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Going North: Day 3 Ulia - Zumaia

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Follow here my journey and stories around the World. 

 

Going North: Day 3 Ulia - Zumaia

Ivan Blanco

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Arriving late the day before and adding another late departure on my counter, my motto was: I could be a morning person, if morning happened around noon ;)

Champion's breakfast!

I was yet again the last pilgrim to leave, but not before quickly greeting the Valencia pilgrims who had saved me from starving the previous night. I have though, to add in my defense, that with the spectacular views of this albergue, it was well worth to oversleep and enjoy this unique location.

 

Besides, this led me to start talking with Susana and Peio, who manage the pilgrims' hostel, prompting me to ask for another photo interview, to which Peio kindly agreed. The albergue's very beautiful dog decided to join us too, making this day of the week usually hated by most people...  one very beautiful Monday to start a pilgrim's journey.

San Sebastian's beauty!

Usually it's better to start a cycling day with an uphill; ending the previous day with a forthcoming climb is best, as your energy levels are higher. However, it is still a great ride to cruise downhill to a city as wonderful as San Sebastian. Once I reached the city centre I had to take care of one typical long journey cycling mistake... getting myself some sunscreen!

 
3rd Camino Cycling tip: on big rides, always always put on sunscreen, even when cloudy, it’s safer and... red legs and arms aren’t sexy ;)
— June 8th 2015
 

After some fruits and refreshment, I applied my highly needed sunscreen on this hot sunny day. Even if I didn't take a plunge in the very tempting Playa de la Concha, I spent quite a lot of time on San Sebastian's seaside enjoying its breeze and the city's charm. So much actually, that I didn't leave until 2pm... with such mishap, that when I was leaving an old friend came to visit me... Mr. Puncture! Being almost an expert now, I quickly changed it and went into the beautiful nature of Monte Igueldo. Going up I saw my first bike pilgrim on the Camino, but I soon lost him and wouldn't find him again. There I crossed a German pilgrim that was exhausted from walking all morning I asked if she needed anything and she only wanted to reach her day's destination. Wishing her the best, I continued and to my surprise I found the Valencia pilgrims that had saved me the day before with that providential piece of tortilla (check back on day 2). They were obviously having lunch, I joined them with a beer, and we talked about our current and past Caminos.

Mount Igueldo views!

My Valencian tortilla saviors!

Which way? Bumpy or smoothly?

With less than 20km on my counter, I still had to catch up some time from my late morning starts and continued up to Orio, where I wanted to find some information in the tourist office, but this is Spain, and during lunch time most shops and offices are closed (2pm to 4pm), specially in small towns like this. A bit hungry, thirsty and being almost 4pm, I grabbed some of my ham and water when I came along a French tourist who was waiting for the tourism office to open too. It was great to speak French again and I thought he was a pilgrim too, but not at all, he prefers surfing. We had a nice chat and when a local told me that the office woman might still be with her kid at the school, we both went our ways. Once I left Orio, I realised something that sooner or later had to occur... as on my last Camino when I almost lost my phone, I had to loose something again... my sunglasses! Good thing though, I never buy expensive ones and I had a second pair just in case, plus, I guess it gave a town kid or fellow neighbour one great surprise.

Bumpy it was!

The road ahead was just a pleasure to ride, the breathtaking views and towns you encounter bring the wanderlust levels to its highest point, as you can see with wonderful Getaria; mainly known for being Juan Sebástian Elcano's home town, who is famous for being the first adventurer to circumnavigate the World, what a great coincidence for someone crossing Northern Spain on a bike journey.

Elcano's hometown: Getaria!

Despite Getaria's historic and actual beauty, my final destination of the day was a bit further. After another short Camino day as you can see on my route below, I finally reached Zumaia to sleep in one very unique place...

With difficulties to find the town's albergue, when I asked around, some people told me there used to be one, but now it's closed. The municipal one however, should be open, but was closed last year at this same time... the difficulties were increasing exponentially and night was falling too... Fortunately, a local helped me out and it actually was just around the corner, where a very little door in the stoned wall led to the municipal albergue. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful I've been to, it used to be a nunnery; when the last nuns left, the town's council took it over and transformed it into a pilgrims' hostel. With wooden floor and doors, it even has a storage for bicycles, a common area to cook and play guitar, but best of all is the hospitality of Mari the hospitalera (=pilgrims' host). Her friendliness and helpful hand are gold and if you need it, she also offers a washing service for your clothes. It is the kind of albergue you wish to stay, with a mix of historic origin and great hospitality (more info about it here).

Zumaia!

Ingmar, Don, Robert and me!

But that wasn't the only good thing, I shared my room with a fellow German pilgrim, Robert, who chose the Northern path as his first Camino; while most people choose the French path, as I did myself last year (check it here). I also met two Danish pilgrims that did walk some days with Robert too, Ingmar and Don, father and son, who were doing the Camino North together as they did with the French one before. We quickly connected and as soon as I took my shower, we followed Mari's suggestion to walk to the Flysch area (next to the San Telmo chapel) on the other side of the town. No words can describe the emotions of such a beautiful landscape, which I reached after 3 days cycling and with some of the best pilgrim companions, there was only one thing missing... the beers, which were already ordered and on their way, leaving us with only one task, be amazed by this awe-inspiring landscape:

Zumaia's amazing Flysch

Patatas Alioli

After such a great experience, there's almost nothing that could stand up to the plate... Well, except maybe some delicious Basque cuisine which we indulged ourselves into: freshly poured txakoli (a typical Basque dry white wine), some potatoes with alioli (delicious, but it still didn't beat the best one I ever had, on my French Camino), tasty Keler beer and other delicacies, which made this a glorious dinner topped with amazing company. It was the perfect final touch to a pilgrim's journey!

Although the last step of the day was to go back to the nunnery and get a good rest, our lovely host awaited us. We talked a bit with her and discovered that at the bar where we ate is where Mari's sister works, she actually had called her to wait for us... and this is the big essence of the Camino, small things that people do to help out, making it so unique and special.

My 3rd day of the North Camino ended in the best company and in the best place, with some good rest ahead, my motivation levels were at its highest and I was looking forward to my next destinations. If you do too, stay tuned for my next Going North posts!