14th September, 2019
- Day 7: Morga (Eskerika) to Bilbao
- Distance: 21km
- Weather: Sunny and hot
- Accommodation: Albergue Claret Enea, €11
It’s been one week since I started and I’m feeling good. It’s a cool morning and I wait until 7.30am so it’s light enough outside. I backtrack up the hill to the Camino and within minutes of walking I meet Diane and Patrick, a friendly Canadian couple. We walk together through the forest and chat for a bit before I continue on.
After 7km I stop at the first town, Larrabetzu, for a coffee and tortilla and I’m soon joined by Diane, Patrick and an Australian couple called Linda and Ted. We strike up a wonderful conversation and continually pass each other all the way to Bilbao.
After Larrabetzu, there’s some road walking and then a final climb up through forest to Monte Avril. It’s a really hot day (29 degrees celsius) and I’m quickly running out of water. I climb with Ted and Linda and we talk non-stop, there’s nowhere they haven’t travelled to or hiked and I’m fascinated by their stories.
At the bottom of the hill we reach the Basilica of Begoña (Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Begoña) and there’s a group of traditional Basque dancers waiting outside. I ask one of the ladies if I can take a photo and they all jump up into a quick formation! They explain that they’re waiting to welcome the new bride and groom when they leave the church and invite us to stay and watch. We do, and it’s a wonderful welcome to Bilbao.
We continue through the old town of Bilbao and realise that we’re too early to arrive at the albergue as it doesn’t open until 3pm. As we have time to spare, Ted and Linda ask if I’d like to join them at a nearby restaurant called El Txoko Berria for lunch, it’s somewhere they’ve been on a previous trip to Bilbao and loved. I gratefully accept the offer and they take me to a very nice restaurant with people all dressed up and smelling delightful. My face is the colour of a beetroot, my shirt is soaked through with sweat and I’m sure we’ll be denied entry but the staff are kind and take pity on these three hot and dehydrated pilgrims.
We order the menu del dia for €18 (three courses, a bottle of local Basque Txakoli wine and water) and I devour every mouthful.
After lunch, we head to the albergue and check in. Before showering, I duck out to run some errands; I need a lush shampoo bar (I always take one on the Camino but forgot this time in my mad rush to pack) because the multipurpose soap I’m using to wash my clothes, hair and body smells like dog shampoo. I also need new socks from Decathlon, my feet have eaten through yet another pair.
There’s a big police presence in the area and it almost makes me feel uneasy. It’s funny, I feel fine walking through remote areas and small villages by myself, but less so in a big city. I spot two space invaders walking to the shops and this makes a great day even better!
I’m so full from our late lunch that I don’t need dinner and don’t feel the need to walk around the area in the dark either, so I stay at the albergue and have a wonderful night chatting with my new Canadian and Australian friends as well as Gary and Mary from Australia whom I met briefly in Irun at the albergue.