English: "Guernica Gernikara", a Bas...

English: “Guernica Gernikara”, a Basque language slogan on a tiled wall in Gernika claiming for the installation of Guernica in Gernika. I took the picture in 1997, I think. I tried to correct the poor scanning. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

sunrise

sunrise

Day 6. Saturday 22nd September….Forest walks and a shortcut.

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It is a fantastic sunrise across a forested valley that sees us leaving the monastery. We are sent on our way by the monks who have brought us a simple breakfast of as much coffee as we can drink, bread and jam. This is exactly what is needed to fuel the steady climb through the forest that covers much of this early walk. The quiet solitude among the trees is calming and aids early morning meditations as Mike and I find our own pace and I soon find myself on my own to enjoy the strengthening rising sun. I find myself singing for much of the morning and enjoy this lightness of spirits.

narrow Way through sunlit forest

narrow Way through sunlit forest

We meet up in the odd isolated village before setting out again, following the arrow and shell through the countryside.

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The path is often a narrow and ancient path through trees that are just beginning to show signs of autumn. A few leaves are starting to drop and the colours in the undergrowth are changing to autumn browns.

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There is a delightful spot where an ancient bridge crosses a small river and I take time to take off the pack and paddle my hot feet in the water, enjoying the shade and cool.

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I am a bit worried that Mike will be some way ahead by now and I must be slowing him down but my back is a bit sore from yesterday’s extended walk and it has started to affect my hip so I figure I must take it at my own pace and take these rests. He is waiting at the top of the hill in the village and we make a plan to try to get to Bilbao by tonight if we can get to Guernica in time to get a train. Mike is keen to celebrate a mass for his his late mother’s birthday tomorrow in Bilbao Cathedral and we might not make it in time if we walk the section from Guernica to Bilbao which is a fairly long section, much of it through urban sprawl by all accounts. With this new plan in mind we set off for the last section and the steep descent into Guernica.

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We are aware of the awful history surrounding this town. We have seen graffiti along the way that must espouse the fierce independent spirit among these Basques that still exists.

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The dreadful bombing of the city on the 26th April 1936 must count as one of the most horrific acts of state terrorism of modern times. The town is rebuilt and carries on its business but I feel an atmosphere around it that reflects the atrocious act that took place not so long ago.

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The trains into Bilbao are frequent, comfortable and cheap and we find ourselves ensconced in a comfortable hotel by early evening, in time for me to take Mike on a wild goose chase in search of what I think is the Cathedral. An hour later we find ourselves in the Basilica high above the Old Town and I realise that my command of Spanish and map reading is not really up to much. The Cathedral is about two minutes from our Hotel in the opposite direction!

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There is time for a brief walk around the locality of the Hotel before supper and a welcome, comfortable sleep. It has been a warm day and the evening is pleasantly warm.

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After just a week of walking mostly on our own I find the bustle and noise of the big city a little disconcerting but I look forward to exploring the Old Town and the Guggenheim tomorrow.

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