September 24th 2012 – Bilbao – Portugalete – La Arena ( 33kms)

Pilgrim at the Guggenheim

Leaving Bilbao behind

The threatening storm vented itself through the night and this fresh day starts with a clear sky. We head off early along the river and past the Guggenheim where the spider sculpture casts a web of long shadows. Our aim is to go as far as Portugalete but we miss the sign in the Urban sprawl and find ourselves on an interminable walkway that straddles the main roads and , although we realise something is wrong ,decide to plough on.

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Apart from a small section of ancient path through oak forest that leads to the church at St Agatha most of the walk is on a freshly constructed walking track. Although it is safe the tarmac takes its toll as does the growing heat and the constant roar of traffic and smell of exhaust that rises from beneath us.

We eventually arrive a t a small town at the head of the valley and settle for a drink. We are ‘helped’ by the barman and a rather merry woman who eventually make it clear that Portugalete is some 8kms back down the road and that there are no rooms in this place. We either go back or go on to find a room. At one point the woman, who I have come to realise has already been imbibing a great deal of the local hooch, invites us to stay at her house. Our Spanish is not really good enough to fully understand what she means or what this deal might entail and we politely decline her kind offer.

Onwards towards the sea it is.

Thankfully the next 12 kms takes us out of Bilbao’s urban boundaries and we find ourselves gradually descending through farmland on an ancient track. We stop to observe a fire that spreads all over a hill across the valley. It is too big to be a controlled burn and is being fanned by the strong sea breeze.

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We eventually arrive at La Arena by early evening and settle for some scrumptious green olives and a welcome cold beer on the terrace of a beachside bar.

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I manage to negotiate a self catering apartment for the night for 20 euros each. It is comfortable enough and has a small balcony overlooking the sea. The owner has spent a long time living in London and she is very pleasant and helpful. She organises some milk for us and it is a pleasure to be able to brew up a proper cuppa to enjoy as the sun goes down.

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I go for a walk along the beach. In the summer I would imagine this to be packed with holiday makers but it is pleasantly quiet now in late September.

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As we settle for an early night, Mike decides to ‘try out’ his rescue blanket.

Mike finds being basted like a turkey very funny

Mike finds being basted like a turkey very funny

Every movement he rustles and he looks like a basted turkey. Despite my protests and my threats to kill him he insists on sleeping under this thing. Luckily there is a spare bed in the sitting room and I leave him to his noisy slumbers. I enjoy the sound of the crashing waves on the beach just below us and a deep sleep soon ends this rather long day of walking.

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