Camino – Orio to Zumiai

So Peeps, today is interesting! The weather is projected to be wet and I’m togging up for some serious double drip rain, Gortex on top and some leggings together with my best hat bought ‘cos it has a wide brim. I look a bit of an arse but it keeps the rain off my glasses.

The Pilgrim has taken a more conservative approach with Gortex jacket and shorts, yes shorts! I suppose if you’re going to get pissing wet through then at least shorts will expose less material to the elements and ends up with less weight, this is the one thing with which a pilgrim becomes consumed.

We stayed at a casa rural and if they’re all like this, you’d do well to add it to your preference list. It’s a large converted property that looks like a Swiss chalet. This one has 6 rooms all ensuite and very comfortable. They don’t have a reception as such but once you’re booked in, who needs one?

The exit is via the lovely steps that could be both a feature and a challenge if you’re disabled. We walk along the river towards the coast with the intention of finding a cafe for our usual morning caffeine injection.

The rain that is promised hasn’t materialised yet but the sky is heavy with cloud, I’m feeling overdressed!

We decide on a detour to the breakwater but a stroke of luck intervenes in the form of two lovely Spanish ladies out power walking who recognise us as perergrinos and tell us we missed the Camino way. We ask about cafes at the estuary and the reply is negative so we revert to plan ‘B’.

Turning back, there’s no need to look for the yellow arrows, the ladies are pointing to the track and we begin what will be our first ascent of the day. The track meanders through vineyards and pastures, all on slopes. There are valleys but no flat bits at the bottom. At the top there is a camp site that we hope will have a cafe but no. It looks like we’re doomed to water for the first 6 kilometres and settle ourselves down to it.

As we emerge from the detour we see Danial and Susan the Swiss couple we met on the tops yesterday. The Pilgrim points out that this is going to be a regular occurrence and by the time she was on the closing stages of the other two Caminos that she’s completed, there was an army of people who would respond and greet others at cafes and bars along the way.

This is like Heidi country, there are sheep and goats with bells around their necks and the meadows still have a few perennial flowers that they’re gently chewing. There’s the occasional abandoned plough left to rust from a different era and a field full of donkeys. It’s all very rural and all quite beautiful.

We begin the descent to Zarautz where we’re bound to get coffee. This is a small town with a pristine sandy bay. There’s a local, sitting on a wall with the inevitable ‘phone pinned to his head. The Pilgrim asks him where there are cafes and he gestures to a sign that indicates the playa (beach) so we head in that direction arriving at a delightful hotel based cafe adjacent to the beach.

The food is simple, toast made with fabulous brown bread, and a choice of quince jam or a tomato. OK, so the tomato may not jump straight into mind when eaten with toast but with a bit of top quality olive oil to drizzle onto both, the result is a simple meal that’s divine.

We have a discussion regarding the route and decided on the coastal alternative that takes in Getaria, a small town with a big tale to tell. Apparently, the guy that did the first circumnavigation of the world was from this little town. His name was Juan Sebastian Elcano and, whilst not in charge when the voyage commenced, he assumed command on the death of Magellan and took the journey to conclusion. He was born in Getaria, Basque region in 1476 and died, sadly, of malnutrition in the Pacific Ocean in 1526. The Basques, quite rightly, are extremely proud of him. Mind you the Basques are extremely proud of anything in this region including the meat and beer. I got a bollocking from a Basque waiter for referring to some Serrano ham when it should have been Bayonne ham . The guy took a real issue with me and refused to speak or serve me, fortunately, the lady that was in charge and clearly a south of Spain girl got me off the hook, I gave her a big tip whilst he was watching; childish, I know but I left with a smug smile!

The weather continues to be generally kind although we have had a little rain as we make our way past St Martin where a group of school kids are playing in the square. I overhear, “Los peregrinos” as one of them spots us and points at the idiot wrapped up like a Michelin man. They’re playing lots of games that I remember from school and, like us, are split by gender. The boys and the odd girl are kicking a ball around (actually, it’s a tennis ball but they’re kicking it with their feet so, if I’m being pedantic, it’s a football) and two girls are hidden from the rest and are practising dance moves whilst singing the appropriate lyrics almost under their breath. It’s a gorgeous site and makes us smile as we vacate the square and begin some more ascent through sheep farmland complete with a few goats.

After some really serious ascent, we begin the descent into Zumiai. The Pilgrim seems to think that you can only experience The Camino if you stay at an albergue, An albergue is a sort of bunkhouse with shared dormitories and shared toilets. I’ve stayed in bunkhouses many times as a diver and enjoyed the camaraderie so it’s not exactly new; however, everyone seems to be asking if I’ve done it yet and what did I think of it. Soo we just walked 20 kilometres but need to walk to the albergue so I can become a Pilgrim. We know it’s on the outskirts of Zumaia so we follow the yellow arrows leading out of the town.

This is without a doubt ‘up’. In fact, it’s seriously ‘up’, more serious than the rest of the day but this is the end of the day so it feels worse. Even The Pilgrim thinks it’s ‘up’ and she’s not sure how far ‘up’ it’s going to be so we keep walking. It’s been a good walk so we’re both upbeat – the last two words were not meant to be a pun! And we reach a lovely church of Nosta Senora. A lady emerges and The Pilgrim approaches her to ask about the Santa Klara albergue. Fortunately, she knows about it although I don’t think either of us would agree with her ability to assess distance. It’s not far she says, the entrance is opposite the Casa Blanca (White House). There is a white house but it is a mystery to us just now so we continue walking around a couple more bends and we can look back into the bay, such a fabulous view. We’re thinking it’s just around the next bend and the land profile implies we’re nearing the top. As we round the next bend there it is… more ‘up’!

We can see what looks like a Swiss Chalet about a kilometre further and another 500 feet up. There’s no doubt it’s a long way up but it probably has some great views.

We get to a couple of hundred metres of it and stop on a corner to catch our breath and look back down the coast.

As we’re looking at the albergue The Pilgrim says, “It’s a long way out of town”.

Then there’s another change of heart when she says we’ll just check it out.

So, off we go on the last leg and it’s tough. We reach the top and manage to catch our breath then approach the door that looks like it’s closed for the winter.

We ring the bell and there’s no answer so we ferret about for a while.

We ring again and just as we’re about to leave there’s noise from inside and then the door opens. It’s a young girl who looks at our attire and assesses the situation, quite correctly, as two peregrinos wanting accommodation in the Albergue San Klara.

“Albergue San Klara is no more”, she says, “It is closed but we are a Casa Rural”.

‘No”, says The Pilgrim, “It’s too far out of town, but thank you…”

…The view from up here though, is really quite stunning! ?

Enjoy the photos…G..x — with Cecilia Kennedy.

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Here’s the next article:

Camino – Bilbao to Portugalete

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