Day 5, Camino del Norte – Markina-Xemein to Eskerika 36.5 km

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Total distance 136.5 km
Daily average 27.3
Today’s accumulated uphill elevation 838m
Today’s accumulated downhill elevation 664m

Today started well with a path alongside a river and some really charming tiny villages. Followed by a long stretch through woodland with a variety of path surfaces. Stopped at around 8 km at the beautiful and peaceful site of the Monasterio de Zenarruza, with a very pretty cloister. I took a look inside the chapel and was about to leave when four monks arrived at the altar and started chanting. It was a very special moment and not the only one I experienced today.

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Most of the walk today was through pine forrest and the footing was often treacherous. Deep muddy puddles stretching over the entire track and as soon as you had negotiated one, another was there waiting to bog you down. I spent some time walking with German Carsten, and bumped into Mexican Alan and American Niki from time to time (but only when they had stopped for a rest – they are so much faster than me).

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At one point in the woods I heard and then spied a generator and signs of works being undertaken – lots of tape marking an alternative route which was even more steep than the original one. Unfortunately I took a bit of a fall and somehow managed to be flipped over and land on my front. I have a bruised forearm which took the brunt, and a tender thigh, but all in all I got away quite likely. A little further on, I could see what work was being carried out – wooden steps were being erected along the very steep path, which will make life a little easier for future pilgrims. There were several sections that had been completed, but these were still cordoned off. After obediently not walking on the first section, I decided life and limb were more important than obeying rules and ducked under the tape (not easy with a backpack) and walked down the last set of steps. All along today’s walk I could see signs of the French guy who is riding the trail. Some of these tracks must have been so tricky to manoeuvre a horse down.

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I felt a bit of a hotspot on my right heel and when I had the opportunity to sit down somewhere that was not boggy mud I took a look and applied some tape and a bit of hiker’s wool.

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Carsten caught up with me again and just as we were approaching Guernica we spied our friends in a bar chatting to a very jovial Irish man (aren’t they all?).

Guernica is the suggested stopping place on this stage and was around 26 km. I had decided to walk on to the next accommodation as I wanted a shorter walk tomorrow into Bilbao. I called into the tourist information office in the city centre to get directions to the copy of Picasso’s artwork of the same name as the city.

From Wikipedia – Guernica is a mural-sized oil painting on canvas by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso completed by June 1937. The painting, which uses a palette of gray, black, and white, is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. Standing at 3.49 metres (11 ft 5 in) tall and 7.76 metres (25 ft 6 in) wide, the large mural shows the suffering of people, animals, and buildings wrenched by violence and chaos.

The painting is believed to be a response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by German and Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalists. Upon completion, Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed, and believed to have helped bring worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War.

I was directed by the tourist lady across the central plaza where the town hall is situated. As I reached the far side of the square I was taken aback by the commencement of an extremely loud siren, wailing up and down. I saw very close by a guy operating the sound equipment and I mimed to him ‘what’s going on?’ He gestured back the impression of something falling from the sky, and I realised that it was something to do with the bombing of the city. The time was exactly 15:45. The siren continued for some time, accompanied by the chiming of bells from the church and I stood still and contemplated the occasion. It was literally hair-raising and very emotional. When the siren eventually tailed off into silence I went over to the guy and asked if today was an anniversary and he told me it was 79 years to the minute that the city was bombed. It is reported that at the time of the attack the city had a population of around 7,000 and 1,654 people were killed.

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After the event I walked the few metres to the mural with which I was very familiar as an ex-colleague of mine had a poster of the artwork in her office. I had never realised the depth of meaning of the work. I felt truly humbled to be present at such a somber occasion.

On the way out of the city I could tell that my hotspot was still ‘hot’ and stopped to take a look., I discovered the beginning of a large blister on my heel which I had more or less missed with the hikers’ wool. I applied an ‘Engo’ patch to my boot, and immediately felt the relief when there was no longer any friction. If you don’t know what an Engo patch is, look it up. Expensive but effective.

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The rest of the walk to Eskerika seemed to go on forever with more persistent inclines through woods, and eventually on the road for some time. We finally made it to the private albergue at 19:00 and were welcomed by our host. This is a lovely rural location with 20 beds, two bathrooms, outdoor kitchen, washer/dryer/ and peaceful garden. Pilgrims can order a meal or buy food to cook themselves. Alan, Niki, a Japanese girl and I are the only residents for the night and we pooled all our supplies and bought a few more items and a wonderful meal was made, and all plates were left clean at the end of the evening. I took no part in the preparation, so did the washing up. The cost for a bed here is 14 euros and breakfast is available for 2 euros more.

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I was totally knackered on arrival, but really satisfied that I put in a long distance. A very special camino 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 http://www.magwood.me
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28 Responses to Day 5, Camino del Norte – Markina-Xemein to Eskerika 36.5 km

  1. Janice Tyler says:

    I really hope your fall doesn’t give you any problems tomorrow

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  2. That would have been very moving to encounter the anniversary sirens in Guernika, especially since you were en route to see the copy of the painting.

