My Way to Santiago – Day 4

Deba – Markina – Xemein – Gernika-Lumo

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Deba – Markina-Xemein – Guernika-Lumo

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The Day didn’t start that early, but still we managed somehow to finish the breakfast before nine. It looked as we will finally adjust our starting hours to the quest that we want to do. A cup of coffee or two, bread and butter with the home-made marmalade in the nice Agroturismo Donibane marked the beginning of the day. The lady the owner was very polite and you just felt a lot of positive energy. The start was promising… like we were again in charge with all our strength to endure and keep up with our previous plan. To commit to the plan shouldn’t have been easy, still it is possible. So we headed toward the Deba via a descending road leaving the smiling owner of our overnight stay. It was muddy, wet and sleeper. Guess what?! Yes, the rain was here again. This little drops coming from gray sky became usual condition these days. It is the type of the rain when you can walk without umbrella, but it still rains… little drops of refreshment were even good at that time.

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Deba is located at the mouth of the river of the same name. With some >5000 inhabitants it is rather small town with amazing landscape, rich heritage and exquisite gastronomy. Yes, it has beaches, one is called Santiago and the other is Lapari beach, above which are long Cardenas and Ablo Sorozabai promenades and a great number of viewpoints over the Cantabrian Sea. It is interesting that there is a part of the beach with delightful wetland where cormorants, herons and other mud-living bird species return every year. If they return, there must be a good reason for it. Why shouldn’t we return here then?

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The beauty of this coastal town with its sandy and pebbles beaches was not that prominent due to this grayish weather. But even in a distance, even in the rain, the town was nice little seaside with stunning views. It was a pity that we didn’t have time to explore it, as it deserves. We did see the Parish Church of Santa Maria built-in 15th century, that was of course closed at that time, the square, the main train station and the river.

The parish church of Santa María is one of the most magnificent churches of Gipuzkoa. It is located in the centre of Deba town and is regarded as a national monument and a real masterpiece of the Basque Gothic. Its dimensions and rich decoration make it comparable to a cathedral. The church has two aisles and a nave of the same height, a polychrome portico of delicate work, a cloister ¿the most ancient one in the territory and several chapels attached to buttresses.

Unfortunately, that were the only few beauties that we had a chance to notice. Guess? We MUST come back 🙂

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After crossing the bridge, we soon had to turn left and start to climb uphill. Although muddy, the climb was a kind of gentle, slowly going up to the height of 245 metres where the “Ermita de Calvario” is. The map showed that this part of the road will not be easy. But we had the adrenaline to finish it on time. We had almost 50K in front of us for this day and the first climb was from sea level to the height of 485 meters or more for Limite Provencial and then to go down to 94 metres in Markina-Xemen. Tough job?

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With the barking sound of three big dogs that were very excited when we were passing their fence, we started to climb in a kind of forest. The rain made our path dirty and wet. I didn’t care much about my wet feet anymore. My choice was to wear sandals because even though they get wet quickly, they are also dry quickly. A spare pair of sneakers that I brought along didn’t have chance yet. I couldn’t imagine to walk in wet sneakers for such a long period – blisters would be inevitable. Therefore, they had to travel in my mochila.

The nature was amazing. We saw a great number of different animals. From donkeys to horses, dogs, birds, butterflies….the song of the birds was constantly around. Even the rain stopped at some point of time. The path was absolutely amazing. Orange breast and face of the great number of robins were so common in Spain. I even get an impression that robins are the most often encountered species here. Yes, I did try to catch them with my camera… but they are a bit too fast for my procedure of getting the camera and making in ready for the photo shooting session. Still I enjoyed this magnificent sound and happy flight of little creatures all around and tried over and over again to make a photo of them.

