It was an unpleasant flight on Singapore Airlines to Barcelona, via Milan and the tube with our walking sticks went missing for a while at the baggage claim area but we made it in one piece so we’re happy-ish. We also managed to transfer terminals by bus and get the right train (R2, 4.10€) to Barcelona Sants station. I had great trouble speaking Spanish to ask directions but I understood well enough to not get lost.
Once in the city, we had four hours to kill before our five hour train ride to Zumarraga so we dropped off the now empty shipping tube at the Expo Hotel and ate lunch at a nearby cafe. I briefly thought of walking over to see the Camp Nou, Barcelona Football Club’s famous stadium but after the long day so far, we just people-watched in the train station until departure.
The train (37€ pre-booked on loco2.com) that brought us to Zumarraga followed pretty closely the route of the walk we will be taking, in reverse. We got a small glimpse of what we were in for, including the mountainous areas approaching Montserrat and in the Basque country as well as the near flat, treeless terrain on the long stretch between Zaragoza and Fraga. We met two Spanish Santiago pilgrims on the train who were going to walk from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela. I recognised them by the scallop shells hanging from their necks. They seemed surprised when I wished them a Buen Camino and more surprised when we didn’t get out at Pamplona with them. We explained to the older men that we planned to walk the Camino Ignaciano from Loyola to Manresa and I could literally see the lights in their eyes adding this walk to their bucket list. They wished us well and departed. I hope those aren’t the last pilgrims we see!
Once in Zumarraga, a two kilometre walk finally brought us to our hotel, the very nice two-star Hotel Etxeberri. It has been about 30 hours since we left our house in Singapore so the luxury of this accommodation is greatly welcomed. The only problem here is that I discovered that my iPhone / iPad charger isn’t working and we’ll have to find a replacement quickly. That may be difficult as towns along this route are not exactly flooded with Apple Stores. I reckon we’ll really need the phone for the maps as this trail isn’t supposed to be marked quite as well at the Santiago Caminos. Also, if I stop blogging, you will know why. Wish us luck.
ps added after coming down to breakfast – last night, the kind hospitelero loaned us a iPhone charger when I asked if there was a place in town to buy one. I said I would quickly return it but he insisted we use it throughout the night to charge everything. This morning, his wife insisted we keep it at is would be hard to replace until Logroño. Wow. A lovely act of kindness that we are indebted to repay.