The first few days I learned ow the camino works: started walking from Irun at 10:30, together with a Hungarian who also started that day. Arrived in San Sebastian around 7 pm to find the albergue packed with pilgrims so we had to sleep on the floor. The next morning we were surprised to hear people getting up at 5 a.m. Camino life clearly starts a lot earlier than I normally do in summer holidays.
Another thing I quickly learned: on the Norte, where albergues are sparse, you meet the same people every night. Within a few days we were like a family.
Basque country is fantastic. The mountains, the coastline, the houses, the food, the txakoli. Walking with a backpack here is a bit of a challenge, because of the hilly, muddy terrain. (I nominate the walk from Deba to Markina as the heaviest of my entire camino). Quite a few fellow pilgrims got knee problems during this week.
Everywhere along the way there are little chapels and other typical camino things, like a table with bottles of water for thirsty pilgrims and remembrance plates for pilgrims who passed away.
Recommendations for future pilgrims: have the mussels in Pasajes de San Juan, get yourself a stick for balance on the muddy hills, bring a rain coat AND swimsuit, don’t rush, take your time to relax and hang out with the other pilgrims.
Another recommendation: don’t bring too much stuff. On the third day, in Zumaia, I walked into the post office to send home some things because my pack was too heavy. The lady said that I was one of many 🙂
Bilbao is a great city to visit. Of course it has the Guggenheim. But I, myself, very much liked the tiny Basque museum. And I think I normally would enjoy walking around the city in general, but this time I found it way too busy. I had walked along quiet roads between little villages for a week and couldn’t wait to return to them. So I discovered here: yes I like cities, but not when I’m in the middle of a camino.
After Bilbao I walked through Portugalete (nice place!) to Pobeña (beautiful coastline and beach), and the next day to Castro Urdiales, leaving Basque country.
- July 6: Irun – San Sebastian 25 km
- July 7: San Sebastian – Zarautz 20 km
- July 8: Zarautz – Deba 22 km
- July 9: Deba – Markina-Xemein 20 km
- July 10: Markina-Xemein – Gernika 25 km
- July 11: Gernika – Lezama 21 km
- July 12: Lezama – Bilbao 13 km
- (July 13: Bilbao)
- July 14: Bilbao – Pobeña 24 km
- July 15: Pobeña – Castro Urdiales 23 km
-> July 16 – July 22: Cantabria
<- July 5: from the Netherlands to Irun