE Spain’ that’s been on the drafting table for a while now. Perhaps a time to think about possibly writing that book that’s been brewing in the back of my mind for a while now. Or maybe just time to travel gently and finally really try to learn Spanish.
 “Snap out of the jet lag Geoff”! The walk today...

Initially the walking was pretty nice once we had the first climb of the day behind us. Both of us in the mood to walk.

Actually it was a real joy, well except for the sleeping sun. At least the rain held off though we did put on our pack covers and rain pants at the start of the day. 

The more we climbed the more cloudy it became. Often the cloud would ebb and we’d find ourselves in a clear section for a time, but inevitably it would roll back in or we’d walk up into more of it. Donda esta sol? 

From time to time we could see rain ahead of us, but fortunately we seemed to stay in our bubble, though the way was in many places pretty muddy. Something common to this route by all reports.

The locals proved to be pretty friendly. The dogs barked as we passed, but made no aggressive efforts and the cows did what cows usually do as did the sheep.

In all seriousness though, I have to say the local folks so far have been wonderful. Most exchange greetings as we pass and I’ve heard more “Buen Camino’s” from the locals in just two days than I heard in 4 weeks on the Frances last year. In other words, this has so far been a pretty good and interactive Camino experience. The locals don’t see enough pilgrims to become jaded as most locals have on the route just south of here. A nice surprise. So far very little of the course tagging and “so and so was here” tagging written on everything as it is on the Frances. What I’ve seen is simple stuff and very refreshing!

As per the title of today’s post, at some point today we found ourselves walking what is apparently one of the best preserved medieval roads in Spain. Parts of it were in excellent repair,

while other sections need a helping hand to get back to formal glories.

Old wheel grooves in the softer sandstone. Something like Pompeii. Except not as old, maybe 900/1000 years old?

 It was pretty interesting to see the state of this road, though walking it when wet required care! 

We stopped in Orio for lunch, a nice fishing village still engaged in this industry. The pinchos were excellent!

We saw about 8-10 other pilgrims today and left 5 of them earring and drinking in the bar as we set off for the last climb of the day. So far not very much traffic evident, but it’s only been two days and I’m sure there are others around. 

Eventually we found our next town with my next bed. Can’t wait! The longest beach in Basque Spain and no sun to enjoy it with. Apparently it’s end to end bodies in the summer and loads of surfing off season. 

Not a long stage, but enough for today with lots of ups and downs. Lovely walking! Tomorrow we will walk about the same distance, but we have choices to make as to which route or variant to take. 


Friday, May 24, 2019

San Sebastián: Cloud, Wind, Bit of Rain, 16

A Blog Post For Kathy

Dear Kathy, 

In 1974 you and Marian headed off to travel Europe for 4 months with just your backpacks, sleepbags, your thumbs  and a sense of adventure. I remember it like it was just yesterday. The next year you and I headed off in much the same manner for another 3 months except I also carried a tent,  a small stove and a couple of pots and pans as I ended up staying on a few more months after you returned home. You intially taught me the ropes about how to travel on the cheap with just one’s wits and a  thumb to hook a ride. Cell phones, internet and Mr Google and Trip Advisor remained well in the distance at that time requiring us to actually figure things out on the fly and to ask lots of questions (there was no Google translate). Our tavels together taught me the core skills that I’ve used while on the road my entire life and with them came the confidence to overcome my own doubts and to just go do it. And look Sis, I’m still doing it all these years later and loving it more than ever. Independent travel...I only just bought a cell phone 8 months ago!

While we were on the road one day, literally, trying to thumb a ride to somewhere, you told me about this most beautiful city on the north coast of Spain called San Sebastián and how I should try to find my way there some day. It took a while, but Kathy, I finally made it! Just 44 years later. Not very long geologically speaking, but more than a blink of the eye in the journey we humans undertake. And I (we) reached here by staying basically true to the travel style we lived by all those years ago. I have my pack, I’m traveling on the cheap and I still retain a few wits to get by on. I have a new friend on the road with me now, but I know you love her and approve. Instead of hitching rides to get here, I’ve moved on to walking. It’s safer these days than putting one’s thumb out. I know you approve.

