Camino – Portugalete to Castro Urdiales

So, today we learn that the last hill may be tough but you can do it with the encouragement of good friends and that hot showers should be treated with immense respect especially if you want to avoid scalding and a flood!!

Here’s the walk…

We’re heading from Portugalete via La Arena to Castro-Urdiales and the profile looks so much nicer than yesterday’s walk through the port and industrial areas. Granted, the meal was exceptional and the children at the school a delight but there was a lot of rain and defunct industry before we got to the wonderful transporter.

The Albergue at Portugalete

Martin the Hostaleer has advised us that the first 10km from Portugalete is boredom incarnate as it is an old railway cutting and little chance to see or appreciate the country or mountains, his advice is to take the bus to La Arena and begin walking from there. We’ve taken this advice so we’re on our way into the town centre to the bus stop that he’d directed us to last night. After a false start and a quick word with a local, we’re sent to the bus stop on the other side of the road and within three or four minutes asking for four tickets.

Click on any image and you can page through them at full size and resolution…

It’s a local bus but well endowed with technology including card readers for the locals and no problems with taking actual money from us. It becomes clear that it doubles as the school bus as well-behaved and equally well-presented children board with their passes. They chatter and laugh and two of them give up their seat for a special needs young adult with his mum or carer. On the outskirts of Portugalete, they disembark and validate their travel cards on the way out. There’s still a dozen or so of us and it’s gone quiet as the bus wends its way around the road occasionally giving us glances of the sea and coast then valleys and hills. Within twenty minutes we’re at La Arena and disembark too and make a final visit to both cafe and ‘servicios’ one being dependent on the other.

The track out of this lovely town is via a beach boardwalk and then up some steps, in fact, there are quite a lot of steps! They’re welcome early in the walk and raise the heart rate ready for the 18 or so kilometres to Castro-Urdiales. We’re only at about 300 metres and the track follows the contour so it’s a combination of ease and scenery, it’s clearly well used by the locals and has some historic interest according to a board that describes both mining activity and the resultant transportation by pulleys and derricks and what look like tiny boats.

There are numerous coves and the view of the sea is glorious although the serenity today belies the fury of the Bay of Biscay on a bad day and it’s not hard to imagine the ferocity of a north wind and subsequent seas from the erosion clearly evident on the cliffs.

We walk through Ontón then follow the Camino arrows to a short stretch of road expecting to rejoin a track along the cliff tops but there is some ambiguity and we make the choice to continue the road walk and whilst not as interesting it does afford some good views of the sea and cliffs and has the added advantage of only being three or four kilometres in length. As we near the end of this stretch we’re treated to a cafe on a clifftop point where we stop to take on some sustenance whilst sitting in the sun looking across a very beautiful bay.

I run some video and put it ‘live’ on Facebook and receive two highly appropriate responses that it’s like Robin Hoods Bay or Cornwall, I’m more than happy with both but I’m even happier being on this tiny point at Cafe La Ponderosa bathed in sunshine and with good friends – sublime.

The final section is via a final hill that leads to a 3-kilometre walk all the way through town to our albergue for the night. It looks tiny and indeed it is with about 16 beds in a room that isn’t really adequate, the upside is that it costs €5. Such is the life of a pilgrim!

The trick here is to get into the shower as soon as possible to avoid the crowds and in I go. The showers are exceptional but rely on a thin curtain to maintain a semblance of dryness in the dressing area.

All is going well until I bend down to pick up the shampoo and catch the lever that controls both strength of jets (which are considerable) and temperature – this is where things begin to change.

I’ve had the jets set to what you may call a gentle pressure appropriate for washing those parts that are more sensitive than others to sudden impact. The temperature is lukewarm following 18km over undulating terrain so the combination is both cooling and soothing…but not now!

The lever is now lodged on maximum capacity and the temperature is making Vesuvius look like a warm shower. I’m meant to be rinsing tender areas and have now switched it to cold but in the process, two things have happened.

1. I’ve now got three Adams’ Apples and
2. The shower curtain has moved from a perfect seal inside the shower basin to a position that not only doesn’t seal but adds a channel for the water.

Worst of all, in the excitement/pain of the situation, I don’t notice the issue with the curtain. So I sort out the water temperature but don’t bother with the power bit as it adds a complication that I can do without right now.

I complete my shower and turn to the curtain to push it to one side when I see the gap at my feet and slightly behind me, then I notice there’s a significant amount of water with small waves rolling in slow motion towards the far wall and back, then I notice there’s no gap between the door and the floor so it’s deeper than that.

I step out of the shower basin and my foot disappears in the water as the waves ricochet off the opposite wall and lap around my ankle. Now I’m thinking if there’s this much water in here then there’s as much again in the adjoining hall, wash basins and two toilets.

Then I hear a voice, the Pilgrim is asking if I’m OK and she’s trying to draw my attention to the flood. I can hear the sound of sloshing as she tries to mop up the sea of water but the tide is against her and this is a proper spring tide where all of the planets, the Sun and the Moon are in alignment.

There’s a man in the garden outside. He’s got the bough section of his boat almost built. He’s got a dove but it keeps coming back and now he’s calling for animal couples from around the world and has a plank ready for them to come on board.

Meanwhile, inside, I’m using my super-duper microfiber towel to try to absorb at least some of the water from inside the shower room whilst I can still hear the sloshing of the mop and occasional clunk of the metal pale as the Pilgrim works on the diluvian consequences outside.

I have to say that microfiber towels can absorb a fantastic amount of water and I’m managing to get to the point where I can dry my legs and don some underwear.

Now modestly clad I can open the door and see where the water has gone (and, in fairness, still is). The Pilgrim is still sloshing and I’m still using the towel when Dave turns up and relieves the Pilgrim of her duties so that she can shower and, quite possibly, get dry whilst we continue to bale out the water.

If it were a race the towel would win against the mop and this is a surprise, it’s also interesting in as much as it’s a comparison that I never thought I’d be making in my life.

We continue the process for another 20 minutes and by then we can see the tiles, another five minutes and we’re nearly done.

The dove outside makes a final trip and this time doesn’t return so all is well and Noah can release the animals for a fresh start.

The floor is sparkling now as we complete the task and I gather my toiletries to return to the dorm – then I realise I’m sweating like a pig – I could really do with a shower!

Enjoy the snaps…G..x

If you think others would enjoy the pictures, walks and anecdotes please feel free to “share” using the links. Thanks.

This is life after an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm open repair. Don’t be afraid of the operation, it set me free. Please be encouraged and inspired to walk, it’s liberating…G..x

Here’s the next article:

Camino – Castro Urdiales to Liendo

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Satellite View

This is life after an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm open repair. Please be reassured and inspired to do something similar…G..x

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