Sunday, May 15, 2016

Donostia to Elorriaga (el Camino del Norte)

We left San Sebastián/ Donostia just as the sun rose after thanking our new friend for his incredible hospitality.

It was a very steep climb out of the city after which the Camino varied from paved road to single track trail paths to jeep tracks, rocky trails and more paved roads. 

We met fellow hikers today who were mostly friendly and mostly Spanish speaking and Jose from Portugal. 

There was even a man pulling a cart behind him who is headed all the way to Santiago, so I named Cartman. A handful of cyclists were also riding the Camino on mountain bikes. 

The morning took us over the mountains and down to the village of Orio, a seaside town which obviously has a strong fishing and seafaring history as every second balcony was decorated with large fishing nets and marine themed ornaments like oars and sailing ropes. 

It was 11:00 am and the church bells were ringing as we meandered through the narrow roads and passed by what looked to be the entire community standing outside the church in their Sunday best. It seemed very social and everybody appeared to know each other.

Lunch was enjoyed in the seaside town of Zarautz in a bustling, noisy tavern beside a village square bursting with people and festivities. A spectacular wide beach and beautiful bay is one of the stunning features of this town.

Upon leaving Zarautz we decided to take the alternate route to the next town along the ocean side as opposed to up and over the mountain.

 A 4km pedestrian walkway stretches between the two towns along the seafront like a balcony and is well utilized by locals and holiday makers alike. At this point I'd like to mention that I have not noticed any out of shape people here and I believe the reason is that they all love to walk. We see locals going for walks everywhere. For example some families will walk from one village to the next to eat at a tavern. Walking seems to be a daily activity of enjoyment for a large percentage of the population. 

Between villages we saw this message inscribed on a rock: "It's not what, it's how."

At one of the Albergues along the way that we stopped off at to get a stamp in our Camino passport or "Credential", we ran into Phillip and Gabriel again, who, as they told us had a bit of a rough start to their walk. After we had parted ways in Irun, they had also got onto the wrong trail and inadvertently hiked north to the French border. Upon realizing their mistake, they back-tracked on to the Camino Del Norte and by the time they reached San Sebastián there were no beds to be had anywhere, so they continued walking through the night. Phillip described how they tried to sleep at a bus shelter and a station but where moved on by police. The poor guys where exhausted and weren't going to budge until tomorrow. He said that he wished he'd had a tent.

Josh and I continued hiking until 7:45pm hoping to find a safe place to camp and we did! Just as we thought it was getting a little late we came across a park and a 500m walk to a spectacular scenic outlook which was completely hidden. 

Beside the outlook was a cozy forest offering shelter from the wind. We set up our Big Agnes Flycreek UL3 beneath the trees and after enjoying a tasty Mountain House meal of Pasta Primavera and half a Cliff Builders bar each, settled in for the night....our first stealth camping night on the Camino!

It was cold and the wind was blowing. My new sleep system definitely has pros and cons. To inflate the mattress it requires immense effort to blow it up and I haven't managed to do it on my own yet, always ending up giving it to Josh to blow up. Once inflated though, its extremely comfortable. My sleeping bag is definitely not warm enough for this weather and I have to wear multiple layers of clothing and use my silk sack to give me extra warmth. Josh was toasty warm in his REI Travel Down sleeping bag and his sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Plus sleep sack.
So far our bodies are mostly holding up. Josh has sore toes and painful spots on his back. My feet and legs are a bit sore and I need to place strips of moleskin on my clavicles. My injury from the fall I had seems to be minor much to our relief!

We are extremely grateful for our tent, safe passage, completing over 20mikes/32km today and each other's company. Buen Camino

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