Monthly Archives: August 2015

Coastline of Cantabria 

20 km to Islare

The first 6 km of our walk was along a two lane highway. 

As we left the highway, the path became more green and began to hug the sea. 

The towns were so serene and beautiful. 

Originally we were thinking of staying in Castro-Urdiales, but since we were there by 10:30, we decided to push on. 

Emerita, a native of Bilbao but visiting her parents in Castro-Urdiales, helped us navigate through the town (she studied music in Holand and is now a classical musician playing the violin and viola in orchestras).

An active bull fight ring.   

Carmen, a native of Castro-Urdailes, guided us to a direct route to Islare that avoided highway walking.  
We arrived in Islare a little before 1 after completing 20km for the day. 


These are the folks waiting outside the albergue in which we will sleep tonight.  
 Rocks and ocean next to our albergue.   
We went walking to the beach for our early dinner and enjoyed the area. The  para glider jumped off this rock!


Goodbye to Basque

Today our goal was Kaboron, the last Basque village before we enter the region of Cantabria. 

We left early as usual and found ourselves sharing the bike and hike trail along the highway.  Fortunately we departed the highway soon. 

Today’s main story is for cat lovers. In life we get caught up in our daily struggles. Today we saw these two ladies walking along the path and feeding the wild cats. They carried with them a bag full of cat food, and they stopped every so often to feed the wild cats. I think they have found their purpose. 

After about 12 km we finally got back to the coast and it was beautiful. 

Just when we thought “is it possible to have a day without a major climb?”, we saw this!

The climb was worth the view. 

BTW, did anyone else notice the heart in this picture beside me (I see love everywhere). 

  Can you guess from which direction the wind blows?  
After 17 km, we are settled in and are looking forward to the new region and its cuisine. 

A rest day

We decided to take a rest day today. The walk from Bilbao to Portugalete is all on asphalt and concrete. It was recommended that we take the metro and that is what we did today. 

Yesterday we enjoyed our evening by taking a river cruise and then sitting around a playground watching kids play. 

This morning we woke up late (first time on this Camino). The train ride was mostly underground and took us less than an hour (walking would have been 6 to 7 hours of effort).

Once in Portugalete we explored the town and discovered the world’s only gondola crossing over a river!  It carries vehicles and people.

Here are few more sites from the town. 

For all you Camino lovers who would like to do the Camino, but want it manageable, here is an alternative to petition for!

This escalator is part of the Camino for about 4 blocks!!!  This is our first time enjoying going uphill, no complaints!

Bilbao and Guggenheim 

Today our destination was Bilbao. Even though it was only 11 km of walking today, we still ended up with over 100 floors of climbing. 

We left around sunrise time with cloudy sky and signs of misting which never turned into rain.  Much of the walk was through the parks and hilly countryside. 

During one of our climbs we ran into Antonio from USA by the way of Madrid (he currently lives in Madrid, and teaches English there). 

The guy with him , Michael, is from Italy and is carrying a backpack with wheels (for the times when the path is smooth).  (We miss you, Sikander!)  (It also has straps for when he needs to carry it).

Our first view of Bilbao. 

We came down through a park to the old quarters. 

After crossing the river we came to the town center where we deposited our backpacks at a Pension before heading out to explore. 

Guggenheim Musesum building is probably the most striking structure in Bilbao. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the structure begs to be admired and photographed from all angles!


Camino week 2 begins

its hard to imagine, today marks the beginning of week 2. End of today we will be 10 km from Bilboa. Famous for its Guggenheim Musesum. 

We started early in mist mixed with rain. In Basque, they call it “dumb rain” because it feels like just mist, but without an umbrella you are drenched in few minutes. 

We were out of town and climbing again. 

With all the rain the slopes were very slippery and our shoes felt like iron boats.  

Because of constant drizzle and no shelter along the way, we kept moving until we reached our first town and cafe. After 17 km of almost non-stop walking we were happy to take our backpacks off, rest, and enjoy the cafe.  

Today was a great day for flower pictures. Here is a set of flower pictures for all you flower lovers. 


After 22km of hiking, we are settled in a casa rural in the town of Lezam. 





Sights, Sounds, and Smell

While yesterday was about “keep walking” with no villages, or cafe stops, just beautiful scenery for 22 KM’s, today is about “being” with the sights, sounds, and smells.  Especially in the early morning.  My camera can capture the sights, but it fails in capturing sounds and smells.  I will try my best to create in words the auras that  compliment the pictures, attempting to invoke the feeling and essence of this morning’s walk.

We left before sunrise. Immediately after we left town we walked beside a creek with its soothing sound. The forest we were in was fragrant with the aroma of pine and eucalyptus in a warm, morning breeze.  Dew was glistening on the grass. Birds were chirping occasionally. It was quiet and almost dark. The feeling was of pure bliss–the moment where one does not even care to know about the meaning of life–one is simply happy to be, here and now. 

We were in the next town before we knew it.  The village was still enjoying its sleep as we walked on. 

We walked on not wanting the beauty to end. 

The next town is the town of Bolibar above which sits the medieval monetary of Zenarruza that dates back to 1082 AD. 


Bread delivery still goes on!


The trail became very treacherous after that due to slippery mud and rocks combined with the slopes. 

We eventually reached our goal of hiking to Muntibar where we had hoped to acquire a room at a casa rural but just like it has been all week, rooms are hard to find and if you don’t get to your destination early enough or have a reservation you are in trouble. 

Our back up plan was to find transportation to the next town in our journey which happens to be Gernika. 

This town was demolished in 1937 by German and Italian bombers during the Spanish civil war on the request of Spanish Nationalist.   Picasso’s famous mural-sized painting against war and violence created in 1937 brought world wide attention to the Spanish Cival War. 

