The last day, the final push, but it wouldn’t be easy.
I woke up on Sunday with one goal in mind: Get to San Sebastián. After a whole week of walking, I was ready to chill-out in a city for a while with the little money I had left. The problem was that after a week of walking my knees had begun to ache and on that last day they became quite painful. I’m not sure why it was, people can walk for weeks, months without problem. Whether it was my diet, pushing myself a little too much or too little training, my last day and a half of walking was plagued with knee problems.
I had 22 kilometres to cover and aimed to be in San Sebastián just after mid-day. My knees hurt most when I walked down hill, the first leg of my journey was a long, shallow down hill walk to the town of Oreo. Tall hedgerows along narrow lanes mostly shielded the scenery. I do remember a man with a big stick walking in front of me swinging at any livestock that came close enough but apart from that this first leg was rather uneventful. I eventually was lead to a road along a river, crossing under a motorway and then over the river into Oreo. I’m not going to say that Oreo is unremarkable as a town but in my desire to get a move on I did not stop in the small town and experienced none of it.
The far side of Oreo the path grew busier and would stay that way all the way to the San Sebastián. This was unfortunate as I had got into the habit of walking backwards for short periods of time as it was easier on my legs. I thought that the friendly nods and hellos walkers give when they pass each other might change into confused squints if I continued. After straddling the side of a hill, I passed back under the motorway where the Camino split into three. One way would take me to the peak of a mountain, one was a coastal route and another an inland route. I chose to walk from Bilbao to San Sebastián because I could follow the coast and I planned on doing that all the way to the end!
After circling the edge of the wooded mountain in what was a very refreshing, Northern European scene, I descended to a coastal path with a dramatically different mise-en-scene. Going from the lush greens of the mountainside the path then weaved down a dry and dusty, steep coastal hill. The plants vibrant and hardy with many low lying shrubs and twisted old trees. I could have stopped in this new and foreign landscape but the big city awaited.
After descending towards the sea and climbing back upwards the path joined a quiet road providing access to wealthy looking properties dotted amounts big plots of land. These roads continued for another couple of kilometres before reaching a road on the ridge of a hill. Beyond the ridge, the city of San Sebastián reached out before me. Seven days, 130-140 kilometres covered, a new fear of dogs, many beautiful memories and now I could see my destination. I say the city reached out, it is far from what you can call a massive urban sprawl. It’s beautiful to see it from up high. When I worked in the hostel I used to ask some of the travellers: What’s your favourite city so far? Some answered San Sebastián and I remember one telling me his reasoning was because it was like a city designed on some game by a God. The bay looks like it was created for the purpose of defending a city. On its East and West flanks two steep hills bend around creating a crater like shape in the middle. They don’t come close to touching so the sea flows between them to form a big, shielded bay. Along the shoreline there is a long curving beach that runs its length to a tidy little dockyard on the far side, broken only by a bulge of land right in the middle. It’s quite remarkable.
Just along the road from where I had appeared above the city, at the tip of the Eastern ridge was a large mansion that I later found out is just an attractions park. Instead of inspecting it I decided to simply descend into the city and rid myself of my bag, have a shower ect. The Camino descended steeply through some gardens that climbed the hillside. I ended up on the Western side of the city, near the beach. It is here, kicking off my trainers and slipping into my flip flops that I believe my walk ended and my short city break began.