Camino del Norte: Day 4, Deba to Markina- Xiemen

This morning we tried to get a head start on everyone because we knew that I would be traveling VERY slow, and the next destination only had 40 beds. We are starting to notice the further we get down the trail, the more people we encounter. I was a little worried about getting a bed in this next city, hence Scott suggested the 5:30am start time. Our same group of friends has been leaving and arriving at different times, but every evening we seem to reconvene at the Albergue. Progressively adding a few new members to our friend group.

Right out of the gate we were going directly uphill. Like I said yesterday, we were prepared for a very difficult day and it lived up to it. Just a bit out of town we saw a guy who was biking the Camino, but we were later told by Luis that he had been biking from Rome to Santiago. His wife had died of cancer a few months ago and he promised to bike from Rome to Santiago to spread her ashes. Everyone does the Camino for different reasons, some big, some small, but regardless they all have value.

It was basically climb after climb, eventually we got to a small town of Ibiri and were told that it was one of the last places with services (water, food, bathrooms) for about 17km, besides a small spring to drink from about halfway in Arnoate. We took in the last bits of civilization before being out alone for several hours and continued on. As I mentioned before, we were traveling SLOW, my knee was acting up and so was my achilles. Uphill was absolutely no problem, but downhill with absolute misery. I even contemplated throwing or rolling my pack down the hill and rolling after it a few times.

There were highlights though! We were hiking through a combination of farm country and dense forests, but extremely muddy. While going through a small farm area we saw four black horses who ran towards us from behind their fence and let us pet them. The horse petting is really becoming a highlight for me on this trip. I’m hoping that most days I’ll get to have that to look forward to. We also took a brief breakfast break in Olatz, a town with maybe two buildings and three houses, and ate cereal bars, some Gouda, and a really disgusting yogurt (not a highlight).

Another highlight was at the top of the highest ascent today (500m) we got to look out over all the mountains. It wasn’t the vastest view we could’ve had because the weather was foggy and misty, but it was beautiful. More importantly, we were thankful that the climbing was over for the day.

Scott and I strategically planned out how we were going to get me down on the large descent, especially the part that was pretty much vertical for 350m into the town we were staying in for the evening. A bit before the descent I put on a knee brace and took some painkillers to hopefully help. It wasn’t instant, but when those pain killers kicked in, we started finally cruising from my turtle pace to a full trot. We were very determined to get a bed for the night and we did!

Once we arrived into Markina-Xemein, we headed straight to the Albergue, Convento Padres Carmelitas. It was a donation per bed place, so we gave 5 euro a piece and called it good. We got there an hour before it opened and many of our friends were already there, cheering us on as we arrived. It was very sweet, I really do love the camaraderie. We dropped our bags there and got a few things from the store for lunch and went to a bakery that had the best almond croissants (we splurged!). We also changed it up this time and had TUNA on a baguette. The change up was needed, and I have to say it was the most delicious tuna fish sandwich I have had. We also had yogurt (the good kind, not the horrible stuff we had for breakfast) and crunchies.

More and more people began to arrive at the Albergue, some of our old friends and some completely new faces. Once it was open, check-in was very slow, but we got our bed assignment and headed inside. This place looked like a natural disaster relief area, however for only a donation of five euros it’s a good deal. We showered up, stretched, ate a snack of cup of noodles and now are contently in bed waiting for someone to turn the lights off so we can all pass out.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a milder day but not necessarily easier. About the same number of miles, but just rolling hills with no large ascents or descents. I’m looking forward to a little break. We will still probably be just as tired though!
Today’s Stats:
Number of km- 24.3km
Percent paved trail- 8.2km
Percent unpaved trail- 16.1km
Difficulty- Hard
Cities pass through- Ibiri, Olatz, Arnoate
Albergue- Convento Padres Carmelitas, has microwave, hot showers (if you’re early), blanket, pillow, hot water kettle, fridge, common space, courtyard, washer (for 3 euro), centrifuge, and wifi

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