Camino del Norte: Day 6, Guernica to Bilbao

For those of you keeping track, we have now completed 151.5km (94 miles). So by tomorrow, we will have passed over 100 miles! As my dad put it, walking from Eugene to Portland, which seems much less exciting or accomplished. Today, was our hardest day of miles and probably our hardest day in general. We ended up doing just over 20 miles in a little less than 11 hours. Not an impressive pace, but man are we paying for it now. Scott’s activity tracker put him at just under 50,000 steps, so you can imagine our feet took an absolute beating. But let’s start from the beginning!

This morning we woke up and were out the door by 6am, it was a bit drizzly but we were promised sunshine in the afternoon from our Austrian friend, Ruth. She guaranteed it so I was hopeful! I took a painkiller right at the beginning of the morning and that helped us set a much faster pace than we had been going at the last few days. Scott was relieved. We took the time to hike over a few ascents and then facetimed each of our families while walking. It was really nice to get to talk to them and show them what craziness we are doing. The best part about it is that time passed so quickly on those calls our morning flew by!

We got to the top of the last ascent for a while and decided to have breakfast, yogurt, pork rinds, and some chocolate to balance out all the important food groups. People must think we are crazy when they pass by. There was no more rain on the trail today but a ton of mud. Our feet are no longer able to breath through our shoes because they are caked with mud, and every place we stay makes us take off our shoes as soon as we walk in because they are so dirty. But there are bigger problems in the world, we will survive.

Anyways, continuing on the trail we saw lots of our friends, Scott calls them “the squad” though they are all probably over 50 and don’t understand what he means. We like our group of older people. They are super nice, very wise, and always go to bed early, like us. All of them talked about the daunting task of 20+ miles today as they passed, but we were all determined to make it to Bilbao. The sun finally came out, we were rocking out to Lady Gaga, everything was great!

But then we come to the three hours of our days that are inevitably something terrible. I feel lucky that we have 21 hours of fantastic everyday, but those other 3 are absolute hell. We started to realize how terrible it is to walk on pavement and to walk on it for 4 more miles than we have been doing. The pounding on our feet was almost unbearable, but we stopped for lunch to hopefully get some relief and have enough energy for the last push of the day into Bilbao. 

The lunch stop was great. We had a picnic table, laid out some crunchies, pasta in a plastic bag from the night before, an orange because we were trying to balance out our food groups again. Scott ate too much, as always, so it weighed heavy in his stomach through the whole rest of our walk. Oh and in case you are wondering I did see some horses today, 9 to be exact, and it was great.

After lunch we knew we had one last large ascent before we dropped down into Bilbao. The ascent was called Mt. Avril and it was terrible. A mixture of pavement and mud all the way up and down. Scott and I felt great on the ascent, we even passed some people (that never happens). But on the descent that’s when things got ugly. Both our feet were pounding and quads burning. My knee, no matter how I wrapped it was just not wanting to make it off this mountain. So I walked backwards and Scott did everything he could to take my mind off of it. 

But it gets better. Once we got to the city, we still had to keep climbing down. This time stairs (my other enemy next to general descents)! At the edge of the city, Scott keyed in the GPS for the hostel we were staying at and said the doomed amount of time until we would get there. An hour and 11 minutes. I couldn’t even begin to wrap my mind around it. We were in the town but still had that much to walk!? And it was centrally located?! You’ve got to be kidding. Oh and then he added since our pace was so slow it would be longer than that. I told him to shut up. In the end he was right though, it took us two hours.

A new thing that we faced is we weren’t staying in the same place as all of our friends for the first night since we started. Scott decided last night to book a hostel in the city because it is such a large city and the Albergue only had 40 beds and we knew we would be too slow to get there in time. Plus, after a 20 mile walk and finding out you don’t have a bed, nothing could be worse. So we decided to take the safe but foreign plan.

We arrived at metropolitan hostel Bilbao. On the way there we were pretty sure we passed through a “troubled” neighborhood, 8 cops, people staring, I had my cry face on because I couldn’t wait to get off my feet. It was a mess. Once we checked in, none of the camaraderie of our friends was here. It felt lonely and bittersweet. The hostel is really nice, but seems it caters to partiers and young adults. That doesn’t quite fit our vibe of going to bed at 8:45/9 and waking up at 5:15… but we have yet to experience that part, so who knows, it could be great!

I think we are the most exhausted we’ve been this whole trip, happy to get back to our regular 16 miles tomorrow and hopefully to be reunited with “the squad.”

Today’s Stats:
Number of km: 30.8km
Percent paved trail- 22.6km
Percent unpaved trail- 8.2km
Difficulty- Hard
Cities passed through- Pozueta, Eskerica, Goikolexea, Larrabetzu, Lezama, Zamudio
Albergue- Hostel: Bilbao Metropolitan Hostel, has full kitchen (minus stovetop), full bed set, common space, hot showers, lockers, tv, washer and dryer, and wifi

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