Camino del Norte Day 6: Cenarruza to a forest outside of Eskerika, 25ish km

We had another beautiful day of walking, with clear sunny skies and warm temperatures. The walking was very rural with a lot of sweeping mountain views. We slept very well at the monastery last night and enjoyed coffee and bread with our bunkmates in the morning while watching the sunrise over the mountains. We walked through many idyllic hamlets, with huge colorful traditional Basque houses surrounded by perfect little gardens. The peas and hot peppers seemed to be ripe, but we resisted the temptation to swipe any.

Our plan today was to walk to Gernika (as in Pablo Picassa’s Guernica— Gernika is the Basque name). It is a city that was bombed very heavily and mostly destroyed in by German bombers in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. While it has been rebuilt and is a lively city of 16,000, many of the town’s monuments and historic buildings are related to the painful history.

We are noticing that the Basque language (Euskara) is very dominant here, many signs being only in Basque and not Spanish. Signs for the Camino through town said “Donijakue bidea” (Saint James Path)—not very helpful for the many pilgrims who do not speak Basque!

We had read that Gernika was housing pilgrims in their polideportivo (rec center), but when we got there, it turned out they did not offer that service this year. The only option was a youth hostel that was over €20 per person and did not open until 4pm (we got there around noon). So since we didn’t feel like waiting 4 hours in the heat, we decided to keep walking after visiting the main sites of Gernika, eating lunch and taking a nap in the park. The next albergue was 22 km away, and we didn’t want to walk that far, so we decided to look for a good camping spot in the forest. And here we are, typing away and using our 3G Internet on a flat spot in the forest where we set up our tent.”

We’re looking forward to two more short days until Bilbao, where we can explore the big city and visit the Guggenheim Museum.