Today’s post is dedicated to you, and I’m hoping that some of the photos that I’m posting will trigger some memories for you. Sadly the weather wasn’t the sun and warm breezes that I was hoping to show you, but it’s still much the same city you visited in 1974. Enjoy sister!

Love you,

City hall.

Playa de la Concha, the long very famous strand.

Iglesia de Santa Maria.

Old town streets.

Places to step in, get warm, enjoy a pincho and a glass of vino tinto. Yum!

We wish you were with us again this year, but at least you are here in spirit and can follow our adventures. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Stage 1: Irun - San Sebastián, 25 kms, sun and cloud, 22

A ‘Whale’ Of A Day!

Having enjoyed quite a number of starting days on many Camino routes these past 6 years, I have to say that this was the best first stage of any route I’ve yet walked. You might ask about the first stage of the Frances over the Pyrenees, but sadly it was pouring rain on me that day so my experience was just a wet slog over a mountain. Not that I wasn’t as excited as a small child at Christmas that first ever stage, but it was really, really wet and all I saw were big black slugs! I plan to return there one day to walk it again on a beautiful sunny day, then turn around and descend on the Valcarlos route. One day.

Our hosts prepared us a beautiful breakfast which came complete with a very good Spanish lesson! Six weeks like that and I’d be almost speaking like a native. It was great! I find I can understand much of what is said to me in this environment, but speaking doesn’t work quite as nicely. Anyway, I improve with each visit, and while I’ve come to accept that I can’t really expect much more than that, it’s enough. 

It was a pretty stiff start to the day with a climb designed to wake us up to the fact that this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Point noted and filed. We climbed up to the Santuario de Guadalupe and were pleased to find it open as I’d read that its often closed. After a brief visit...

...we continued up an even stiffer climb following the Pugatorio Way variant that took us along the ridge line higher and higher. Stunning views.

We came across this lovely herd of horses and rather than move away from me,

they approached. This has happened to me quite often in my travels and I’m beginning to wonder what that’s all about. A horse whisperer? I had three or four approach me.

We eventually descended into Pasajes, a cute coastal town often visited. 

We walked to the water taxi dock and caught the small ferry across the harbour.

We found lunch on the working side of the harbour in a small interesting bar and then headed off to see a special working museum where they are building a ship. Not just any ship. 

In the 16th century Basque whale boats would sail across to coastal Canada in search of whales. Their boats were well made and apparently the envy of the other European powers. In the 1980s they found the sunken remains of one of these boats still pretty well preserved in a bay in Nova Scotia. Working with Parks Canada they surveyed the boat taking photographs and exacting measurements. Today they are building and exact replica complete with the whaling dinghies. There is an excellent exhibit covering all the background and then you enter the work area where one can see the craftsmen building the whaling dingy by hand with traditional methods and tools. Pretty cool! You can see wher they have laid the keel for the dingy beside an existing boat that I assume they are using as part of a model. 

Then we were able to visit the ship itself while under construction. All work and wood has been donated and it has garnered considerable attention. A few more photos. 

Way cool, but we had to be on our way as still another climb and more to experience.

The final section into San Sebastián was along some high cliffs for about 7 kms. Beautiful, if demanding trail. Loads of birds nesting on the cliffs as we wandered along. A really nice section where there is still large sections of the stone road built in medieval times. I’d like to show a bit more of this section, but the wifi is poor and bandwidth is at a premium. We are off shortly for a drink (we earned it today) and then on to a special concert with pinchos which is something like tapas, but it’s Basque Country, so it’s pinchos! They hold this gathering one Thursday in the month, and lucky us, that’s tonight. So we will take our tired bodies out for an evening of good food and music before getting a bit of sleep. 

Buen Camino!