June 11:  Lezama to Bilbao  27,578 steps

The guide book said that the route would be poorly marked, so all eyes were ready and trained on the countryside to make sure someone found the famous arrow.  The exit out of the town was easy -- after a delightful homemade breakfast at our little "inn", we set out down the sidewalk of town toward the west. So far pretty easy -- Santiago is at the west end of the country and we are presently at the eastern end!

Just when all seemed like this was going to be an easy day -- less than 20 km -- the trail left the road and headed into a farmer's field by way of a dirt rutted road.  The temperature was warm, but moderate so a little inclination didn't bother anyone.  However, the leisurely stroll on the morning was short lived.  There starring us in the face was a sheer cliff -- well, maybe not totally sheer, but very steep -- with a very rutted and stony pathway leading straight up the mountain.  There was no end in view as we started the trek up.  At one point the way was so steep that if one measured the degrees in the ankle bend between the foot and the leg it would be only about 20%.  For those of you not mathematically attuned -- that means that as you walk up the hillside your chest is about 12 inches from the ground!!!  Not a pretty sight!!!  The distance between the two cities was to be short in comparison to those the last few days.  What we didn't realize at first was that the entire first half was going straight up to the clouds!!

The pathway twisted and turned as it climbed each meter.  Frankie and I got a burst of wind at one point and pulled out ahead of the others.  Having no idea where the burst came from we chose to not fight it and continue going until we couldn't anymore.  The sun was rising rapidly and the humidity was bringing out every drip of sweat that our bodies could release.  Sunglasses become a pain at this stage.  Between the steaming up of the lens and the flow of water down the nose making it a perfect slide for the frames, the energy that should be directed to the feet and legs is now the "hand push the lens in place" motion that dominates the activity.

The group never really reassembled until late in the afternoon at our hotel in Bilbao.  Each one of us settled into our own walking pace for the terrain and held ground.  The route continued high into the mountains with phenomenal views of the city of Bilbao in the distance.  At about the midpoint of the route the pathway ended on a paved road that turned downward toward the city below.  Fortunately the way down was not as steep as that of the up, but it did seem to go on forever.  Reaching the city limits we quickly discovered that our hotel was downhill and across town.  The descent into the city was a flight of stairs that took 20 minutes to master!!  Following the Camino markings brought us into the old section -- complete with cathedral, alleyways, quaint old apartment buildings and many old "important" buildings!  After coming out of the countryside the sight of a large city is sensory overload.   People everywhere, cars, trucks, buses -- noise, but fabulous sights.

The Guggenheim Museum is here and is beautiful.  Only a few of our group got an opportunity to go inside to see some of the art, but all of us got an opportunity to walk the grounds.  That in itself was an  great experience.  

A quick shower and then a stroll around the city.  Not really too far as the feet still are tender!!  To bed at a reasonable hour (remember Spain doesn't eat dinner until after 9pm!) and dreams of the rest day here in Bilbao.

Our Rural Estate -- Maseo Rural

Bilbao in the Valley

The Yellow Arrow with a Marking Stone

The Palace in Bilbao at the end of THE stairs!