Camino del Norte – Day 8 – Bilbao to Ontón, 30km

← previous                                                            next →

15th September, 2019

  • Day 8: Bilbao to Ontón
  • Distance: 30km
  • Weather: Sunny and warm
  • Accommodation: Albergue Tu Camino, €6 + donation for dinner and €2 for breakfast

There’s a free breakfast at the albergue of bread, jam and coffee and I supplement this with a kiwi fruit. Everyone I met last night is taking the metro to Portugalete to skip the 12km of pavement-pounding required to leave Bilbao. I’m happy to walk but as an early morning fight breaks out in front of the albergue, I wait until 8.30am so it’s light and I feel more comfortable walking beside the river. It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and the streets are deserted.

Early Sunday morning in Bilbao on the banks of the Ria del Nervión

Early Sunday morning in Bilbao on the banks of the Ria del Nervión

I pass the Guggenheim museum and the Maman spider sculpture and still have the streets to myself.

The Maman spider sculpture outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao, by Louise Bourgeois

The Maman spider sculpture outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao, by Louise Bourgeois

The Guggenheim museum reflection

The Guggenheim museum reflection

The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry

The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry

Eventually I start seeing joggers and dog walkers and I’m enjoying the simplicity of following the river and listening to music. The industrial areas I pass aren’t that bad, and I’ve caught up to some other pilgrims so I don’t feel alone. I’m hungry though and once I hit the industrial area, there’s no cafes in sight.

Finally I reach the UNESCO designated Vizkaya Bridge with Portugalete a short cable car ride away. Before boarding, I stop at a cafe for lunch and air out my feet.

Views across the river of Portugalete

Views across the river of Portugalete

Vizcaya Bridge (also known as Bizkaiko Zubia in Basque), which was designated UNESCO World Heritage in 2006

Vizcaya Bridge (also known as Bizkaiko Zubia in Basque), which was designated UNESCO World Heritage in 2006

My 45 cent ticket to cross the river on the Vizcaya Bridge cable car

My 45 cent ticket to cross the river on the Vizcaya Bridge cable car

The Vizcaya Bridge cable car

The Vizcaya Bridge cable car

There’s another rowing competition on (like there was in San Sebastián when I arrived last week) and there are crowds of people wearing the colours of their team.

Crowds cheering on the rowing teams in Portugalete

Crowds cheering on the rowing teams in Portugalete

I'm surprised to see escalators in the street in Portugalete

I’m surprised to see escalators in the street in Portugalete

After leaving Portugalete, I hit a bicycle path and follow this for 12km. That’s now 24km of pavement so far and my feet are certainly feeling it. Until today, there’s barely been any pavement on this Camino which is impressive.

There's basically 24km of pavement / asphalt on this section from Bilbao until you reach the sea in Playa de la Arena which is a shock to my legs after a whole week of forest trails

There’s basically 24km of pavement / asphalt on this section from Bilbao until you reach the sea in Playa de la Arena which is a shock to my legs after a whole week of forest trails

After quite the slog, I finally arrive in Playa de la Arena. People are swimming in the sea, sunbathing on the beach and the cafes are full. I treat myself to a calippo icypole (that’s Aussie for ice lolly if you’re British, or popsicle if you’re North American) and refill my water. I could do with a nap, but I’ve still got 7km to go. At least the pavement ends here and a section of boardwalk starts.

A section of boardwalk in Playa de la Arena

A section of boardwalk in Playa de la Arena

Playa de la Arena and cargo ships in the background

Playa de la Arena and cargo ships in the background

Looking back on Playa de la Arena

Looking back on Playa de la Arena

The last 7km are beside the coast and soon I cross into the next region of Cantabria from the Basque country. I walk with Nicole from Germany and we have a lot in common so the conversation quickly turns deep. I’m filled with emotion; it comes from nowhere but hits me hard and I realise it was probably just bubbling away under the surface waiting for the right time. Talking really is therapeutic.

Coastal views towards Pobeña

Coastal views towards Pobeña

We arrive at the albergue and I have my own bed in a room with Diane, Patrick, Linda and Ted. It’s a full house and the kind owner, María, is busy cooking a communal dinner for everyone. We have salad, pasta and wine and the room echoes with voices from all around the world. The pilgrims are fed and the mood is joyous. Thank you María for providing this haven for us.

A room for five at Albergue Tu Camino in Ontón and I've now left the Basque country for Cantabria

A room for five at Albergue Tu Camino in Ontón and I’ve now left the Basque country for Cantabria

← previous                                                            next →

Comments or questions? Go for it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s