Various sources say that today’s stage is a depressing 20km walk towards the coast through Bilbao’s industrial past. I wasn’t too keen on spending the day walking past abandoned warehouses and half-hearted graffiti, so I decided to take the train to the coast with an injured American. Together, we walked about 5km to the albergue at Pobeña, on the beach. What’s more, it was forecast to be a reasonable-ish day by the afternoon.
We had a relaxed hostel breakfast and were out by 10:30 – practically dinosaur-speed by camino standards. Sitting on the train during the 30-minute ride, looking out at ramshackle car dealerships and unweeded concrete, we agreed we had made the right choice. We would later find out that people who actually walk this stretch are in the minority, the hardcore pilgrims – or those whose guides aren’t up to scratch. If you offered a 12th-century devotee a train ride, cutting out a hard day’s walking, I doubt he’d have turned it down.
Stained glass windows in the train station
First glimpse of the beach in several days
Everyone around here has their own little farm plot
We checked into the albergue after a couple of hours waiting around outside. The walk from the train station had been short, just 5km. An appropriate amount to rest the legs. The place was decent, with places to wash clothes and reasonably non-creaky beds. We met a young German woman and a ukelele-wielding Belgian guy who had kept the waiting pilgrims entertained with ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’. Together, we explored the town and the nearby beach.
Back up the valley: industry
A probably-grumpy lifeguard
Fairy ring in the nearby park
I spotted a strange bunker/house structure cast into the cliff and went over to investigate
Inside was a tidal pool with a cave receding into the earth. We all stripped down to bathers and waded in – but soon realised the darkness was bolder than our willingness to carry phones (and therefore torches)
The rhythm of the day continued, with lewd ad-libbed ukelele songs, the odd bottle of wine and a particularly bad Pilgrim menu at the local joint (the Roquefort sauce tasted like ants). We returned to the albergue after dark, where some late arrivals had improvised with a couple of chairs and some clothespegs. When a hostel fills up, you can always walk on to the next one – but it’s usually already late in the day, and your feet are usually already hurting. Most will accommodate alternative arrangements:
Pilgrim fort for late arrivals – space for two if you squeeze
This was a good day. Plenty of wine, decent weather and good people.
‘Til next time,
[Apologies for the infrequent posting, it’s been harder than I expected to get the internet, energy and free time to post as regularly as I’d like. I’ll get all the posts out eventually though, and I have been keeping notes. – Alex, day 17]