We are comfortable in a nice hotel room in Gernika.  Had a nice dinner and have a nice casa rural reservation for tomorrow night to celebrate our 28th anniversary. 

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along. Rumi

Keep Walking

Keep Walking, by Rumi

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to. Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not for human beings. 
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move. 

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty & frightened. 

Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. 

Take down a musical instrument. 

Let the beauty we love be what we do. 

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. 


We had a wonderful evening at this cute albergue in the mountain. Since there was not much around, people sat around and talked. At 7:30 we had a community dinner, our second one in a row (previous night we did not start eating until 9).  We sat with a family of 4 from Barcelona, and a 23 year old girl from Switzerland. The food, the company and the conversation was wonderful. 

Sunset at the Alburgue. 

We left the albergue around 6:20 before the sun was out. There was just enough light from the moon to navigate our way (we also had our head lamp and flashlight). 

Soon we lost sight of the ocean as we climbed inland.  The landscape changed as well. 

We were done with intense climbing by 9 km. The rest of the day was gradual downhill with some climbs. 

Most of the morning was cool and cloudy.  Finally around 1 the sun popped out for our final extreme descent into the town of Markina. 

The sun was only out for about 30 minutes before it was engulfed by the clouds again. 

Fortunately we ever able to find a restaurant open at 4:30 and serving Menu de Peregrino, so we had an early dinner. Weather is turning cool already,and after 22 km we are contemplating calling it an early night. 

As you can see by my Fitbit data for last 6 days, we have had nice challenges. 


Sweet simple things

“It is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones after all.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder
In my in box today I found this saying and I thought this would be perfect beginning for my blog. 

This is what awaited us outside our albergue when we woke up. 

I am not sure if you noticed or not from yesterday’s albergue picture that the front of the albergue is used as bull arena!

Town of Deba rests along the rio Deba as it merges into the ocean. From Deba, the next major stop is 22 km over collado de Arno (500 meter climb).  After 4 straight days we needed a day of rest. We decided to make today a leisurely day. The van brought us back to Deba, where we acquired our food supply for the next day and headed to a private albergue some 7 km on the path.

Soon we were above Deba and ready to leave the coast for few days. 


Here is a picture of Basque cake that Monique asked for (I usually get the little one). 



Here are some pictures from yesterday that I could not load due to very slow internet. 


Escargot anyone?

Yesterday we stopped for lunch around 2 when the rain stopped for a bit. We were happy to shed our backpacks while we had our picnic. I noticed these acrobatic snails in the bushes and realized I should not complain about my backpack as they were carrying their whole bedroom with them. 


To Deba and beyond

It was misting/raining this morning as we left at 7:00 this morning. We were not sure how far we were going as there were villages along the way. 

For the first time it was flat for 4 km, walking right along the sea. 

We arrived in Getari around 8 as the cafes were opening. We enjoyed a nice break from the rain and mist as we had coffee, orange juice, and my favorite “Basque Cake”. 

After Getari, we headed for Zumai and the undulating hills began.  We were in Zumai by 10 where we stopped again for pastries.  We had covered about 10 km by then and it was too early to quit so we decided to move on in the rain. 

The next major town, Deba, was supposed to be only 12 more km, but we ended up taking a detour as the coastal route was too slippery and strenuous, and with the mist and  clouds one could not see the ocean, anyway. The detour was through farmland and added an extra 4 km to the hike. It felt like we must have hiked through at least 10 mountain ridges also. Each one fairly steep!

Finally, after 27 km, we made it to Deba, only to find out from the tourism office that there is not a single bed available in Deba.  They were able to shuttle us to a private alburgue some 12 km away. So far I have seen over 20 pilgrims here. It is a beautiful location and we are all a captive audience here. We have a group dinner ( I am guessing at 8 as it is already 7:30 and I don’t see any food yet).  We will get a ride back to Deba in the morning so we can continue our Camino. 


Country Roads….

Our third day was more representative of camino days from last year. We left early.  Found a place to eat our lunch/late breakfast and continued on to our destination for the day. 

But, I am getting ahead of my self. The Alburgue last night was designed for 40 pilgrims in one big room, but San Sabastian being a popular town, we had over 50 in the room. Quite a few were sleeping on the floor!

We were out of the Alburgue by 6 am in the darkness of the morning. 
Within 20 minutes we had to take our outer shirts off and convert our long pants into shorts.  Our first strech of the climb was non-stop. 

We made steady progress and were missing our group from last year and the many selfies that we took. This one is for you. 


At about 8:00 we stopped on the side of the road to have our makeshift breakfast.  Out of nowhere we saw this cow make a beeline toward our food. I was not fast enough with my camera, but Pat was lightening fast in saving the food bag. 

 The country road turned into thick forest and rocky trails, always with steep climbs and descents. 

 We finally saw the town of Orio, but unfortunately we had to climb down to the road, cross a tunnel, and then climb right back up again.

 It is in this climb that I saw this petrified pilgrim refusing to do one more climb.

At the top, we did get to see the San Martin Church that dates back to 13th century. 

In fact, quite a few buildings are still preserved in the town of Orio and it is a historic town. 

 The town is alongside the river and it was originally forbidden to charge ferry fee from the pilgrims. Too bad, now we have bridges and no one was there to shuttle us around. We decided to have our lunch and skip the inviting Alburgue since it was only 11 am (we had covered 16+ km and the next town was only 7 km away). 

We walked along the river on the side of the road with a nice breeze and for 2 km there was not an inch to climb!
We began our last climb through beautiful terraced vineyards. Along the way we enjoyed again a few blackberries. The two ripe black ones were in our tummies right after I took the picture. 

The final climb down was to the town of Zarauz, a tourist town with a  beautiful beach, boardwalk and golf course.  This made for a long but nice 24 km walk for the day.