When I saw the Ermita del Calvario (Kalibaixoko Ermita). I thought for a moment that I will be lucky enough to get in. It looks really special, with a wonderful view on a Cantabrian sea, a broad terrace and a yard. It was built in 1689, and reconstructed in 1900 and 1940. I like this neoclassic style I looked through the windows to see inside…. ’cause this is the only way to see how it looks because it was – closed 😦 From the top and almost in the centre of the church I saw a flying ship and the bright interior. I wonder what this flying ship represents? Is it connected with their historical discoveries of faraway countries, or is it a kind of battle ship or fishing ship…. it will remain mystery to me…at least for now.

Soon after we started to climb uphill, again. In a few kilometres we passed by the Izarbidea Albergue, or Hostal. There was no need to stop… we were not ready for the break yet… 😉

As a little surprise, we saw in the next yard a group of small pigs. Ok. We already met a lot of horses, donkeys, dogs and cats… but this was the first encounter of pigs on this way. It looked like they also knew they are unique… so they came to greet us… probably for luck….

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There is something in this Way, especially in this North Route. You are really left to the nature, to animals, to rain, to scenic views… you are with yourself, your thoughts, your memories, your wishes. At certain point of life I realize that I do not have time to lose. I realized that I do not want to wait for anything. I want to grasp every possibility and live to the fullest. I think that the greatest mistake that we make is that we think we have time…. and I am not sure if I would like to know how much do I have left? Maybe I would…. but then… I would probably run in the feeling of adrenaline when I would be approaching the end… This way, since we do not know, I am in this adrenaline state all the time. I will go wherever possible, do whatever I think it might be interesting, search and find happiness everywhere and don’t care about figurative problems. Only illness and death are problems in life, the rest of it are just obstacles that we encounter on the way of life. Be weird and wild… would be my best advice to me when I was a kid. Whenever I have to decide if I am going to do something or not, I imagine a little me of some ten years and ask her: “Would you like to that? Would you like to go there?” And if she answers “Yes” – we do it, we go there. Should I mention that she says “Yes” almost to everything? 😉

Wow… human….runner… it’s so rare here. Ok. I must be still on the planet of earth… 🙂

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We entered the Basque Coast Geopark. They told this with LARRABEIXAK sign. It is a place with one of the best places of karst land formation. I hoped that I will see here some wild animals..or at least las vacas from the sign. Well, I know it is a geo-park, still, it looked like a kind of place where you can see wild animals too… Well, we didn’t see anything except three horses near one house. But, I will count them too 🙂 Everything counts, remember?

I must admit that I have a problem with the hills. I cannot be that fast that I want. Still, I can climb any hill with my own pace…I can reach even the highest mountains….. only to be with You…. a song just appeared in my head from nowhere… just as You did…..

After the tenth kilometer from our first step that we made this morning, we finally found a place to collect the stamp and make a short break. It was at Zelaieta Taberna opposite the church “Ermita de San Isidro” that has the shell on the wall. The timing was perfect for a fast coffee and something to eat. So we spent there around half an hour. At that time we saw several pilgrims passing by. They all waved with the smile. I guess we were all happy to be a part of this story.

After the stop, and not visiting another closed church, we started to climb again. The rain went somewhere else, so we had nice weather. From time to time, we even saw the sun. Road, earthy path, forest, the scenery was changing all the time. We passed through a village Arnoate. Unlike other paths here we met several groups. Most of them started to walk while we were at our stop. The thing is, we had light burden on our backs and they were the real backpackers. It would be strange if we were not a bit faster. And to be honest, they were really good. With these big bags they all managed to achieve respectable speed. Hmmmm. How?

When I come to foreign country I want to know their language too. I want to show how I like to know new cultures, new people, new customs, and for me learning at least basic words is a must. With Spanish, I have a long history in my life. As a born lover of Italian language I wanted to learn Italian in my high school. I was really disappointed when a majority of pupils voted for Spanish language. But I wanted Italian… Still, I had no choice and started to learn Spanish. The teacher that came show us all the beauty of Spanish language and culture. And, believe it or not, in just one semester of teaching she managed to teach us how to speak and understand each other without any problem. She, our Spanish teacher was amazing. At that time, my father told me that I don’t need Spanish in my life. ha ha ha… I guess he didn’t think I will go on this way…. where nobody speaks nothing but Spanish. Amazing…

