Wednesday 15th July, Zumaia – Meakur, 28.7 km.
Earlyish start from the monastery after a minimal breakfast. Nice trail to start (shared with the hikers’ route) through trees, a bit muddy in places and steep (heart-pounding pushing) in others. After an hour or so, we stopped in a bar in a little village for a piece of ‘tortilla’ (stuffed omelette) and I had a coffee to start the door proper. The Spanish coffee with milk (café con leche – I have learned this much) is generally very good, much better than my daily Starbucks at home.
We passed through Guernica in the early afternoon. It has a very important place in Spanish history and I remember reading about it in the past although those details escape me now. Always resistant to Franco, it was heavily bombed by the Germans in the Second World War.
A 400m climb over Morga Pass turned out to be overstated (for the cyclists’ route, at any rate) but we didn’t mind settling for half that. In the village of Meakur, we found a hostel. At first, they claimed to be full because they have a group of young teenagers booked in and they were worried that the noise would be a problem for us. Even sharing a room with unruly teens doesn’t seem such an issue now so we said that would be no problem for us. Then we were shown to our own room under the rafters. (Not only our own room but this place has an elevator, hard to believe!).
We were next to the village church, which reminded us of its presence every half hour. The bells didn’t interfere with sleep.
In the morning we met some of the not-so-rowdy teens. I was asked my age. They were surprised; they thought I was much older. There leaders had told them there was an 80 years old man sleeping in the building and that they should be quiet!
Thursday 16th July. Meakur – Bilbao.
After a sweet sticky breakfast of pastries, we rode down the hill behind the church, hoping to find a flatter route through Goikoletxea and Larrabetza.
As is often the case, what looked straightforward on the hostel’s map was less so when actually trying to navigate through on our bikes. Somehow we made it through the undulating countryside going in roughly the right direction, enjoying the cloud cover. We had lunch at 2:30 in Larrabetza, after which I needed a nap. No such luck. A long brutal climb/push up to Alto de Vivero, a picnic area for Bilbaoans (?), just about did us in. Then, with Bilbao in sight below us, we considered a route through a park that led down to the city but it was unclear and seemed to involve more (and seemingly unnecessary) uphill. Also, the way was unclear and neither of us wanted to climb more, or to drop down in the wrong place and have to retrace our steps. So, the road it is, downhill to Bilbao. We were directed along a safe(r) way into Bilbao, staying away from the speeding cars on the auto-piste (?).
We found our to the Ibis (where we had stayed upon arrival from London) in the late afternoon. We were lucky to get a room and there was no room available for the following night, which was unfortunate as there were things we needed to catch up on while in the city.t was nice to be back in a private room. We didn’t venture further than than the hotel restaurant for dinner. In the morning we were very lucky: a room had become available so we could stay were we were. It’s high season, there is a conference in town and it is the weekend.
We’d spent a couple of days sight-seeing and getting organised at the beginning of July so the following pictures were taken at the beginning of the month. But it seems that they fit here.
I was underwhelmed by the art inside the Guggenheim. A collection of pool toys (water-wings, little flowered rafts, etc., as a seen outside many a store in a seaside resort reproduced in stainless steel) didn’t inspire me, nor did the graffiti-like scratching of Basquiat. But what do I know?
The inside of the building was more impressive than its contents, IMHO.
And I preferred the mural on the far side of the bridge across the river to anything inside the Guggenheim:
Bev was out early to get a better map, we arranged to leave a bag at the hotel for our return so that we could travel a little lighter. She came back with the good news that we could spend another night without moving. Then we got our credentials stamped at the tourist office, bought a light daypack (so I can leave my larger one in Bilbao). A reasonably productive day and a welcome rest.