Camino de Santiago: one week from Irun to Guernica!

Here we are, ready for our new adventure: one week on the Camino de Santiago!

We wake up at 2am to make sure we won’t miss our flight due to the airport security strike starting the very same day. So we arrive “super fresh” at the beginning of our first stage in Irun…

Our first stop is the pilgrim hostel. Even though we are not staying for the night, we find a volunteer welcoming us and allowing us to fill our bottles. She even gives us scallop shells to hang on our backpacks. Now that we really look like pilgrims, we are ready to start walking!

The road is very steep from the beginning and we are walking under a blazing sun but, as we hoped, the landscape is amazing!

Camino: Pasai Donibane
The Pasai Donibane bay

After several hours walking, we arrive at Pasai Donibane where we decide to spend our first night. When sleeping in a public pilgrim hostel, you don’t want to arrive too late since you can’t book in advance and you might find yourself looking for an accomodation after a long day walk. Once at the hostel, we begin our post-hike routine: wait quietly for the hostel to open, find our bed, run to the shower. After that, it’s time to wash our clothes. Since we only have one change, we wash them every day by hand. The next step is to take care of our blisters. They joined us from the start but no problem: we know how to take care of them with a needle and some thread! And let’s not forget the last, but not least, part of the routine: going out and eat the famous Pintxos, the delicious tapas from the Basque Country.

As we leave the hostel, we give a donation. It is up to us to decide what will be our contribution for the night.

Camino: San Sebastian
Arriving in San Sebastian!

Over the next days, we continue our walk following the coast to San Sebastian, with its long beaches and the Concha bay, where we can admire some surfer.

Camino: Zarautz
Last kilometers before Zarautz, the city on the left

We also stop at Zarautz, which has even more surfers and where we make our first pilgrim friend. Our paths will cross several time over the rest of the trip.

The hard part begins on the fourth day. It is pouring rain when we leave the hostel and it does not give any sign of stopping. We are cold and the steep roads are made slippery by the water and the mud. On top of that, Paolo’s knee is starting to hurt so we are taking regular breaks. In the end, we decide to take it easy and walk less kilometers. We stop in Zumaia for a quick stop to a local doctor. Even if forced, the stop turns out really pleasant. The pilgrim hostel is a former convent, a really nice place to take some rest and recharge the batteries before continuing the trip.

Camino: Zumaia
Leaving Zumaia at dawn

We decide to book the hostel for the night after, at the top of a high hill. Being a private hostel, it allows to book a bed, but at the expense of the cost, small but not anymore following a simple donation system. That allows us to do the quite long stage we planned at a slow pace but still being sure we have a place to sleep for the night. The last town before the hostel, Deba is also the last place where we can see the sea. After that, the Camino will no longer follow the coast. So of course, we stop to take our first and last bath of the trip! It gives us just the right amount of energy to walk up the hill until our final destination for the day. We arrive at the hostel exhausted and without breath but we regret nothing: the host are really welcoming and the view from the top of the hill is stunning.

The next day is by far the most exhausting day of all. Our objective is to walk for around 30 km to arrive to the monastery of Ziortza. There is only 10 beds for the pilgrims in the monastery and we heard several people talking about stopping there for the night. So we leave before dawn, with only the light of our frontal lamps showing us the way. We keep a good pace all the day, taking only small break and trying not to have people pass in front of us. Not far from our destination the path gets really steep. Most of the road is behind us, but the midday heat and the lack of shadow makes this last effort neverending, so much so that Caroline is about to get sick from the heat. But once again, all our efforts are well rewarded. The monastery is beautiful and the monks brew their own beer, a perfect way to relax!

Camino: Picasso's Guernica painting
Replica of the famous Picasso’s painting depicting the bombing of Guernica

The last step of our trip leads us to Guernica, where we can admire a big replica of the painting from Picasso, and the oak, known as the Gernikako Arbola, symbol of the traditional rights of the Basque people. Lords, kings, and presidents of the region, they all swear to protect those rights under it.

Before starting the trip, we wanted to finish our Camino in Bilbao but, with only one day left and more than 30km to walk under pouring rain, we would not have had time to visit the city. So we decided to end our pilgrimage in Guernica, take a train to Bilbao, and enjoy a (wet!) visit of the main city of the Basque Country on our last day.

 

Useful links

All the stages of the Camino – northern way: https://www.pilgrim.es/en/northern-way/

One (of the many!) list about what you should and should NOT bring with you: https://whatsdavedoing.com/camino-de-santiago-packing-list/

 

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