Friday, June 30, 2017

Returning to our first day of walking in Spain

Hello, everyone.

The last post left off at lunchtime. One would think that lunchtime was only half or maybe three-quarters of a walk day. But if the pilgrim doesn't elect to stay the night at Pasajes/San Juan--some do, and after the difficulty of the first half, it's probably far from a bad idea--the route carries on into San Sebastian. (Sorry, the Basque name of the city escapes from me at the moment. Anybody who knows and wants to put it into the comments, feel free.)

There are a couple of marked ways out of the little port town of Pasajes-San Juan. At least, that's what the guide books say. One is said to be easier (meaning less steep) and the other is said to be scenic.

We followed our noses and didn't look around to find the easier way--even though we'd talked about not wanting to climb the very steep stairs to the lighthouse, that was what we ended up doing. There are some pictures we took, early on, on the stairs. Later on there were more decrepit steps, some with rebar poles to steady the risers...and some of the steadied risers and even treads had disappeared over time. This is not a staircase to run up!

Before the stairs began: the water is so clear, the rocks are so neat!

Near the bottom of the endless stairsteps

You can almost tell here that the size of the treads and risers varies. It varies more later on. At the very top of the steps, there was a picnic table. I'm not ashamed to say that we lay down on the benches to rest a minute before continuing on.

There were some really pretty views. There was a bit of paved road, and then the trail went off pavement and continued on along the sides of the hills.

Looking down at San Sebastian, just before the trail began its steep descent into the city

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A digression back to present time: dog walk

Hello, everyone.

Today I got going early (it's been about 105F/40C? for some days in the afternoons here) about 8 with the dogs and we walked on some soft, plowed dry dirt and then some hard dirt that's more of an access way for the ditch pictured below. Then returned by way of the soft stuff--not a big distance, but some intensity. The softest parts of the plowed dirt remind me of walking on the third afternoon in Portugal, where the powder dry dust was inches deep and gave very little purchase to tired feet, approaching the mesa of Santarem.

We saw an unusual bird watching the water in the "holding pond" (looks like a ditch to me) on the way.

Bird on a crossing pipe
I estimate he's about two or three times as big as the boat-tailed grackles that fly all around here. He has white eyebrow flashes and yellow legs and a thick, straight beak like a kingfisher. But I wonder if he's a kind of a crane? Any bird experts that want to chime in with a comment and helps us all out are welcome to do so!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

First real day of walking

Hello, everyone.

In the last post, we arrived at the albergue in Irun.

Once there, laundry was done, and hung on a line on the balcony. User tip: if it's already 5 pm, your clothes may not get dry before bedtime. Also, they do have a second balcony there, if the first one is full of clothes. (Drying laundry on the balcony is normal in northern Spain, nobody thinks anything of seeing it.)

We wandered out after a bite to eat. We should have found a grocery and gotten water bottles and maybe some nuts, but we were tired and didn't think.

The next morning, we set out. The trail leads up a very "nature-y" way to a chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, then goes left and into the hills. Not that the previous walk leaving the city was flat! But it gets hillier. We were fortunate enough to have dry conditions for this.

These are a sample of the "road" surfaces we walked. There were some actual asphalt surfaces as well, with no shoulder, but those didn't get photographed. These are as wide as actual car-type roads because occasionally people drive on them. And some parts had been improved with a load or three of coarse sand. (Thank you, somebody!) As y'all can see, one's eyes need to be kept peeled. (That's "be alert!") Also, no matter if it does seem that one can go at a good pace, those rocks aren't quite as far apart sometimes as they look. More so on the places with ancient paving stones. I got toenail blisters on this day, either on this part or in the afternoon. I have now learned that just because it seems like the toes are sliding around in the boot a little, that doesn't mean you should tighten laces. In my case, had I loosened the laces and slowed down things would have been better.

This in various permutations was the morning. We did descend down tiny paved lanes and steps into Pasajes/San Juan (also called Donibane I think) about noon. There is a little tiny shop on the first plaza you come to with a full chiller of water bottles. After almost chugging the water, we got onto the little water taxi-ferry and rode across the harbor to the other side.

Once across, we wandered until we found a bar and ate bocadillos with cafe leche for lunch.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Recapping our arrival to begin the now-interrupted pilgrimage

Hello, everyone.

This is just a few bits about the flight over and finding the albergue.

We had a flight from our town to DFW, then from DFW to Madrid, then from Madrid to BIQ in France. This last is the airport for Biarritz, a beach town, Bayonne, and Anglet. From here, people often go to St. Jean Pied-de-Port to begin walking the Camino Frances. Our way was a different direction this time.

We caught the bus from the airport to Hendaye, then walked from the bus stop across the bridge to Irun in Spain.

This is not the much-photographed bridge with the colorful Spanish arms displayed at the midpoint. That one was closed. Apparently they are resurfacing it. This bridge was perfectly fine and we had a sidewalk to walk on.

