There are many titles I could give the walk I completed on day 6. It was the busiest walk, many walkers traversed this stretch of coastline. It was the most off-road walk, only walking on roads when going through towns. Most importantly it was the most beautiful walk, on what was a continuously beautiful trip.
I woke up at my amazing campsite, looked across the Deba-Zumaia Coastline National Park and couldn’t wait to get going. Pinned to the notice board of the campsite was a Camino de Santiago pamphlet with a map of the section of path I was just about to tackle. After all the problems I had leaving the Camino in search of the campsite the previous day, I here realised that if I had just stuck with it, it would have taken me to within 20 meters of Camping & Bungalows Itxaspe. Sometimes, I was beginning to learn, you must trust that all roads lead to Rome.
When I reconnected with the Camino I was met by something that I hadn’t had up until this point: the sight of other walkers. For the past five previous days, most of it making my own way, I had been on quite a lonesome walk, but here there were others. Despite some people now in the way they didn’t ruin the view. A rugged, jagged coastline of sandy-stony beaches with great claws of rocks. The trees did not encroach over the hardy grasses that carpeted the ground up until the cliff and beach edges making it quite different from all sections before it. The Deba-Zumaia Kostaldeko Bidea is a natural park because of its dramatic rock formations. The different levels and layers of rock have eroded in such a way to make long, pale fingers reach out to sea. In some places it looks like a rocky corrugated metal is being used as a sea defense. But the sea does surpass it and has bashed against the cliffs to make them lean every which way.
The Camino pointed me inland, towards a farm and then up a steep climb away from the rumbling coast. It went into a patch of woodland and up out the other side to a grassy area, eventually ending at the shallow ridge of the hill. Here, there was a small hamlet and a dirt road progressing across the ridge. To the North the hill dropped away to the rugged coastline, but to look inland was to look at the most amazing view of my journey.
It was still morning when I reached the ridge and a morning coolness still hugged the air. Looking inland from the hamlet of Elorriaga Auzoa, you saw only layers upon layers of mountains nudging their way into the distance. In the bright fresh air they were all different shades of blue, getting darker the further they rolled away. It’s a view that you must admit to yourself that no one would be able to paint and fully capture its outstandingness. I was truly impressed. So much so that I would say if you are thinking of following any of the steps I took, go to the hill were the hamlet of Elorriaga Auzoa sits. I was not the only person admiring the view up on the hill. I was accompanied by many other tourists. Not enough to be annoying mind you but more than in most other parts of my trip. After a few minutes of admiration, I continued.
The lanes and paths remained busy with people heading downhill from the ridge with the beautiful view often present to my right. The path eventually came down to sea level just for the signs to point me back up towards the edge of the Flysch Cliffs. From this vantage point one is able to look down on Playa de Zumaia. I saw many beaches during my Basque walk but Zumaia Beach was the most memorable. The dark brown sand is almost completely cut off from the town by two streaky cliffs of pale rock. Each of them looking like it was etched out from the land. The only way to get to the beach is by a path right through the middle of them, seemingly naturally formed for the purpose of beachgoing. There were sunbathers but it didn’t look like a beach for sunbathing. Its pale, streaky cliffs and dark sand made it look quite ominous. I looked down on the beach but did not go down to it.
Instead I went into Zumaia, one of the better known coastal towns in the Basque Country. While other towns have a ruggedness, a gentleness or beach-vibe to them. The adjective that stands out from my trip to Zumaia is wealthy. The clean, paved, pedestrian streets are crossed by many a well-dressed family. The many bakeries and cafes along the blue river looked expensive and were indeed out of my price range. It has a busy marina filled with boats and yachts elegantly set apart from the river by a curving wall. It’s a place you may associate more with Southern France than Northern Spain. It is a strange location for such a place. Slotted between the gothic beach to the North and a blotch of marsh land to the East.
I stopped for a tea, as that was all I could afford, tried not to look ridiculously out of place and flicked through the pictures of the tremendous views I had seen that day.