After beating up on the poor Pensión Bellamar yesterday, I have to give them credit for a few more things. First, we had the best night’s sleep there that we have had in Spain these past nine days. The beds were warm and very comfortable and with my earplugs in, I had a great sleep. It took a lot of urging to get me out of bed. I also have to give the hotel credit for their heating system. Melanie asked at the front desk if the heating could be turned on because the water was coming out of the sink as ice and a polar bear had knocked on our window, asking to come in out of the sun. The receptionist replied that she had just turned on the heater, and by morning, it had reached almost half way down the hall to our room. I didn’t let the polar bear in. Finally, with the cold air, the clothes that I washed at 4:00pm yesterday and hung in the room, were dripping wet when we went to leave this morning. What is really strange was that they weren’t nearly that wet when I hung them up. Cold air doesn’t hold moisture well and I think the clothes were soaking up any molecules of water in the air.
When we did leave this morning, the rain had already started and it was a frigid 5 degree Celsius. Both Melanie and I had dressed for rain in the room and I put my iPhone in a waterproof case so I missed out on the best photo of the day. After stopping at a nearby cafe for breakfast, the rain got heavier so we took our time. When we did come out and started to walk down the promenade next to the water, we could see half of a beautiful double rainbow (two halves make a whole, right?). The rainbow was in front of one of the blackest, stormy skies I have seen and in the foreground on the promenade were rows of trees like the ones below (anyone know what kind of trees these are?). I’m sorry I missed the photo but it is seared in my memory.
Following the route today was just the opposite of yesterday. Then we followed arrows all the way but we weren’t actually on any current official route. Today, the GPS tracks that I had were what we followed and we saw about one yellow arrow every kilometre most of the way. They would have been very difficult to follow without GPS, map or guidebook with detailed directions. I understand that sometimes we are directed onto something like the coastal promenade with one arrow and no more are necessary for a long distance because you can not turn off anywhere but this wasn’t always the case, particularly before leaving the city.
The coastal promadade that we walked along outside Portugalete provided fanatic views out to the sea if you looked over the ports and rail lines. Ignoring the busy street on the left also helped improve the ambiance too. At the village of Zierbena, we finally got to climb some and get our boots onto dirt and mud but that didn’t last long as we were soon back on the side of a busy road all the way to La Arena. At that point, next to the beach, we stopped for a second breakfast as the rain got harder. Inside the bar there, we met several pilgrims, some who we have met before including a couple from Utah. One pilgrim who was new to us proudly told us how he and his two friends managed to take a bus into Bilbao to avoid city walking and the next day take a train all the way to Portulagete because of the rain. I’m impressed by his ability to learn the public transport system but I wonder if a taxi brought them to the bar this morning.
With the rain stopping – temporarily – just as we were leaving the bar, we were immediately accosted by several separate local men who insisted we walk on the beach to Pobeña, rather than the arrowed route. I wasn’t keen to have wet sand in my boots but they insisted. What to do?
Once in Pobeña, we figured the lack of arrows was actually planned by the town council so the locals could be employed to point out the way for us. In the span of 100m, three people gave us directions without being asked. Those directions led us to the dreaded steps of death. I think there were 1,000 but I tend to exaggerate.
Those steps were magic though as they took us up to the most stunning views of the sea so far. We had several kilometres of a great trail followed by several kilometres of absolutely ugly walking beside highways and trunk roads. I guess you have to take the bad with the good. Fortunately, the rain came while we along the busy roads and allowed us to enjoy the views from the cliffs.
Finally, a bit of a dirt trail took us to the village of Mioño but we were surprised when the path left the coast and took us up a dingy dirt path behind a restaurant. I figured that I would be cursing soon if the seemingly unnecessary climb was not worth it. It was worth it though – by a country mile. For the second time today, we set the record for views from high cliffs looking over the sea.
On the last section before reaching Castro Urdiales, we could not quite figure the correct trail we were supposed to take although there were several obvious ones that would work. I started walking upward on the one pictured below. At the top of the climb, I turned to Melanie and said “You can tell that we have gotten stronger when we chose to take the most difficult trail”. She looked at me with exasperation and asked “We”?!?
After a couple of kilometres of that beauty, we were soon climbing down and walking through the city of Castro Urdiales to our hotel. For anyone following us, if you still have your earplugs, do yourself a favor and stay in the Hosteria Villa de Castro. It’s a cool, quaint old pensión with modern innards and very helpful and cheerful staff. It’s 47€ for two with a too late breakfast but for a couple, it’s worth it.
The Manchester derby just ended goalless so it’s time for bed. Peace y’all.
Really enjoying your posts. Great job. My wife and I are hoping to walk Del Norte in September, and your journal will be invaluable. Buen Camino