Ann, on the other hand was pretty stubborn with her hello-es… She didn’t want to say Buen Camino, Ultreia….nor any other expression. She spoke in her own language. She got a lot of strange looks… strange in a meaning… they didn’t understand her…. untill once… she got the “good day” back in her own language. He he… I guess she didn’t expect this. Well, they were not from the same country as we, but they understood her “Hello”. She started to run. I couldn’t. I have my sandals… and I wanted to walk. It can be fast walk, but it still has to be walk….and there are so many creatures around me… Looking at her running in the distance I couldn’t stop and take a photo of a little guy that reminded me on myself at that moment. For me, this will be a part of my memories… my feelings… my way… cause I still haven’t found what I am looking for 😉

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Despite several Pilgrims on the Way, we still had a feeling of tranquility of abandoned places. Animals were the only proof that someone probably must live here. Without them, I would think that I am in a kind of movie where the scene has been set, but the show hasn’t started yet. What would this show be about? Maybe this laughing horse tried to tell me? It would be nice if could understand them better….

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On this part of the Way, we had a chance to read a number of maps and little instructions about geology, history and nature. I appreciate these efforts since this is the moment to share the knowledge. Now, at this spot I want to know that. Good job 🙂

We needed almost six hours to reach the 20th kilometer. That was the moment that I started to worry that we probably didn’t start early enough for this 50K journey. I was a bit worried that we will not have enough time to be there on time. What is time? The lady from the Pension where we booked the room for tonight told us that we have to come there before nine. She put a lot effort to explain what will happen if we come there in time when she is not in the hostal. I am not sure that I have remembered the instructions. I remembered only that she is there between 6 and 9 pm and I wanted to arrive there before nine. However, it seemed that we could arrive there even after that. Maybe Ann felt the same when she started to run, and disappeared far away ahead of me. I still didn’t run. I guess that this was the moment that she became nervous and stressed (as she pointed out later).

Markina-Xemein! We finally arrived. Strange name of the city. It seems that the current town is actually made by joining of two towns: Markina and Xemein that today has population around 5000 inhabitants. Why Markina? Because it is at the border of Biscay (Bizkaia), and it is next to the border with Gipuzkoa.

Coming from the Spanish word “marca” meaning “mark”, Markina-Xemein marks the location where the Gipuzkoanos (the people of Guipuzcoa province) often battled the Bizkainos (the people of Biscay province).

Markina-Xemein is located in the north east of Biscay, and it is next to the border with Gipuzkoa. Although the village centre is plain, it is surrounded by hills and mountains, most of them 400 to 700 metres high.Oiz, located to the southwest, is 1,026 metres high.

The main river is Artibai, which passes through Markina-Xemein from southwest to northeast. Near the village centre, it is joined by another river from the southeast, Urko.

(Source: wikipedia).

During our short discovery walk through this town (villages) we sent its medieval spirit. The spirit. We saw facades of the church of El Carmen with the sculpture of the virgin and the coat of arms (Carmelite Order), the palaces Solartekua, Andonegi, Ansotegi, Antxia, the old Town Hall. There were also Patrokua palace, the church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion de Xemein,

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What I found as the most unusual was the hexagonally shaped hermit’s chapel of San Miguel de Arretxinaga. In it, there is an altar formed by three big rocks. They are supposed to protect the image of the saint. At first, I was afraid to enter, so I just stood at the doorway astonished with the view. I didn’t expect this. The stones…. completely unexpected… the exhibition…. unbelievable surprise…

I didn’t find more information about this Church at that time, but it looked like there is a kind of exhibition in place. I felt for a moment as if I were on some other planet. The whole feeling was strange….. strange…. strange….strange….

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The chapel of San Miguel de Arretxinaga was built-in the 18th century as the previous chapel was in ruins. It has a hexagonal floor plan and a six-sided pyramid roof. It is built in uncut stone.

