Camino Del Norte 2018 – Day 1

Camino Del Norte

Before we begin with these blog posts I want to explain exactly what is going on here so there is no confusion. My father and step-mother hiked the Camino del Norte in the Fall of 2018 and during that pilgrimage my father wrote many fantastic emails and facebook posts chronicling their journey. I thought it was a fantastic story that should be shared with more people interested in walking the Camino so I asked him if I could re-post his photos and posts on here to share with a wider audience. I marvel at the things my parents do in their 60’s and find great inspiration in their spirit of adventure and willingness to “stray from the norm” and follow a different path.
And on that note, Life is a Camino, enjoy! ~ Brady

Day 1

Sept 3 – 2018

Hola from San Sebastián,

Here we are in Basque Country…we stayed last night at the Municipal Albergue in Irun after our 8 hour train ride from Madrid. We arrived at 5:00 and found our beds fairly easily just a few short blocks from the train station. Price for the night was ‘donativo’ meaning pay what you want, pay if you can. We walked around the city for a while and had dinner at a table outside in the plaza watching kids play soccer and the old folks sitting on benches chatting. Had ‘radler’… our new favourite drink…beer mixed with lemonade..mmmm. 

We were up having breakfast with the rest of the pilgrims at 6:00am. Again all included….pastries & coffee plus a full kitchen to make your own food. 
Underway by 6:30 while still quite dark. We walked through the town and turned off along the river…here it was dark enough that Donna stepped into a hole and twisted her ankle. She kept on going and her limp improved as long as we kept moving. A few hours later we elected to take the shorter but much more challenging route over the top of the mountain…aptly named the Purgatorio. We climbed up a very steep goat trail of rocks and slippery sand. The top of the ridge was 645m and peaked with ancient stone lookout towers interspersed at each high point. Donna again stepped poorly on her bad ankle and fell hard enough to scrape her knee and twist her ankle again. We were far from any roads or help so we kept on going. 

Lots of up and down hiking, lots of sweating. We walked through the town of Lezo with a wonderfully protected harbour busy with large ships and much commercial activity. There is also 
a marina and pleasure boats tied as well as anchored. We had to take a small ferry across the harbour entrance ( ferries much like at Granville Island).
From the ferry landing in San Pedro we must have climbed a few hundred steps up the hillside… some of the steps were decent concrete, some carved into the stone a few hundred years ago and some just loose rocks and washed out earth. 
We continued in this fashion through forest roads and paths with vistas of the ocean on our right … sometimes on pavement and through farming country. We shared our path with horses, cows and sheep and had to negotiate a number of cattle guard type fences. 
We finally descended into the lovely town of San Sebastián. Huge and beautiful sand beaches completely packed with people sunbathing, swimming and surfing. Today is a holiday Monday and the beaches are busy. A very grand malecon with bike path, parkway and traffic encircles the curve of beach. 

Donna had made a reservation at an Albergue which turned out to be on the side of town opposite from where we arrived. We had some map reading challenges and spent an hour I think before we arrived at around 2:00. 
Today we walked some 27km, met some nice fellow travelers but were mostly on our own. 

A shower, a nap and then a limp into town to find a Farmacia to buy some elastic bandage for Donna’s ankle plus we bought some wonderful bread and sliced meat to go with the cheese we carried from Madrid. We bought some pastry treats and chocolate before walking onto the sand to put our feet into the Atlantic…. still the Bay of Biscay I believe. The water feels cool but that doesn’t discourage the thousands of people playing there. Lots of kids, topless women of all shapes, surfers, kayaks, sailboats and all the activity normally found in a resort beach town. 
The architecture is beautiful with old buildings nicely kept, wide streets, plazas and parks with green grass and lush shrubbery. 

We ate our bread, cheese and meat in the kitchen with fellow travelers from Holland, Germany, Denmark, Canada and more. We are carrying our electric kettle so that making tea and coffee is simple. 
It is now 9:00, we are tired but will likely survive our first day and plan a shorter walk tomorrow. The terrain sounds like it will be similar, the temperature is a comfortable 25 or so…. still warm enough that I sweat a lot on the uphill. 
We have a bunk bed in a room with 3 bunks (6 people). Paid 17.50€ each (about $26cdn)… checkout time 10:00am. 
From San Sebastián, Basque Country Spain. 


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