Day 7: Bilbao to Portugalete

It rained heavily all night, and all I could think of was how lucky I was to be safe inside my little tent. I felt so at home that it got me thinking about the fact that I actually lived in my tent for 6 months. That’s longer than I’ve stayed in some apartments. I automatically put all my items in the same places they used to live: phone and watch in the top side pocket, water bottle to the far side of the door, rain jacket under my dry sack pillow, and draw string bag for tent behind the lower mesh pockets (although I moved it because it was getting wet), pack, shoes and poles outside under the awning. I set my alarm for 6am this morning but snoozed for 30 mins when I saw how completely dark it was outside.

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It was an absolutely stunning and peaceful morning, except for one car blaring house music with the engine still running. There were actually lots of cars parked with people in them as I walked down the hill into Bilbao – they all seemed a little suspect to me.

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I ate a banana on my way down the hill and a mini croissant I grabbed on the way before finding a cute little cafe/bar for a coffee. I began studying my notes for the day ahead and saw that I’d already walked 147.5km. I’ve now added 20km to that which means I’ve crossed the 100 mile mark. Sadly there was no 100 written with stones, sticks or pine cones to mark the occasion, but it did get me thinking about those stinking hot miles to Warner Springs on the PCT and the state of my feet when I arrived. I’m not sure how I ever made it.

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I was told I had to visit the Guggenheim Museum, so on the way I was on the lookout for a gear store as my hiking pole ends had worn out already after 6 days. I found two fit looking joggers who were able to point me in the right direction to Decathlon. I spent an hour in this store drooling over incredible gear at ridiculously low prices. If I didn’t have to carry it I would had stocked up on absolutely everything a hiker could ever want. What I did end up purchasing were two new rubber ends for my poles, a pair of fleece gloves, a down vest, sofsole gel insoles for my shoes, chocolate cookies, cereal bars and Gatorade all for 60 euros. Insane! My friend Murad said I could donate the vest he had lent me, so I gave it to a sweet old man who was probably the worst clarinet busker, though one of the most entertaining I’ve seen, as I checked out the Guggenheim.

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I knew there was no justifying any short cuts to this journey, so I begrudgingly took the red route and immediately regretted it when I was greeted with a jungle of concrete and an incredibly steep, never ending climb in the rain.

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I took a rest with my entire body sprawled out on a park bench not long after, and still had a ways to climb to make it to the top. Once I stopped producing heat from all the climbing, the wind and rain picked up which left me freezing on the way down and in great need of a coffee and cosy little bar to thaw out in.

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After finding one of my favourite bars in a town called Cruces, the trail was blocked off behind a football stadium with huge fencing and a bulldozer. After using a couple who were just visiting the area to translate what one of the construction guys was telling me, I discovered some temporary arrows along the way. At one point I thought I was really lost, then magically saw the original yellow arrows appear again. I must have built up some good trail karma as I haven’t made many wrong turns throughout this trip.

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Then suddenly things went pair shaped. One simple decision on which way to go caused me to somehow miss Portugalete altogether. An old man spoke to me on the way for at least 10 minutes while I nodded and smiled and pretended to understand because I was tired of fighting it. He probably told me exactly which way to go, but instead I must have followed the arrows on the outskirts of Portugalete which should have been tomorrow’s route. When I discovered this my mood turned very dark indeed.

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Then it got worse before it got better…

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The group of kids literally dragged me to a hotel close by, but I was a little unnerved by some of their gestures and bursts of laughter that at one point I thought they might be taking me to a brothel. They brought me to the Ortuella Hotel, who to my dismay charge 50 euros a night. I asked if the price included any food, but the guy laughed so I assume that means no. As a result I made myself at home as any thru-hiker tends to do by hanging my tent to dry in the shower, then bought a very cheap and nutritious dinner of chocolate milk, cheese and popcorn.

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6 thoughts on “Day 7: Bilbao to Portugalete”

  1. Muk Muk,

    I don’t know what phone you have but if you can access Goggle Translate, you can talk whole sentences or paragraphs in English and have it translate to Spanish, and actually have it say the words for someone to hear. You can record what someone else says in Spanish, and have it translated into English. This is available in the browser or as an android app. It’s requires a little patience but better than no communication. Glad the inserts are helping. Good luck.

    Bill

  2. So glad the shoe inserts helped. Now for your language. If you still have the iPhone, type in “language translator” under “search” on t h e App Store icon. It looks like the app Bill suggested is called “Voice to Voice Translation” ….plus it is FREE! Now for a trail app. Anyone know of an app showing trails,in Europe? I can only find apps for USA trails.

  3. The combination of your laughter, the kids’ giggles, and the beautiful clouds in the sky just made my day. I hope YOUR day is going better!! As always, thanks for sharing!

  4. Made me feel sad that you got kinda lost …. But, knowing who you are, I know you will be able to find your way….Keep on “truckin'”…..Love the videos….Keep sharing…we are with you on your journey!!!

  5. OMG….Dear Dear Muk MUk,

    I don’t care that all of this actually happened to you last year….For me, you are still there on the side of the trail with tears running down your face ! How will you work this out ?

    I truly believe now that having even a little Spanish under your hat is essential for the most enjoyable Camino. The frustration that can set in without the ability to communicate and understand your surroundings can obviously be heartbreaking.

    Sometimes it helps to just let it out. I know you are a strong woman…in mind and body. Hang in there.

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