June 9:  Markina-Xemein - Gernika  42,365 steps!

In anticipation of a long and hot day the group decided to start at 6:30am sans breakfast, but with juice, fruit, cheese, ham and bread in the room from the market the day before.  Frankie and Angela were going to take the taxi with duffel bags to the next hotel and then join the trail a few kilometers ahead of the rest of the group.  My charge was to communicate with the little old lady proprietor in Spanish and arrange the ride.  Well, once again the Spanish got a little twisted.  At 6:30am Frankie and Angela received their own touring bus complete with English speaking driver!  So I got the word for small mixed up with big!!!  At least there was plenty of room for all the duffel bags.

As they pulled away from the front of the hotel, we started the daily climb up and out of the town.  At first the incline seemed gentle as it passed by a few farm houses.  We were headed Bolibar, the home of the Museo de Simon Bolivar.  As we entered the village a statue of him stood there greeting us, but our dream of a late morning coffee and maybe a Spanish pastry went right out the window.  The three establishments were all closed and no sign of opening any time soon.  So on the next town we trudged.  It is surprising how the thought of a nice Spanish coffee con leche with a roll can motivate the weakest!!  The map said to take the steps outside of town up the "steep, paved, pathway".  The steep was right, the pathway was right, but paved -- well it was slabs of concrete that looked more like a lava flow coming down the hill than paved.  However, as tough as it may have been, the end result of the morning's climb was the La Colegiata de Cenarruzza.  It is a 9th century sanctuary, with a 12th century church attached.  In 1379 Juan I demanded a pilgrim hospital be built here.  (Guess the early pilgrims had blisters too!) In 1994 it became a monastery.  It sits high on a ridge looking down over the valley.  The hospital is long gone (too bad for those of us with blisters).  The last part of the road coming up to the monastery is part of the Roman road along the coast.  Have to say those early Romans were one busy people.  They put rocks everywhere.

After leaving the peacefulness of the Colegiatia the pathway revered to a forest path up a very steep and slippery track winding along a mountain stream.  Sometimes mud, sometimes stone, sometimes presents from the cows -- all in the day of a pilgrim.  

The lure of a coke or cup of coffee pulled us higher and higher up the mountain side.  According to our map we should pass through several small towns.  We did -- but they were so small we didn't realize it until well pass.  Lunch was tangerine or cookie on the side of the road.  But alas, in one small village a older woman took pity on us.  Spotting us lying on the curb outside her cafe/bar (which was closed of course) she asked what we were doing.  Foolish woman -- five tired and thirsty women attacked in such a broken Spanish even that it is wonder she had any idea of what we were begging her for.  All of a sudden the doors to her cafe were open and she was pouring us one coke after another happy to help the poor pilgrims out.  She told us that two women pilgrims had passed by her place about an hour before -- must have been Frankie and Angela.  

Refreshed the group headed out again -- lunch break over -- and the road seemed to head in a downward angle.  Something totally new to the day.  However, the trail left the main road and headed off into the forest again narrowing down to a footpath as it went.  Single file the five of us trudged along wondering if we would catch up the other two or not.  With our final city in sight far down the mountainside the pathway turned to slate and gravel, making walking a challenging event.  After about a half kilometer it turned back to pavement and seemed to follow the main road into town.  While one kilometer doesn't sound like much, it sure feels like a lot when one's feet are hot and blistered.  Oh life on the road!!!

Gernika is a resort town, both for those interested in the beach as well as those who like to hike.  While the water was not in view of our hotel, nor were any of us interested in it, there were signs of others enjoying the area.

Today's walk was a long one -- over 31 kilometers -- and the temperature was in the high 30's with a humidity to boot.  All were very tired by the time we checked into the hotel.  Frankie and Angela had discovered another route into the city, so we never saw them on the trail, but they too had had it by the time the hotel came into view.

Early to bed -- another long day tomorrow.

Sue's Spanish = Taxi

Entrance to the La Colegiata de Cenarruzza

The Interior of the Monastery

On the Camino