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  3. Nadine says:

    What a beautiful and wonderful day! (and 36.5km so early on, amazing!). I feel like I was just walking that same path, staying in the same albergue in Eskerika- it was a special place.

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  4. As always a detailed blog with super photos. A very poignant experience in Guernica ,one you will treasure. Take care whilst it is so treacherous underfoot we don’t want to hear about any more falls. xx

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  5. Miracles and wonders!!! It’s “The Way”.
    Stretch frequently whenever you remember and massage gently whenever you rest. I’ll bet you enjoyed your shower like never before. 🙂

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  6. Tammy Storring says:

    I’m reliving my own Camino experience and feel so drawn to return. Your photos are stunning!

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  7. Tanya Valdes says:

    Loving your blog! The photos particularly the flowers ! Thank you for sharing helping me to decide which Camino route to take next!

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  8. siepi king says:

    Thank you for taking the time to take the amazing pictures. I really enjoy reading your blog. You are a great inspiration keep it up! Siepi

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  9. rba says:

    Hopping you are not hurting from the fall too much.

    rba

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  10. Jeannette Burgos-Rigó says:

    This was a very special day for you Maggie, will stay forever in you mind. I hope the blisters go away. Buen camino. Hugs from Canada.

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  11. Genny H. Plank says:

    Sorry to read about your fall and the blister on your foot. Hope you heal well. The experiences you’ve had today are very moving, and we as readers are fortunate to experience them throuh you. Stay safe.

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  12. Jenny Heesh says:

    Hi Maggie – What a privilege to be in Guernica at the exact time of the bombings 79 years ago … another one of those Camino coincidences which are anything but.
    The photos of the wildflowers are gorgeous … I wonder, have you seen any bluebells, or is the northern Spanish climate not suitable for these beautiful wildflowers? Seeing great swathes of them is such a spectacular sight!
    Take joy in every step –
    Camino hugs –
    Jenny xxx

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  13. Edina says:

    🙂

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  14. mary lynch says:

    What a wonderful day Maggie. Guernica sounds wonderful but my favourite would have to be the four monks chanting. A magic moment on the Camino. I’m sure you slept well following a very
    long day. I’ve said it before and I shall say it again, you are amazing! Buen Camino.

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  15. Sandie says:

    Here, here – buen Camino

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  16. Heather says:

    Great photos and a really interesting blog today Maggie. Hope you are not suffering after your fall and that your blister doesn’t hurt too much. Those plasters are fantastic. Rest well. xxx

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  17. keith889 says:

    A hard day or you Maggie. I hope that your bruising and aches from your tumble are not to bad. What a time to arrive in Guernica. The exact moment of the 79th anniversary. I have recently read a book on Guernica and the bombing and found it very interesting and sobering. Not many people realize the amount of orphaned or displaced children that were evacuated and became refugees in the UK. Great photos as usual. Hope you have an easier day tomorrow.

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  18. Stewpot says:

    Hi Maggie, What a wonderful, thought provoking and thoughtful experience you are sharing with us. I hope you are not too bruised after your fall. About 50 years ago I wandered as a young man through Northern Spain in a little red Mini. It is a beautiful area both coast and inland. The people were so friendly. Thanks for sharing what I am sure will be wonderful memories for you. Buen Camino

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  19. David Wolfe says:

    What an incredible day you had yesterday, the Camino Angels are with you. What wonderful memories That will last for years to come. Fondest L David x

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  20. the2geordies says:

    Sorry to hear about your fall & your limbs & enthusiasm doesn’t falter, we are amazed at the
    km’s you are walking over such terrain!, your photo’s & information (Insight of albugues & prices)
    are so interesting- we look forward to your comments everyday. Take care & best wishes
    Buen Camino

    Like

  21. Poor George says:

    Be careful out there Maggie.

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  22. Gracethepilgrim says:

    Hi Maggie, I’ve noticed your posts on the Forum and now I’ve discovered your blog!! Wonderful. I’ve done quite a few caminos including the CPI through central Portugal (Duero valley) last year. It was extremely steep also so I’m really feeling your pain! I hope you stay safe but keep the wonderful posts coming as I’ll be following your footsteps next year I hope.

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  23. Judy blight says:

    Loved your wildflower photos.Also thrilled to see Guernica …..I will have to do the Norte.I saw the original Guernica in Madrid a couple of years ago and was very moved by it so I can’t imagine how you must have felt in the actual town

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  24. James Donovan says:

    Staying in Gurnica for a couple of hours and then walking to the Albergue in Eskerika and hopefully stay there tonight.Started in San Sebastián and found no muddy paths at this time of year…a world apart from your experience …sunny all the way with temp in mid twenties in afternoon.Many thanks for all your helpful information…the steps are completed.

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  25. cphilippen says:

    Oh my……THAT day was Special!!!!

    Like

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