Camino de Santiago Etapa 5. Deba-Markina.

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I did it! Today marked a number of achievements on the Camino de Santiago del Norte for me. I reached the province of Vizcaya (Bizkaia) and tackled the hardest day on the Camino so far. Around 25 kilometres (that’s 15 miles) of three mountains, I think. There are also very few villages and bars today.

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The day began with a late start. I had intended to catch the 8:00 train from Bilbao, but a fitful night of sleep in a broken bed (yes, my bed broke last night. I hope to write Etapa 6 from a new apartment/flat) lead me to snoozing a bit longer. I am so glad I went today and not Sunday when it’ll be 30ºC (upper 80’s F). The cooler temps of 22 (lower 70s) helped a lot. I ended up catching the 9:00 train, starting Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs on the way.

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I arrived in Deba at 10:44, and once again was left very unimpressed by the customer service there. I think this town likes being kept to themselves. I stopped to get some tasty integral biscuits and for my staple pintxo de tortilla de patata and café con leche before hitting the road.  I also played with a golden retriever and got a map of the Camino in Euskadi, as I had read a lot of warnings that it was easy to get lost on this stretch and there weren’t a lot of arrows.

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Lie. I think the Basque Amigos del Camino have been working hard to make sure there are a ton of arrows everywhere. I know in Bilbao, the stretch I take every Tuesday to give a private lesson was recently vomited upon with bright yellow arrows everywhere. No chance of missing it. There weren’t quite as many arrows as there are near Basurto in Bilbao now, but there was a lot more than I had been lead to believe.

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This stretch of the Camino leads away from the Cantabrian Sea, but it stays in sight, thankfully, from the mountains.

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I wasn’t too sad to say “agur” to Deba (goodbye in Basque) as I climbed the first mountain. A local was climbing back down and told me to take it “with calma”. I guess I was climbing too fast, but I wanted to keep my momentum. I heeded his advice and stopped many times to smell the roses (figuratively, but I did see some pretty flowers all along the Camino today).

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An hour later I had only gone four kilometres and arrived at the Ermita de Calvario and admired the views. I stopped at the bar for a café con leche con hielo (iced café con leche) and played with a cat before continuing on to Olatz. (Sometimes I do like cats, but I am totally Team Dog).

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There is an amazing albergue (I didn’t stay as I wanted to get to Markina and Bizkaia and have this hard day over with) and bar in Ibiri Auzoa with amazing, friendly owners. I chatted with a peregrino from Austin Texas and told her want to see in Bizkaia. She’s taking her sweet time seeing all the sights, like I am. I downed my Aquarius de Naranja and braced myself for ta long 20 KM or so ahead.

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Olatz was a nice little valley between the mountains, and the bar was closed, as usual (they say it only opens at the weekends). I took some time for Whatsapp/Facebook updates (I normally walk with my data turned off) and began climbing mountains again.

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The walk just did not want to end today. It was all very beautiful and very tiring. The final descent into Markina is as bad as the Eroski Camino del Norte guide warns, but I was ready for it and did NOT re-sprain my ankle! Team Pablo! I was a bit disappointed that there was nothing that marked the division between the Basque provinces of Gizpuzkoa and Bizkaia. I think from my own guide I was able to tell from the map and their description where it was (there was a dividing farm that historically people had to stop at.)

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There was an abandoned (I think) farm house that I would love to take over and start an albergue. Something I’ve been wanting to mention: All the farmhouses in Euskadi face east to greet the sun. (I feel like that’s a True Blood plot waiting to happen. I miss Pam!)

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In Markina, I stopped at the ermita and found it was surrounding three huge stones or megaliths. I just looked up the story for reference. The church was built around the stones, and legend says that if a man wants to get married, he must pass three times under the stones. I did not know that and will have to do that next time. St. Pollino had built his cell beneath these stones, legend says. It was not what I was expecting to see when I entered, and it might just be the coolest thing I have seen all Camino.

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I got my credenciales stamped at the local peregrino restaurant, bought some integral bread at Eroski and caught the bus back to Bilbao after an exhausting but very worthwhile and amazing day.

Day 6…Etapa 6…¿cuándo?

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Camino del Norte Etapa 4: Zumaia-Deba and Ocho Apellidos Vascos.

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Gora Euskadi and its beauty

I’m going to be honest.

I will be celebrating my second anniversary in the Basque Country this July 30th, and I do not have a single Basque surname. The Basques pride themselves if they come from pure stock of having all their surnames from both sets of grandparents being Basque. Hence the name of 2014’s successful comedy Ocho Apellidos Vascos. (Their attempt for a translation into English as “A Spanish Affair” is so off the mark I refuse to acknowledge it.)

What does that have to do with the Camino de Santiago Camino del Norte, you ask?

Because the part from Zumaia to Deba goes through some parts that were seen in the film. (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.)

