Well I woke up this morning and discovered that I wasn't in Bilbao! So after a leisurely start I venture out...
I'm actually 2-3 hours walk away near the airport. The very helpful receptionist gave me maps and print-outs of how to get back on the Camino, but after 20 minutes trying to get out of the hotel carpark! I decide to retrace my steps from last night and pick up the yellow arrows down the road about 20 minutes away.
I call into the next hotel to fill up my water bottle and they kindly make me a sandwich for breakfast and then I'm on my way in the hot sunshine.
It's lovely to be back in the woods amongst birdsong and unfurling ferns. But it's quite a climb up and over the mountain to get into the Bilbao valley. I meet two young Americans and a couple of French girls after a while. I'm walking very slowly today, I have to stop often to get up the hills.
Eventually the hill turns downwards, through a park full of locals relaxing and barbecuing. I had forgotten what a varied and nice city Bilbao is, and I'm seeing it differently as a pilgrim because I'm on a different trajectory through the city.
I bump into the two German women from the Casa Rural in Markina!
I head for the albergue - they are full or not open until June! I sit on a wall to phone round hostels by a bar and a Spanish woman phones round for me and finds an Albergue on the other side of town with space. It's an hour's walk away and I plan to cheat and catch a bus- but I can't find the bus stop so I walk through the suburbs following yellow arrows. Areas with lots of Africans and Turkish (think Peckham) and then past lots of Aldis and very urban high-rise, out into the country and up, up more hills until I arrive at... a derelict school.
YIKES! With great trepidation I trudge up two flights of stairs to the reception.... to be met with great warmth by Matteo and Jasmin. What a gift hospitality is; it turns tiredness into laughter and what seems derelict into a home for the night. The Hospitaleros in the Pilgrim's albergues are volunteers and so offer a real service to weary travellers. A woman on a bicycle arrives at 9.30pm looking absolutely exhausted; she was carefully looked after, fed and given the last bed.
There is a large gathering of Basque families singing traditional songs, dancing and eating a late lunch on long tables and playing football in the playground. I go and watch for a while.
Preparations for our supper were overseen by Jasmin and started at 6.30pm with mass vegetable chopping and we all sat down to home-made tuna salad, chorizo stew and yoghurt at 8pm. I'm the only English person, so I'm glad when a Canadian woman joins the table. The others are French, German and Spanish.
We all wash-up after the meal and after a COLD shower (I manage by washing tiny bits of me at a time), it's time for bed in a huge room with the beds placed all around the outside. Huge thunderstorm later. A lovely day.