Day 3 dawned bright and hot. I woke late and went backwards. In my haste to reach the campsite and rest the previous evening, I had passed an intriguing little village on the coast. This morning I decided to go check it out and find some breakfast. Mundaka was a very cool little port, looking quite conservative with its well-kept streets and port of expensive boats, it is also an extremely famous surf spot.
Before a port was built not too far away and sand was extracted from the sea bed, the town held world renowned surf events, giving pros an opportunity to ride the “best left in Europe”. Now, the waves and consequently the competitions, surfers and visitors have gone. Surf shops and touches of its extreme sport past still linger in the simple Mundaka.
I wasn’t feeling as up for it on day 3. The previous day had tired me and shook a little confidence from me. I no longer thought I could freely travel anywhere I wanted. My mood was definitely not helped by the first leg of my journey that day; a long, boring walk down a main road. Today I planned another long walk. I had to walk about 12 kilometers in land, down river to the nearest bridge in a town called Guernica. After that I had to climb up an over some mountains before meeting the coast at Lekeitio. All in all, it meant it was going to be another 35 kilometers or so.
The first section, the long, boring road without shade or view did little to encourage me. When I reached Guernica it was already passed mid-day and I had a large mountain walk ahead of me. I couldn’t find any evidence of paths, though there surely must have been some. The only routes seemed to be along roads, one started off small but joined a motorway, the other was simply a walk along the motorway. All others were too long.
I paused. I didn’t want to be walking in the mountains at night, I also didn’t want to walk down a motorway. I knew I would and I did regret the decision I made next. I got the bus. While looking for signs for paths I had seen a bus stop. On it was clearly marked a route from Guernica to Lekeitio. I got on the bus a little downheartedly, paid something miserly like three euros and took my seat. The bus didn’t go along the motorway, it took one of the routes I had considered to be too long. It wound though the mountain roads, through villages and the stunning, green mountain landscapes. The mountains here, in this section of the Basque country, had a romantic charm. The road followed a valley with all the villages nestled amongst lush fields dripping down tree topped hills. They seemed a little more fresh, a little less dry than the mountainous stage of the previous day. I honestly enjoyed the bus ride but I couldn’t help but think how amazing it would have been to walk it. From then on out, it was always in my mind that I wouldn’t walk the entire route.
Like it or not, I arrived in the small seaside town of Lekeitio in the early afternoon by bus, and guess what? The town was preparing for a fiesta. I chilled out a little for a while, had a walk down Lekeitio’s strong, narrow roads. Around its dark, gothic, spiky Basilica. Over its yellow sand beach. My campsite, Camping and bungalows Leagi, was just one or two kilometers the other side of the town. On my maps it looked like it would only take a few minutes, but maps are misleading as they often don’t portray gradients. The campsite was two kilometers up a steep winding road, an extremely steep, winding road. I began to climb when a small car beeped and pulled over.
“Going to the campsite?” one half of a young, tanned couple asked.
This really was a cheat day.
I arrived in the camp in a car after taking the bus on day 3 of my walking trip. I went to the reception and booked a spot to pitch, but what a spot it was. I set up camp on the edge of a grassy field overlooking a staggering view. From my tent I could sit and look down the steep, wooded hill to Lekeitio and the sea, with the mountains and coast line beyond. I set up, unpacked and just chilled. Looking out over my amazing view.
For obvious reasons, unlike my previous two evenings arriving into camp, I was bit more sprightly. I decided to go down to the fiesta, my second in three days. As I walked the ankle achingly steep road down to the town I did think of how I would have felt if this hill had been the final stage of a long days walk. I crossed the small stone bridge which spanned a rocky river cutting a ravine through the mountains and flowing out to sea on the far side of the beach. Like in Plentzia, hundreds of fish were ignoring the flow of the river and fighting up stream.
While on this walk, I would stop to explore many Basque towns and villages. Lekeitio was my favorite. To look across the beach towards the small town you would be immediately drawn to the tall, threating church which looms with dark character over the town. To look out to sea you would see Saint Nicolas Island and the long, mossy causeway heading across to the now empty, grassy mound. In the town the buildings are old and strong, with thick wooden doors standing guard either side of narrow cobbled streets. I love a place with character and Lekeitio is the dark, seaside village of many a fantasy.
As it was fiesta time, the many dark, traditional, often basement pubs were all in full voice. The bars were being stacked with and then quickly emptying of fresh Pintxos (tapas but you have to pay). I was on a budget, a very tight budget, but I allowed myself a few beers. In the plaza, next to the beach, the music was growing louder. Around the back of the plaza, cut off from the rest of the proceedings were two long bars either side of a small stage close to the water. Its placement made it feel a little seedy and attracted many an unconservative character. This is where I hung-out for the rest of my evening. I asked a non-Spanish looking guy if he spoke English and it turned out he was a Londoner, here with his girlfriend. A few minutes into a conversation and he was beckoned on stage where a reggae artist had just been playing and began to beat-box. He was a street performer, he told me afterward, traveling across Spain beat-boxing on the streets. He also told me that this fiesta was San Antonlines (the same as in Plentzia) and if I stuck around for another day I would see the Day of Geese, a combination of boats, rope pulling and greased up geese decapitation…honestly, look it up.
It was nice to relax and listen to some music and smell the marijuana in the air, next to the water in the gritty, pretty town of Lekeitio. Tomorrow was another day and I planned not to use any vehicle of any kind so I had to get back. Not a good days walk but definitely a good evening out.