The dome has six nerve blocks, joined in the centre with plant decoration. The chapel entrance is a simple jack arch with a small bell tower on top.

The three large rocks inside are the main attraction of the chapel. They support each other, creating a small chapel. At the centre stands the figure of Archangel Michael. The rocks are over 40 million years old. According to popular legend, young men who want to get married within a year must pass three times under the rocks.

Source: tourism.euskadi.eus.

 

 

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Strange…. the sound of the music somehow made me go in. I saw a lot of faces staring at me as if they were waiting for me. First I was shocked, than amazed, than afraid. Afraid? But I am never afraid in my life. Whenever I see something new, unusual, different, challenging… I become a child and run into it. I would run in fire, I would jump the cliffs, I would fly…..

– Are you waiting for me? – he asked

I heard a deep pleasant voice behind my neck. The tone of the voice was so great that I hesitated to turn around. What if the voice is better than the appearance? What if I do not want to be disappointed. It is usually not important, but this time, I wanted that the voice and the appearance are a perfect match.

– Yes – I smiled and slowly turned back to see who is talking. Yet, I didn’t see anyone there.

– Actually, I made some hundred of kilometers just to meet you here in this dark place – I said laughing.

It was silence. I had a feeling for a moment that I am alone again with all those staring faces. Could this be some magical place? Was this voice in my head? I came here for an adventure, for new experience, for meeting people, for learning about the culture, nature, language, feelings, myself? One thing was certain, I was not waiting for someone. If this is so, where does this voice came from?

Strange – the same word appear again in my head. People are strange when you are a stranger….. I heard a known song… and went outside.

Ann must have been near. I looked around. It was hot, sunny, silent day. Again I had a feeling as if I am in a kind of stage set for the filming. Still, no-one was around and again I asked myself what kind of show is it. I walked along the dusty street. Still nobody, not even Ann. Hmmm, usually she is always around, or at least on a eye-sight distance. Still, not this time.

Strange… I went down the road, felt thirsty. Maybe I should try to find a shop and buy something to drink. A second later I saw a big supermarket and went in. At a moment I thought that I saw Ann in between the shelves… so I hurried… but I somehow couldn’t catch her. Is she still running, even in the shop? Approaching the supermarket I saw a bus station. I looked carefully to see if she was tempted? I didn’t see her there…

I took a bottle of Coca-Cola and went outside. I will find her, I hoped. What now? Where is my arrow? My shell? It is strange, I thought, that I cannot see any place where I can ask about her, about the way or about the stamp. Then I saw a Spanish Man coming down the road.

Excuse me – I said, but he didn’t react to my words. Excuse me – I repeated a bit louder… still he walked as if he cannot see me. Ok, finally I said – Desculpe – and he turned his face toward me with a smile.

Hmmm, so if I speak some other language than Spanish, I am invisible, but if I speak Spanish, all the doors opens at once.

¿Dónde puedo encontrar oficina de turismo? – I asked.

No hay oficina de turismo – he asnwered a bit confused. – pero usted puede obtener información en la biblioteca. Mira, está ahí al final de la calle – he raised his hand showing me the way.

So I went there. I entered the library. At first I didn’t notice anything but a huge amount of books. Oh, here I feel great. I love books. Then one lady came and started to speak in Spanish. I tried to speak in English, but she continued in Spanish. With a great effort she explained everything about the town, about the way. I understood almost everything.

¿tú debes ser Jolie? – I was surprised….

Ann dejó un mensaje para usted – I was surprised even more when she gave me a little note. I thanked her a lot for her kindness and went outside. On the note, Ann wrote that she couldn’t wait for me, because she wanted to run, so I can just follow the shell and the arrow and we will meet on the next stop. Nice. But, why this mystery? She could have just sent a message, couldn’t she? Strange…

What could I do? I continued without coffee. Who knows how late I am. And I wanted to be in Gernika-Lumo before nine. Puedo hacerlo! Puedo hacerlo!