Sunday morning, my alarm went off, and I slept a half hour more before getting up, having a quick breakfast and catching the metro to catch the Euskotren at Bouleta at 9:03. The train arrived at Zumaia at 11:00, and I had a quick pintxo de tortilla and kafesnea (café con leche, I ordered in Euskera) before deciding to go ahead and take the Camino instead of detouring for the route by the cliffs. I was pretty sure they rejoined, but this way I have a good excuse to return to Zumaia and revisit their incredible flysch beaches. I think there was some sort of festival going on due to the blue/white pañuelos (handkerchief) being worn about. There was a big group of hikers who I let ahead by visiting an ermita (hermitage?). I stepped out, admiring the amazing views, and something looked incredibly familiar.

The ermita on the other trail, which was visible from the Camino, was the one featured in Ocho Apellidos Vascos!  I could see a ton of people walking up to it from my vantage point. I made the right decision not to detour.

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Ermita from Ocho Apellidos Vascos

I stopped for a quick café and upload some pics to Instagram (Setmeravelles if you want to follow!) and a stamp in the credentials in Elorriaga.

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Vistas del Camino

The clouds came in, and there was a lot of walking up and down slopes today. None of them were too bad. The trail took me through some closed gates on farms, which at first gave me pause. However, I knew they would alter the Camino a bit if the farms were closed and it was just to keep motor vehicles away. I felt even better about this decision when I saw a very small stand selling honey (miel) and cider (sidra) along the way.

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Not a bad idea and helpful to peregrinos who like sidra.

The views were spectacular, the sort that only Euskadi and their clouds can offer. I wonder if the cows, sheep and goats are able to admire the beauty they were in.

The rain kept off, as the forecast said. I bought a new backpack/rucksack poncho just in case.

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Selfie time.

The Camino ran along a highway for a bit, and I was glad when it turned to a side road. This was when a car snuck up behind me, as it was a used side road (I read a lot of John Irving so forgive the italiacs). I was getting hungry, and I was looking forward to arriving in Itziar. Running through some more beautiful farms, the Camino kept stretching out before me before my arrival in Itziar.

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Itziar

The town, which I think also had a few scenes filmed in for Ocho Apellidos Vascos, seemed a bit cold to me. The church was a cold grey but beautiful inside. I was a bit mad that there wasn’t a cheap place to eat open on Sunday that I could find, but as Deba was only four kilometres away, I decided to just have a really late lunch there. I rested a bit, taking in some beautiful sites and tried to find a place for a stamp. No such luck, although the town’s crowded restaurant (wayyy expensive though) might have had them. The udaletxea (ayuntamiento/town hall) was closed. The sun was over the Cantabrian Sea and the clouds were on the other side of me over the Basque mountains. Only in Euskadi.

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Euskera. Bai is “sí/yes”…auzo no clue, udala might be something related to government or city/town as udaletxea (town hall) is like house of the government?

The walk to Deba went quick, but I was also quickly tiring. I had to put on my rain jacket over my hoodie as I was getting cold. A really cute dog ran up to me, and the owner apologised. I was content giving it a ton of attention, however. I saw some more cows and a donkey making a lot of noises. There were a few ermitas I would’ve liked to have seen a kilometre out of my way, so I decided to save them for that day I do the coastal Gran Recorrido between Deba and Zumaia.

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Views along the Camino

I had been to Deba a few times before, and I am quite happy that my next few days on the Camino will be within my Barrik zone where I can just touch my card and pay for my transport too and from Bilbao. I went to the beach after another quick pintxo. One thing about Deba, they have some of the worst customer service I have ever seen, no matter where I go. (The Oficina de Turismo, however, was quite nice when I was there in May 2014). The Iberian Peninsula is not known for customer service, and I’m quite okay with that being an introvert. However, this town has some of the rudest bartenders/waiters/baristas I’ve seen. I will just credit it to my bad luck and coincidence.

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Ermita close to Deba

I got a stamp in the credentials passport at the official albergue (hostel). For anyone staying here, it looks incredibly nice (and is above the train station). Get the keys at the tourism office if they are open or from the police station in the “udaletxea” if they are not. I sort of wished I was staying the night because it looked so nice. Alas, I had some private classes the next day (Monday, writing this entry the day I went, Sunday, to be published on Wednesday, so I hope all my tenses are correct in this entry!).

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Playa/Platja/spiaggia/beach/hondartza de Deba

I changed from the Euskotren to BizkaiBus in Eibar (more comfortable than the winding train) and saw that the udaletxea was flying the flag of the Spanish Republic and not Spain’s current flag. I didn’t have a chance to snap a photo of it, but I’m wondering what the future holds for the Greatest Peninsula in the World…

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Closer and closer to Deba….

The next part, Deba-Markina, is said to be one of if not THE hardest part of the Camino del Norte. Steep slopes and no towns or villages. It’s about 25 kilometres. I’m sort of thankful next weekend looks to be rainy, as it means I can procrastinate tackling it some more. However, I’m also anxious to tackle it as it means I will have completed ONE province (Gipuzkoa) as I start BIZKAIA (Vizcaya).

PS: I was reading Los últimos días de nuestros padres by the awesome Jöel Dicker on the train. This is more a note to myself than anything else.

PPS: More formatting issues. Should I drop the captions?

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I now have 752 kilometres to Santiago…this was at the beginning of the day.