We crossed over and began walking. Eventually we found ourselves near a church of Our Lady. This was interesting, but was not anywhere near the albergue in Irun. We bumped into so other pilgrims. Eventually a couple of us found the albergue, and, being possessed of great kindness, went back over near the church where we and another person were wandering and led us to the albergue.

Before we got that far, though, we saw the river nature walk.

The river is apparently tidal and brackish here. We saw boats, oysters (?), fish and swans. Also local folks strolling.

This artistic word was close to a map of the city.
The trick we had missed about finding the albergue, apparently, was in not turning left on a huge road that crossed over the many, many train tracks of the railroad station. (I had seen the sign and thought it was a highway. Perhaps it is--but it's the turn to take.) After crossing over that, one turns right down hill--involves some steps--and then goes around the block to the other side and the albergue is about halfway up toward the huge street that one has just left.

Probably we wandered around for about 5 kilometers or so. This, we discovered the next day, was nothing. But that can wait.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Update on things learned so far

Hello, everyone.

This is a small update on things we have learned since the forced end of our walking this summer. Three lessons so far:

(1) Wet rocks are slick.
(2) There are more than one model of crutches. They are not functionally equivalent.

The crutches (muletas) the pharmacy in Spain had
 The Spanish crutches only go up to about the elbow. (I have no idea whether the more classic form below was also available. Maybe I should have butted in and asked the doctors to write a note describing the recommended model? but that might have yielded what we got anyway.) All of the patient's weight is on the hands. The cup like shape at the top, which is just above the elbow in use, is only to keep the crutch straight. DH found it extremely uncomfortable. Making them more so, the pharmacies had nothing like athletic tape or handlebar tape or tennis racket tape to pad that hand grip. It's just unadorned hard plastic.

Crutches from a pharmacy in Texas (more expensive but not high priced)

The Texas crutch is not unaltered--when DD2 got it from the pharmacy while we were flying in, she also got a package of "crutch pillows" which makes them more comfortable to use--the pillows are on the top where it goes under the armpit and on the hand grip. Not wonderful and great, y'all understand, but more comfortable. Also appears to me to be more stable as the torso is involved in bearing weight and steadying the stick with this model.

DH saw our own physician for his recommended 1 week followup and now he has a "boot." (This is a removable gadget, which comes in various types, to immobilize the foot or ankle. This one goes all the way up to the knee.) The boot is more comfortable than the previous splint and when he is allowed to begin putting weight on it, the rigid sole will also help.

The doc says that when everything is healed, DH will be able to walk on trails again.

(3) There will be a set of hiking poles for DH, as well as the set I use, when we resume our interrupted pilgrimage. You may not need them for 9/10 of your pilgrimage, but on the day you need them, they pay for themselves.

Friday, June 9, 2017


Hello, everyone.

We are now home.

On our way walking into Zumaia, a lovely town on the coast, we saw a flower that I don't know. It appears to be a bulb. Something related to wood hyacinth? Feel free to comment with information if y'all know!

For all of you who are counting, yes, this was the third and last day of our walking. We didn't see the famous flysch rocks in that area, that we know of, but there were interesting vertical layers visible where the way into the town had been cut into the hillside. This little blossom was growing here-and-there in the grass. These blossoms are about 2.5 cm or so, there were some a bit bigger and some smaller.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Camino surprises (with correction)

Hello everyone.

I'm posting this from Bilbao, a lovely city. We arrived here a bit early, because DH fell on a wet and rocky trail. Apparently we aren't meant to make it to Santiago this trip.

He has a fractured tibia. (Correction: it's his fibula--that's the thin bone at the back.)

Moral of the story: you never know what lessons the Camino will give.

After this happened on the  way into Deba, we trained to Bilbao and found a place at Pension Manoli. We were so worn out that we took a three hour nap when we arrived. Today, after a good night's sleep, we went to the urgent care clinic. Then to the hospital.  There we learned that it was a trip ending  injury.

Part of the Camino is accepting what comes. Various local people have been wonderful.  Perhaps next year we can return to Bilbao and resume our pilgrimage to Covadonga, Oviedo, and Santiago.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Hello everyone.

This is a view from the approach to the lovely town of Zumaia on the coast.

Those little bits of random cloud are wet. It drizzles a lot in this region.

We have seen a lot of friendly dogs. Some of them are hiking with their people. Some are in their little tote bag sized carriers.

We also passed Billy the goat, tied out on the path doing his "mowing" job. He was perfectly civil, too!

Friday, June 2, 2017

First day report

Hello everyone.

Yesterday we walked from Irun to San Sebastian,  which is mostly being called by its Basque name of Donostia.

This is the view we saw when leaving this morning.

Harbor of the city, about 0730.

Yesterday's distance walked was 26.5 kilometers.