Today was the best day, but it was also maybe one of the hardest (although the hospitalero here in Deba just told us that tomorrow will be much harder than today, oh boy).
Last night, Elissa, Eva, Nia and I were discussing today’s walk, and strategizing about distances and stopping points. We were told that there were two options: walking to Zumaia (17km) or to Deba (30km). The others were up for a shorter day, and for good reason: to rest aching bodies, to slow down and explore the towns. But after a 14km day, I just didn’t want another short day to follow. 30km is a lot for a third day, but I was trusting my experience last year and how strong I felt throughout the Camino. I trusted that a 30km day this early would be no problem.
And you know, I don’t think it would have been a problem if I hadn’t decided to take an alternate and strenuous route for the last 7kms. What is it with me and taking the alternate path? Last year it was often to get away from the crowds on the Frances, but this year I don’t need to do that. This year, I think, is all about the beauty.
And oh man was today beautiful. For 85% of my walk I was convinced that, aside from the first day walking through the Pyrenees on the Frances, this was my very favorite Camino day. And maybe after I forget the pain of the last few kilometers, I’ll still think that. So far, this Camino is difficult, but it’s like I forget about having had to climb straight up a pile of rocks the instant blue water appears. This coast is beautiful, and for much of today I was walking on pathways high above the roads and towns, with a view that was almost nothing but green fields and blue water. But then I would look to my left and often see rolling mountains- both views were incredible.
I didn’t see a single pilgrim on today’s walk, and I was out from 6:30am to 4:00pm. And that, too, was pretty great. There were lots of locals out enjoying the trails so I wasn’t completely alone, but somehow it felt a little more adventurous to not be clustered in a group of pilgrims. I felt like a wanderer, a roamer.
Perfectly placed in time for my lunch break was a park with picnic tables and bathrooms, so I settled in at a table in the shade and ate a ham and cheese sandwich. Just as I was finishing a woman came over to ask me something; realizing I only spoke English she called her son over, and running over with him were two other boys. They were probably all between 10-13. For the next five minutes we attempted to communicate and I regretted that I hadn’t worked a bit harder at learning Spanish. Eventually I realized that they hoped to use my picnic table after I was done, and we all laughed once this was figured out. 10 minutes later, as I was leaving, one of the boys ran by and said, “Thank you!” Several seconds later, as I walked down the trail, I heard him shout, “I hope you have a good time!!”
His wishes for me quickly came true, and I spent the next few hours practically dancing down the trail. I took the alternate route and it lead me to a beach where I found a piece of sea glass. But that’s where the fun ended; it took me about two hours longer to reach the town of Deba than I anticipated. The alternate route was a series of steep ascents quickly followed by steep descents, and this happened over and over and over. By the end I was laughing, that’s how ridiculously slow I was moving. By it reminded me again of how a walk like this is done: one step after another. Just keep moving. I’d look at a series of stone steps that seemed to have no end and I just took them one at a time. With every hill I faced, I made it to the top. It wasn’t pretty, but no one was around to witness it, except for a group of cows that suddenly appeared on the top of the last hill. They stared at me as I walked around in circles trying to get back on track after peering through the window of a small chapel; they probably watched me and thought, “That tired girl is going the wrong way.”
But I made it to Deba and as I entered the city a man directed me to where I had to go: down two elevators, to the tourism office and if that is closed to the police station to get the key for the albergue which is in the train station. Confusing? You bet. But I found my albergue too, needing to only ask one person for directions, and my lodging for the night is indeed in the train station (the albergue is on one side of the building, and out the bathroom window you can see the people down below, waiting for their trains. This is a taunting situation, for pilgrims to be housed in a train station: we watch the train to Bilbao pull up and we realize that an hour’s train journey will take us 3 days).
I’ve done nothing more tonight than sit at a picnic table outside of the station, and the others sitting with me were just as tired. We split a bottle of cider and as soon as we were finished Iria asked, “Does this mean the night is officially over?” It was 9pm and the sky was still a bright blue but we all eagerly hobbled inside to get ready for bed.
Tomorrow is going to be another hard day- even harder because there are no towns or villages to pass through where we can stop for a rest or a bite to eat. This means that I need to find an open bar in the morning to have coffee before I go! My morning coffee is still one of the biggest priorities of my days.
I feel like I’m really beginning to get into this Camino, to understand how it is similar to the Frances but how it differs. When I walk I feel essentially the same as I did last year, and already there’s a happiness that is spreading through me that I recognize from last year’s walk. But I feel more tired than I ever did last year, and I don’t feel the same kind of energy from the other pilgrims. This may change, and soon, but in many ways, for now, this is a quiet pilgrimage. Peaceful.
So day 3 is done: one of the most beautiful and most challenging days I have walked, yet. I must have taken at least 100 photos of the coastline- here are a few…