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  • Day10

    We set out this morning from Castro Urdiales, thinking about walking to Liendo or perhaps as far as Laredo. 38kms and about 10 hours later we arrived in Santoña.

    I should clarify that this wasn't quite as hardcore as it may seem. Firstly, the 38kms includes the little boat ride from Laredo to Santoña. And secondly, we took lots of breaks and ate nice food along the way. In fact, we blame the menu del dia in Laredo for our decision to keep walking. After a nice lunch and some wine, it seemed easier to walk along the beach to the boat, than to walk around a busy tourist town to find an albergue or pension. 😊

    Today's route had a number of options and everyone we met seemed to choose the road wherever possible. We took the road from Islares to Liendo, but followed the Camino arrows after that. I expect that it was longer than the road, but it was a really nice walk with some beautiful sea views.

    When we eventually arrived in Santoña, I looked at the Buen Camino app and phoned a place that offered a pilgrim discount. Thinking that it was a basic pension, I expressed surprise at the price of €65 for a double room. They agreed to include breakfast, so I went ahead and booked it. Imagine our surprise when a couple of kms later we checked into Juan de las Cosa, a very nice 4 star hotel on the beach! It even has a swimming pool and a jacuzzi. And a buffet breakfast tomorrow!
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  • Day9

    Nice walk today, but with a little too much asphalt. Great to see the sea again and to have an afternoon swim. More comments too follow when I'm less tired!

  • Day8

    When I walked some of the Norte in May, I met Xabier from Bilbao most days. He was a mine of useful information and I remember his advice about the route out of Bilbao. He suggested walking on the right hand side of the river, through the industrial areas. He added that he was amazed at how pilgrims always seem to go straight to the transporter bridge, rather that walking just a little bit further to the coast.

    We didn't take his advice on the route out of Bilbao, but when we arrived in Portugalete, I was curious to know what lay beyond the other side of the bridge. We decided to find out, so we paid the grand sum of 40 cents for a quick ride across the river. Xabier was right - Getxo is a very nice little place. We then returned to Portugalete by boat - just 35 cents a ride!
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  • Day8

    A shortish walk today, so we got up a bit later than usual and had breakfast in Bilbao. We debated which route to take - the 'official' path seemed to be about 19kms, while the more industrial route on the RHS of the river is about 13kms. We decided on a 'middle' approach - the Buen Camino app showed a recently waymarked track on the LHS of the river, joining the original Camino arrows at Sestao.

    Our hotel was at the river, so we crossed the bridge and started walking, keeping the river to our right. This seemed more sensible, albeit longer, than going up and down city streets to find a theoretical starting point.

    All in all, an easy day with good weather and an interesting view of city life. 16.5kms, according to Strava.

    We're in Pension la Guia tonight. Clean and basic. €40 for 2. Cheaper if not con baño.
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  • Day7

    We left Gernika at about 7am, with no fixed plan other than to have coffee in Larrabetzu (16kms) and decide whether to walk to Lezama, or all the way to Bilbao.

    The first part of the walk involved more mud and hills, but we picked up our pace on the road sections. We felt pretty good after our Larrabetzu break and figured we could probably make it to Bilbao. We walked with Jim, who we'd met a few times over the past few days. The company and the chat definitely made things easier.

    On reaching Zamudio, we figured that it was time for some food. We spotted a bar/restaurant opposite the train station and with no particular expectations, looked inside. We were brought downstairs to a busy dining room, filled with workers on their lunch break, enjoying an €11 menu del dia. It was lovely and just what we needed.

    After lunch, Jim and I continued walking to Bilbao (8.4kms, according to Strava) and Damian took the train. This was a nicer walk than I expected, although the rain made the mud even sloppier than before. It was good to eventually arrive in the city and to walk through an area I haven't seen before.

    We've had so much rain and mud over the past few days. According to the weather forecast, things should improve tomorrow as we head back towards the coast. Yay!
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  • Day6

    I really like Gernika, especially on a Sunday when the shops are closed and the town is full of families. We had a touristy day here. Damian went to the peace museum, I did our laundry in the lavanderia and we enjoyed tapas and wine in the square.

    One of the great things about a hotel night is the freedom to empty our packs and make a huge mess on the floor. It was good to sort out our stuff and repack it all. Simple Camino pleasures.

    We had fun in the evening with two Irish guys who arrived in town at around 5pm and were on a quest to find a pizza. Needless to say, nowhere was serving food at that time so we wandered around and did a cafe crawl until dinner time. No pizza, but very good burgers and snacks in a bar near the youth hostel.
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  • Day5

    Another day of ups and downs, with muddy trails and scenic views. We were so glad to reach Markina at lunchtime. We considering walking a bit further, but decided that rest was more important today.

    We're in the donativo pilgrim hostel, along with many of the people we've met in the past few days. Nice place.

  • Day4

    A tough day, with lots of hills, rain and mud. It felt like much more than 22kms. However, we stopped in a few places along the way and (mostly!) enjoyed the journey.

    This is my second time to stay in this 'middle of nowhere' albergue. It's in a converted cowshed and there's a mix of nationalities here tonight. Great to have a hot shower, a clean bed and hopefully a nice dinner.

  • Day4

    I love it when there's a breakfast stop about 5kms from our starting point. That first hour of walking has a clear purpose - coffee and tortilla con patata!

    Today's breakfast stop had an extra point of interest - it's the hometown of Antxon Gonzalez Gabarain (aka Bolitx), the famous Basque pilgrim who sadly passed away from ALS/MND. Before he died, he wrote El Gran Caminante, a book documenting his walk to Santiago from his front door in Zumaia. I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed the English translation of this book.

    Each morning, Antxon ordered both an espresso and a cafe con leche for his breakfast. It seemed only right to do the same in his home town this morning!
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  • Day3

    We had all kinds of weather and every type of terrain today. The rain was pounding as we left San Sebastián, donned in our wet weather gear. Although it gradually abated, the natural trails were very muddy and slippy. The asphalt sections were quite a relief

    Things picked up after Orio and we took the alternative route into Zarautz. I took the road route last time, but this one (following the GR markers at Camping Zarautz) is so much nicer. The sun was shining and it was great to take off our shoes to walk in the sea.

    We chatted with lots of very nice people today. My scratched legs from yesterday's bushwhacking were a source of great amusement, especially when one guy asked if I'd been attacked by an animal!

    Once again, a swim in the sea was a great way of easing the aches and pains. All in all, a tiring day with a very happy ending.
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