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