Camino de la Costa 09: From Gernika to Bilbao (29 km)

September 15, 2018. Farewell to Hannah, Monte Avril up and down, a man without a bite at the well and a night in the cheese chamber

That day I was up relatively early, but I didn’t want to wake up the others in our packed room. But finally the breakfast on the terrace was very tempting. The breakfast consisted mainly of sugary cereals and milk, beside it some slices of white bread and rolls that should be removed from their clumsiness on an open roasting machine – every German fire prevention officer would have had his pleasure in this case.

I was in principle the first of the 7 wine lovers of the previous evening, but I was also almost the last to return to the room to pack my things. In between, there were still conversations with Hannah and our friend from Catalonia, who rounded off his short breakfast of a pure roll half with a black coffee and a self-rolled cigarette.

It was again one of those days on which I did not really get along with packing my backpack. Today’s stage was going to be relatively demanding and I optimized back and forth until I finally stepped out of the hostel as one of the last ones and met the waiting people, more precisely Hannah, Stijn and Vasek. I was really thankful that the four of us were able to move on today, although Hannah had already announced that she didn’t want to make the trip to Bilbao because her AirBnB accommodation could only be moved into the next day. She then wanted to return home from Bilbao. So we had to say goodbye on this day.

The two Australians had already gone ahead and we were not to meet them again. They also wanted to have a closer look at Bilbao.

Inside Gernika the Camino was already familiar terrain because of our failed search for the summer hostel. But this changed quickly when we passed the park with the famous rest of an oak tree, into which several busloads of tourists had already emptied themselves in the morning. Shortly after the town border we saw fresh green again.

West of Gernika
West of Gernika

This stage was noticeably busy, so we passed a large group of American pilgrims. One of them used a kind of pulling cart, with the handles attached to a harness. In itself certainly practical, but in the unspoilt forest the owner had to struggle with the roots and stones on the way. We took a first rest at a watering place on a farm and could regain strength in the shade of a tractor.

On this part of the Camino there were also individual stands in the entrances of garages and the driveways to the adjoining houses. Various delicacies, such as pieces of melon, were offered for sale here. We refused, as well as a very large French and talkative group of pilgrims, which we gradually fought our way past. A short time later we met the Spanish couple from our room in Gernika, but their English and/or need to speak was not really big.

Narrow access to the sea
Narrow access to the sea

There were steep ascents and descents with increasing knee problems on my part. I was glad to have the poles with me in order to absorb weight from my knees during the descent.

A view to the Mugarra mountain
A view to the Mugarra mountain

In Larrabetzu it was high time for a delicious Café con Leche and pintxos in a very dark bar. The place was very nice, some bars draped themselves around a village square.

The expectation of a Café con Leche accelerated the walk
The expectation of a Café con Leche accelerated the walk

From there it was not far to Lezama, here it was time to say goodbye to Hannah and we cuddled once again. She went on to the hostel there, where she was not very satisfied according to later information.

Further west in the village there was a folk festival with numerous stages, food stalls and big figures in traditional costume. Here we could not resist the desires, which emanated from an ice cream truck. We took the festival only on the edge, we still had some climbs ahead of us and the day was already advanced.

So quickly further to the edge of the village. But we weren’t in as much of a hurry as a speeding car driver, who cut into a roundabout at excessive speed and produced a loud crash. Contrary to our initial fears, the car accident ended rather mildly, the car had crashed into a barrier, which had been set up there because of the festival.

We took it easy, not having to be witnesses to the accident or even pick up severed limbs, and stomped through a small industrial area with a view to the next mountain range, which looked like a wall in front of us. We took a break in a small forest to get full peach power from the delicious white Spanish peaches.

Soon we took more and more the increasing air traffic, which I knew from home, abet not really missed. And soon the airport came into view in the distance.

Outskirts of Bilbao
Outskirts of Bilbao
Near Bilbao Airport
Near Bilbao Airport

At first we thought at the sight of the airport that we would soon be in the city, but this hope was not worth it, because there was still a hard ascent to Monte Avril ahead.

Still relatively at the beginning we met a small corpulent Englishman, dressed in purple sausage skins. He reminded a little bit of Dirk Bach in his outfit. He sat at the wayside and took a break. He declined our support very politely.

Arriving on top of the mountain we found an interesting recreation area with barbecue areas, but the watering place was no longer active. Nevertheless we rested here for a short time and decided to reserve a place to stay.

According to the information that Stijn researched at the tourist information, among other things, there was nothing free in Bilbao. So he tried in broken Spanish to book a pension outside the city. He used the three words “Tres personas vamos!” over and over again until he was sure that the Hospitalera was expecting our arrival. In spite of the pain in our feet and knees that we had suffered together, Vasek and I shared a big grin.

Monte Avril is close to be done
Monte Avril is close to be done

“Tres personas vamos!” became our motivational call on the way down to the city. At the edge of it we finally found a water supply in a small park. While I filled up my bottles, an older man washed his false teeth right next to me – delicious! Appropriately, we had to gain more than just a tooth because of the beginning twilight and had hardly a view left for the sights of Bilbao, such as the St. Jacob Cathedral.

Suddenly and unexpectedly a sign “Albuerge de Peregrinos” appeared before our tired eyes. It was located on the wall of a rather small church building, quite on a slope with a view of the city. The check-in went very leisurely in the small hostel, but we had to slow down and were glad to spend the night in Bilbao. The already older Hospitalero took a close look at the stamps and pointed to a few he probably already knew.

Finally we could move into our beds in the one regular bedroom. Later, other pilgrims were accommodated in the second room, which served as a kitchen, lounge and storage room. While we spread out our sleeping bags a young girl from Germany checked in. She seemed to speak Spanish quite well. Later she came into our room and introduced herself as Maria. She said she could not speak Spanish at all, she always tried Italian, but she would add an “O” at the end.

With this tip, which was of little help to Stijn, he made the cancellation call to the pension. It culminated in the words “Tres personas no vamos!”. Vasek and I had fun.

After taking care of our exhausted bodies and stinky clothes in a tiny submarine style sized bathroom we could go shopping together in the neighbourhood. We tiredly staggered through the corridors of the big Eroski and covered ourselves with fruit, low-sugar biscuits, nuts and drinking yoghurt.

After stowing our provisions, our laborious descent into the city, which was full of people, was about to be done. We stayed at a nice place at Euskaltza India with numerous bars around a central area where a clown was doing his job.

A nice evening has begun
A nice evening has begun
Home of the Pintxos
Home of the Pintxos

There was delicious wine and even better pintxos to enjoy. But soon we had to return to the hostel before the heavy steel door closed.

The bedroom had no windows and was fully occupied. Therefore the air there had already thickened with a cheesy smell. Most of us were already asleep, but I took my diary and withdrew to the entrance. The Hospetalero finally came to lock the door and, looking at the diary, called me an “Amigo”.

An unimposing entrance to a rather modest hostel
An unimposing entrance to a rather modest hostel

Conclusion of the day: Despite official information to the contrary, the Camino has a small place for you to stay.

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