El Camino de Santiago – Day 1

In previous day we went to the albergue in Irun and received our pilgrim passports. You need it to stay overnight in albergues – special hostels for people, who walk or bike one of the Camino routes. In each albergue you need to show your pilgrim passport, and you get a stamp and date, when you visited it. This way the owners of albergues can verify that you are a “real” pilgrim – who is going the Camino way, and not a tourist who just wants to stay in an albergue.

Checked out of hotel at 9, went to city centre for breakfast and groceries, and then searched for the starting point of Camino – bridge from Irun to France. At first tried a road that ended in an interesting place:

But after a while we finally got to the right place – bridge over Bidasoa river that connected France and Spain. Made some photos and started our trip a bit late – as it was already 11.

At first I thought that now we just need to go to the next city, but as we started the route, we noticed yellow arrows and Camino signs that showed the way, so we followed it.

The marked route lead to roads with less traffic, more nature and in general were more interesting, but sometimes also very challenging – mostly when climbing up some mountain where you need to carry your backpack and drag the bike along as well.

Making a 500m climb already in first day was hard, the speed sometimes was only 3km/h, but afterwards driving down through the forest covered mountains with great views was relaxing and rewarding.

But in the end the road was very steep going down as well. I tried to check, how hot are the disc brakes and burned my finger, so once in a while we took small breaks, so that disc brakes would not overheat. When we got down from the mountain, we arrived at San Pedro – a small town, where we used a small boat to get over the river.

When we got out of the boat, a local guy suggested that we choose different way with bikes, but as he was talking in Spanish, we ignored his advice and only 10 minutes later found out – that he talked about lot of steps.

I took a look at MapsWithMe application and decided to turn around and follow the Spanish guy’s advice. But even if we choose a way around the many steps – it was not easy, because we needed to get up the next mountain anyway. After a while we took a small break in a place where you could look over the cities we just passed.

We continued our way – and it was still mostly through forests and mountains.

Quite tired we arrived at Donostia-San Sebastian – a big city with population of 184 000 and very beautiful beaches.

Unfortunately we did not have much time – spent about 1h in the beach and 1h eating, and at 18 were on our way to next city – Zarautz, but the city and beaches left an impression that you could easily spend 3-4 days here alone. Maybe some other time.

The way to next city was not so tough – no more small forest trails, but still saw some animals and nice views.

We arrived at Zarautz after about 3h and it was getting late.

Found our first albergue at 21:20 – and learned the rules that later applied to most of other albergues as well:

  • they are closed at 22 (this is also the time when all lights are turned off and everyone goes to sleep)
  • you have to leave before 8 in the morning, some pilgrims get up already at 6
  • you can stay only one night (unless it is a private albergue, in Fisterra we stayed in one place for 2 days)

After an exhausting day we had done 55km – distance, what pilgrims who walk, do in 2 days, but if we had followed the plan, we should have gone 25km further to next city.

So I had to make some corrections in my assumptions – you cannot simply take Google Maps, measure the distance in km, and then decide how much you will do each day, you need to take into account the climbs – they affect the speed very much. In the next days I spent more time looking at the guide and checking, how high are climbs in each distance, and updating my plan.

Route of Day 1: Irun > San Sebastián > Zarautz, 55km

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