Day 4, Camino del Norte – Deba to Markina-Xemein 27 km


Total distance 100 km
Daily average 25
Today’s accumulated uphill elevation 691m
Today’s accumulated downhill elevation 602m

Once again I forgot to turn on the GPS on leaving the albergue, but I also forgot to turn it off when arriving at my destination, so I think the two cancel each other out.

Last evening I was invited to join a few pilgrims at the bar. And why would I decline? So, we were Mexican, American, German and English. I had already drunk half a bottle of cava (my sensible limit) so I just ordered agua con gas. The conversation was interesting and inevitably touched upon the ‘trump’ issue, but not on the ‘brexit’ issue (a referendum in June relating to the possibility that the UK could leave the European Union.

When we returned to the albergue I counted 22 pairs of boots, which surprised me. I didn’t get to see many of the occupants – when I left this morning there remained around 12 pairs of boots!

Although today was the first forecast without rain, and for cloudy sun, it was actually the coldest day so far on this Camino. I even wore my gloves for the first twenty minutes or so.


This is a fairly typical demonstration of the tracks on this Camino. If you see an option for a lower and an upper trail, you can be assured that you will need to take the upper path, and continue in an upward direction for a very long time. Until you have to walk downhill, very steeply, and then uphill again. This has been a very reliable feature thus far.

All the girls just wanted to eat and have their ears scratched, but this fellow had other ideas

All the girls just wanted to eat and have their ears scratched, but this fellow had other ideas


More adorable tiny ponies with newborn foals were in abundance, together with the occasional herd of goats, chickens, cows and sheep.

Most of the track today was through pine forrest on a mixture of dirt, rock, gravel and concrete track. It was hard going and very steep – unrelentingly steeply uphill. So far this Camino has been very hard, as my research had warned me – a real challenge. The first half of the walk was fairly dry and easy underfoot but that changed to very muddy with long stretches of yucky deep puddles to negotiate.


The way marking seemed to be very clear to begin with, but I think I missed a sign (probably when I was doing my Doctor Doolittle impression and talking to the animals). I became aware that there were no arrows, but yellow/white lines. I followed these for a while and then came upon some pilgrims walking in the opposite direction. I had passed them earlier, so I couldn’t have walked too far out of my way.


Just after we reached the peak of our 500m ascent I had the urge to walk with purpose. I have spent three and a half days mincing along at a boringly slow pace, due to the steep inclines and slippery muddy surfaces. But now I wanted to motor, so I plugged into my Camino playlist and off I went like a bullet out of a gun. I flew for about eight kms and absolutely loved it. But then a short sharp ascent and a perilously steep descent brought me to my senses and I slowed right down again. But I really enjoyed myself for a while. I naturally walk quite fast and have been feeling very ploddy so far on this Camino.


Part way through the day I appealed to my Camino angels to provide me with a bench or rock to sit on for a break, and around the next corner I saw this…perfect


My guide book told me that the municipal albergue in Markina-Xemein was closed until 1 May. But I thought I would give them a ring anyway just in case things had changed – and lo and behold they had. And here I am in a very nice donativo albergue with 28 beds, and plenty of separate bathroom facilities (and even a hairdryer amazingly).

I had a drink with the same gang as last night, plus Alex from Columbia and made the mistake of ordering a menu del dia which I ate a fraction of. I must remember not to do this again – I don’t need that much food.

All in all, a most satisfying day.

About magwood

Trepidatious Traveller - camino blog is about preparing for and walking the Camino de Santiago. Many future pilgrims have found the blog useful and inspiring, and many who have no plans to walk the camino have simply enjoyed the dialogue
This entry was posted in Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Camino del Norte and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Day 4, Camino del Norte – Deba to Markina-Xemein 27 km

  1. Janice Tyler says:

    Loved the pony photos, especially the foals


  2. Buen Camino, eta ogni etorri Bizkaia! (and welcome to Vizcaya!) I hope you got to see the special ermita in Markina 🙂


  3. Belinda says:

    Hello Maggie
    Each morning I look forward to checking my email for the next instalment in your Camino adventure. Inspirational.
    Can you tell me how you generate the elevation and distance graphs?
    Buen Camino


  4. Susan Arnold says:

    Wow….that looks a tough one, well done!


