An interesting start to the day. The NZ woman and I started to chat about why we were doing the Camino; she said that she was feeling very unsure about continuing. That she was used to real wilderness in NZ and found herself asking why she was walking through semi-industrial areas and suburbia and was concerned by the commercial aspect of it. What she was really interested in, she said, was the 'wild-food' that she encountered along the way (wild-strawberries etc). I found myself talking about the Findhorn Community, the wildness of Iona and the alternative world view of the Schumacher Institute for some reason, but I wish I had read her Ithaca by CP Cavafy.
"...Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean."
In the end, the Camino walks you and takes you where it will, she will walk her own Camino; whatever she decides.
After breakfast I set out for my next stop Portagalete. The formal route out of Bilbao is along very busy roads, but the Hospitaleros suggest walking along the Bilbao River to its mouth.
It would not have been everybody's idea of a great walk, but I loved it; being a bit of a flaneur (urban-wanderer) and a fan of hulking great bits of rusting steel. The road takes you past vast areas of derelict warehousing, steel fabricators, glass-making factories, crooked cranes, mud and the studio of a metal worker/ sculptor Jon Alberdi. The traffic whizzes by too fast and too close, but I had a great morning's walk and stopped for coffee and a crab/tortilla bocadillo on the way.
The best bit was at the end; crossing the river on a Transporter-Bridge. Wonderful and unexpected. It takes cars, bikes and pedestrians in a hanging gondola suspended by wires from a huge-steel framed gantry, and deposits you on a charming water-front promenade in Portagalete. A series of travelators then take you up a long steep hill into the centre of town.
I check into the Pilgrim's Pension about 2pm; it is very nice with cotton sheets, modern facilities and a kitchen, but a 18 bed dorm. I find myself surrounded by men again; it's quite hard that bit. I was not expecting so few women on the Camino. Everyone is very polite and modest but still... messy beds and big smelly boots etc.
I forgot my picnic lunch in Bilbao, so I have a cod-croquette, a glass of beer and a rather horrid custard filled doughnut, then set out to explore the town. The old town is a warren of balconied streets and you can see the sea in the distance from the waterfront. I'm enjoying sitting in a sunny square with lots of sparrows and watched some guys play pelotte (a Basque sport similar to squash) played with wooden bats.
I like wandering around town in the early evenings. The blocks of flats suddenly become alive with trilling canaries; I go in search of supper, but only find a greengrocer, so have a huge baked potato, white asparagus and a tomato and pepper salad. I sit with a couple of chatty Frenchmen who kindly pour me a glass of red wine and offer a couple of strawberries for pudding. I take back about the smelly boots!
Bed after a hot shower.