The next morning I hobbled into town to have breakfast and even more important to have a cup of coffee.
The Camino started off a bit tricky that day. Someone had removed all the yellow arrows, so it was somewhat difficult to navigate my way. The police officer in Deba had given me a map drawn by hand which was definitely helpful. Policemen in Deba actually seem to have a wide range of responsibilities… The map did not state why someone had removed the arrows but I guess it was a disgruntled farmer, who was just not very content with thousands of people marching past his remote house in the Spanish countryside. Although there were hardly any pilgrims/hikers around when I was there, I read an article that in 2010 (apparently a ‘holy’ year) 18.000 people walked the Camino del Norte (around 250.000 the Camino frances). Wow!
After a few hours of walking I reached a little town where I took a small break. The trail then left the coast and lead into the countryside. The next stretch was a 20km walk through the forest. I have to admit I was a bit worried about walking in the forest all by myself. However, as so often in life, these fears were completely unfounded. Yes, usually we worry and worry about things that could happen and to be honest how many of these things do actually happen?!
After around 20km of walking I started feeling pain everywhere. My calf muscles were sore, my shoulders hurt and worst of all were my feet. I sometimes had the feeling my shoes had no soles any longer… I even had to stop at some point and check my shoes for any holes… Especially walking downhill was a painful experience. The last few kilometres before reaching my destination for the day I walked together with the American girls. They too were in pain, which somehow made me feel a little better.
The evening we spent in a little village called Markina-Xemein. While looking for a hostel we found a bar and decided to have a beer first. We then found a family who rented out some of their rooms to pilgrims. I was really happy that I was with the American girls that night, because one of them spoke Spanish which made things much easier. Our host was a very friendly and very bubbly lady and within 5 minutes she had filled us in on her whole life and misery. Wow, I immediately felt more exhausted just by listening to her… At night we headed into town and found a little place where they served tapas. However, as so often we had to wait for another hour before we could eat. It seems in Spain no one eats before 8pm – difficult when you have been walking for hours and are REALLY hungry. The locals though were really funny and interested in us. We met one elderly Irish man (the American’s congratulated him on his great English LOL) who had moved to this village 25 years ago because of his ex-wife and just stayed on after the relationship fell apart. What I found while travelling is that almost all of these great stories start with love…We had a lovely night with wine and laughter and while I really enjoyed walking by myself, I also did enjoy some company in the evening.
The next morning our lovely host served us breakfast – which consisted of some weak coffee and some stale toast with butter. Yum.
I actually felt really tired that morning – ground hog day :). The first 8 km took me forever and I had to take a break every few minutes. I bumped into the American girls after a few hours. One of the girls had stepped in liquid manure and her socks were soaked – and stank like hell. I dragged myself up another hill where a beautiful monastery was located. I knew the monastery had a hostel so I seriously considered staying there overnight and just taking it easy that day.
So I continued walking and seriously, 18km can be VERY long. However, I managed to find a shortcut and when I took a break at some point the American girls, who still thought I was staying in the monastery, came around the corner and were looking at me like if they had seen a ghost. At times the path was getting really difficult with toppled trees blocking the way and again, all three of us were really tired.
When I arrived in Gernika at 5:30 pm I was exhausted. I did not leave my room any more – which I only had to share with one German man that night. Additionally, my stomach problems had gotten much worse – and well, let me put it like this: I had a rough night…