  5. Jim Reed says:

    Hello Maggie
    Once again your blog has been outstanding. Thank you. Tomorrow you will arrive in Gernika/Guernica. It is a special place. From my notes in 2013 …

    “I have spent time in Gernika before and have seen the Peace Museum, the Andra María Church in Basque Gothic style, the Assembly House (Casa de Juntas) and the oak Tree of Gernika, the Chillida and Henry Moore sculptures, and the life-size reproduction Picasso “Guernica” ceramic mural. The Camino passes by or near all of these on the way out of town. The one thing I wanted to see again was “Guernica,” so I detoured 200m from the marked route and studied it for a while. The longer you look at it the more you see the horrors of war. The original was kept in NYC as long as Franco lived but is now in Madrid at the Reina Sofia museum … I watched others as they continued on the path and did not divert to see Picasso. I hope they have seen it before. I hope they care. I hope they understand.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pam Pitts says:

    Great to follow your adventure– see, you are doing great! Keep up the faith!


  7. Conchy says:

    Love your blog, Maggie! Doing the Camino with you in my mind. Beautiful flowers and views. Keep it up!



    I went to see it specially in Madrid. I’d love to see the town as well.


  9. Also, read the novel “Guernica” by Dave Boling.


  10. rba says:


    I am enjoying your blog and updates every day. You are an amazing lady and so kind and thoughtful of you to share your Camino. Be careful especially on the steep muddy down hill paths!

    Bueno Camino,

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Edina says:



  12. mary lynch says:

    Maggie you know how in awe I am of you. The elevation graphs frighten the life out of me on paper, I can’t imagine myself actually doing them day after day. Go girl, well done. Good luck to David collecting for Cudeca I’m sure people will be as generous as usual. Buen Camino. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. keith889 says:

    Sounds like a hard days walk Maggie. Well done. Great photos too xx


  14. Jenny says:

    Loving the updates, Maggie. Can you tell us about your GPS? The detail is really interesting.


  15. JoAl says:

    I enjoyed your “burst of pace” tale Maggie. That sometimes happens with me too. All adrenalin and euphoria and then slower and slower. As you say reality kicks in. Good luck with the weather , stay healthy.


  16. Yolanda LeMaster says:

    I so much enjoyed reading and seeing your pictures of Day 1-4. It seems you were well prepared for the weather. This route seems a bit treacherous. Glad you were safe. Reading this makes me want to venture on the Camino again.


  17. Good morning! My husband and I walked the Portuguese route from Lisbon last year and so enjoyed it that this year we re returning to do either the Frances or Norte. We are enjoying our morning coffee with your blog. You have a warm friendly writing style, the information is great and we are loving the photos! Thanks!


  18. Heather says:

    ……. I’d be the one running behind shouting ” Hey Maggie, wait for me!” xxx


  19. Terrie says:

    Sue and I one day in front on you!! Totally agree with all your comments re : very tricky terrain!!! Luckily we have had no rain. Have walked the camino in France to St Jean a much easier option!
    Bon camino


  20. Marilyn van Graan says:

    Lovely news and pics Maggie – maybe this can be my next one – oh dear please just let me get past this one – enjoy another gorgeous day – mmmm those little horses are stunning
    Buen Camino


  21. Jenny Heesh says:

    Another great post Maggie and beautiful photos too. Those pony and foal shots are so lovely … I think I’d still be sitting watching all the ponies … so hard to move on!
    Take joy in every step –
    Camino hugs –
    Jenny xxx


  22. Ron McCaskill says:

    My wife and I are reading your blog with absolute delight. We plan on doing the Norte in September of 2017. Your blog, with its elevation charts and mileages are so useful to us to begin to understand what we are aspiring to. You are a beautiful writer, and your photographs are delightful as well as informational. Many thanks. I would also be interested in the name of the guidebook you used for planning your Camino.


    • magwood says:

      Hello Ron. Apologies for the delayed response. I used the guidebook ‘The Northern Caminos’ by Dave Whitson (and someone else whose name escapes me). Dave travelled the route again during 2016 in order to update the guide. I am note sure when the updated version will be published but you can check with the publishers – Cicerone.
      I hope you and your wife enjoy your camino as much as I did. Just prepare for the climbs on those first few days out of Irun.
      Buen camino!


I would love some feedback - tell me what you think.....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.