 

I found the shell beside the Atxondo sports complex and started to following it. After crossing the little bridge over some kind of a little river, the yellow sign pointed out leaving the road and going to nature again, although not for long….. The weather was still sunny at that time. I hurried up, so it looked as if I am speed walking again. I can do at least that – I thought. No puedes correr en sandalias, o?

Oh, another small gothic church. It was the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Erdotza (Nuestra Señora de las Nieve).  Few meters aside stood a little quadratic shrine of Santutxu. Saxtutxu – una ermita limosnera……. When you walk alone, you pay more attention to the signs. I could not allow myself to lose it now. After the bridge over another little river, I saw a sign that told me to turn to the left and cross the fence. Hmmm, I always feel as an intruder when I have to cross the fence. Still, there was a little instruction on this doors asking us to cerrar – close the fence behind us. Ok. I will cross the fence. Soon after that I arrived in another village – Iruzubieta….

Soon, I will approach Bolibar. I knew that I will have to pass by the Simon Bolivar Museum without entering. Well, this is what I miss on this kind of trip. You have to move on – if you want to be somewhere before dark. Maybe next time I should do the same Way with the bicycle. That would give me more time to see and visit what I want and need to make this Way more powerful. This time, I will enjoy in nature, the views, everything from the outside. I didn’t expect that all the churches will be closed. But, I have accepted this and tried to play the game of visual recognizing of the architecture and style from the outside. Will the entrance be on the east end? How does te sun enters the interior? Does the sun enhance interior illumination. East End and West Front…. Facades, are they byzantine, romanesque or gothic elements… they are also often very different and some have sculptures, marble or stone tracery. Windows? Are they in a specific shape? There are so many features that make even the smallest church as a perfect piece of art and history.

Then I started to climb again… ahhh. climbing… it’s hard again. I still didn’t see Ann. She must have been very fast. Out of some strange reason, my cell phone didn’t work. I wrote a message to her, but I didn’t see that it has been sent. It was some kind of stuck in a time. Strange.

I climbed and climbed and get lost in my minds. I didn’t go in the Monastery of Ziortza although I knew there was a pilgrim hostel, or it was supposed to be. I knew that there is a beautiful atrium inside, but I was in a hurry. So, I somehow started to feel sad again. I miss this possibilities of little stops and looking around. This looks like a kind of race, and not something where you experience the culture. Why is it so?

The rain started again. This time, it was a bit heavier rain. The one when you have to put the hood over your head if you don’t want to get wet. The hood is not the problem. The sound was. The rustling sound of the plastic on my head didn’t let me hear the nature. Still, it protected me well and it was a fair price to pay. I walked faster along the paved track full of dirt and mud, passed several empty looking villages until I cam to a little town Gerrikaitz, then Munitibar….. I didn’t stop. I was getting faster and faster. I must catch her – I talked to myself. Puedo hacerlo. I know we can do it.

Villages were coming one after another, the hermitage of San Pedro, the Montalban tower, road to Zarra and church Arratzu, then the forest in Urdaibai, bridge, Elexalde Arratzu. The rain stopped me for making pictures. I was afraid to make my camera wet. Well, considering this experience I will come back and maybe be even luckier with the weather. Photos in rain are a bit grayish and unattractive. The nature was amazing but it didn’t have a chance to shine now when it rains and when I have to go so fast that I cannot stop.

– Waiting for me? – the voice appeared from nowhere. OMG, now this is too strange. The rain and this muddy road that appeared in front of me became darker somehow. I knew it is late, but I also noticed that the day is somehow longer in this part of the world. It shouldn’t be that dark. Out of nowhere came a handsome man with the deepest blue eyes that I ever saw. I stared at him, I admit.

– Not a sunny day, still it’s nice here… don’t you think.

– yes, yes, I love Spain. I like this coast, the trees, roads, villages, this emptiness and yet vivid life all around. It is special. So, you a pilgrim too?

