I found my Camino Mojo again, baby.
(I rewatched the Austin Powers mooooovies this week. Sorry for that reference)
After yet another job interview gone wrong, Thursday afternoon, I decided to go ahead and do the next strech of the Camino. There are a few ways to leave Bilbao, and an alternative route is walking along the river until you reach Portugalete as it’s easier, flat, and you don’t have to go through industrialized suburbia. I opeted for the one being marketed as the traditional one. As I have walked all over Bilbao many, many times, I went ahead and grabbed one of Bilbao’s free bicycles and headed toward Termibus. My favourite students live along this stretch of the Camino, which was recently covered with yellow arrows. It looks like someone had an accident with yellow paint. I had heard that the mountain climb was a bit tough, but I mean, after the mountains we’ve conquered so far on the Camino, it’s NOTHING! I stopped at the albergue and got an official Bilbao stamp, important as it has been my home for two very long years.
The estastic feeling I had to be leaving Bilbao behind might be giving me a clue about whether I should stay in the
rainCapital of the World. There was a lovely stroll through the hidden forest after crossing the Puente de Diablo (Devil’s Bridge).
I was quite shocked as I had heard stories about how ugly this portion was. I did run into some goats who weren’t too keen on moving out of my way though. I also ran into a camping pilgrim who I chatted with briefly. It was a bit weird doing it in the afternoon, but on nice days like today, I prefer afternoon walking when it’s not too hot.
At Santa Águeda, I was trying to take a good shot of the ermita (hermitage), but a loud-mouth dog kept barking at me. I wanted to play with the Bernese Mountain Dog (I think it was one), but his noisy friend wouldn’t allow for it. I love dogs, but even the Basque doggies are a bit cold until you get to know them.
At one point, pilgrims wanting to head toward the Camino Frances have the option of walking toward Burgos instead of on toward Santander. I’m sure it’s a beautiful Camino too.
The Camino provided some beautiful views of the Greater Bilbao (Gran Bilbao) area, and I began the descent into Las Cruces, a neighbourhood of Barakaldo. The park the Camino goes through was quite nice. It reminded me a bit of the Parque de Oeste in Madrid, but even nicer.
Then I arrived to the first circle of Camino Hell. I had just crossed the Puente de Diablo, after all. The Camino somehow manages to go through the big shopping centre complex Mega Park. And goes on and on and on and on past a McDonald’s, Toys R Us, Declathon, Eroski, and Ikea. As soon as there was a path along a river, I went along it. Eventually, near San Vicente, I began to see arrows again. Granted, I just crossed that busy street to find them and had to recross it again. Whatever, the Camino crossed the river leaving Barakaldo behind.
I was hoping to have a café con leche and a pintxo de tortilla to fuel me, but the Camino didn’t really go by any nice ones to stop at. It joins the bike path in Sestao and avoids the town. There are a lot of views of the motorways/highways approaching and leaving Bilbao.
Following the Camino arrows, I missed the turnoff to Portugalete, which is one of my fave places to visit. Darn. I ended up following the bike trail and found myself having to make a quick decision. Backtrack a kilometre or two, or take the wrong Camino (as there is an alternative Camino that passes through Ortuella) and have no buses or anything for 10 KM. It was about 8:00 PM, so I figured out which one was Ortuella, had a mosto (grape juice) and caught the 20:36 train back to Bilbao Abando.
A good Zen day on the Camino mentally, although not the most beautiful stretch between Las Cruces and Sestao (unless you really like Ikea.)