– well, let’s call it like this. In an hour of conversation we touched everything, the life, the death, the culture, the art, the travels, the languages. First we started with English, then continued in Spanish, a sentence in Italian, Portuguese and French, few words in some other languages… and ended in German. WOW, we were both surprised how easy this is. There is no was not to understand each other when we can speak in all of these languages. At some point of time he took my hand in his and said: I feel great now, what about you? I smiled and started to feel this strange nervousness in my body. No, I said to myself. I didn’t come here to find something like this. I’ve decided long ago that I will remain free. Still, with the starring look of this eyes and my hand in his, I felt as if I was caught like a like kitten that tried to escape. And this being caught became a wonderful feeling. They say… if it makes you happy, let it happen. If it feels good – let it happen. I didn’t think too much… I let it happen… I felt in love again without caring of how transient it might be when you meet someone on the road… Ok, a woman once told me that I will find my love on the road. No, this can’t be it.

I must admit that I do not remember the rest of the road to Gernika. It had a kind of heavenly beautiful path. The raindrops suddenly became sun, and the villages and towns heavenly gardens. I felt as if I was in a kind of a PC game, or a movie where everything is idyllic… let it happen…love cannot hurt. ….a song came to my mind… when he said that although Spanish, his name was Jim….. touch me baby…. can you feel that I am not afraid….

 

 

 

Gernika – Lumo.

Ann was standing in front of the bus station when I saw her.

Hey I finally found you – I was happy to see her. She was not looking happy. I felt a great amount of nervousness in her. Yet, I was full of love and happiness and turned around to find Jim with my eyes. I didn’t see him. I….. – I started to speak… and turned around again… still he has not been around. I met someone – I said finally to her.

She didn’t listen. Some kind of bitterness around. Why?

Ok, what is the problem? – I asked. Has something happened to you on the way?

No, nothing happened. I am just tired and nervous. I am stressed. This is too hard – we cannot do it.

At that moment we realized that maybe we will not be able to finish this route on time. We realized that we have to change something if we want to save something from this trip. Ok, I also missed this possibility to wander around and from the way. I missed several villages and churches…

I agree – we do not have time to explore around. We should recalculate our possibilities. I sent now a kind of bitterness and I do not like it. This is supposed to be fun.  Grrrr

We should call the hotel and ask about late check in. – I said.

Why don’t you finally admit hat we can’t do it. You cannot do it!

Ha ha ha – I laughed.

Honey, I can walk for hours. I think that the problem now is only late check in, nothing else. I will call the hotel.

Finally, I gave up.

Hey girl, this was supposed to be fun, relax we are on holidays. Nothing went wrong, we are just a bit late. I think that this is not going to be such a problem. But I was not persuasive so I stopped talking.

I was still feeling strange… where did the Jim go? Did it happened at all? How did I finish this 10K so fast? The rain, the coming darkness, the special mood of the town and a place where we choose to stay this night mixed all up.

The chance to wash ourselves and all our clothes made Ann happier. I took everything and did the washing circle by myself. Walking around the town in a short running pants, hoodie and flip-flops I saw a sign on a bar that offers Sangria. A great glass of this sweet and strong drink erased all the potential negative thoughts. I didn’t care that we were late, I didn’t care if Jim was truth or reality. I didn’t care if have to modify our route to Santiago. I guess the Way is the Way, and even though you have to change it from the previous plans… it is still the way. I am going to walk every single day…. for at least 30K no matter what.  Let’s make it easier for Ann, for me… for us. It can be hard, but it cannot have negative effect. We will make it easier…….

 

 

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Akelarre is the Basque term meaning Witches’ Sabbath (the place where witches hold their meetings). Akerra means male goat in the Basque language. Witches’ sababaths were envisioned as presided over by a goat. (Source: wikipedia).

The word has been loaned to Castilian Spanish (which uses the spelling Aquelarre). It has been used in Castilian Spanish since the witch trials of the 17th century. The word is most famous as the title of the witchcraft painting by Goya in the Museo del Prado, which depicts witches in the company of a huge male goat.

Next stop Bilbao.

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