Today was our first day walking. We woke up, bleary eyed and weary, and went through the unfamiliar (soon to be supremely familiar) motions of packing the bags that are our homes away from home. Then we boarded a train, bypassed the industrial and ugly outskirts of Bilbao, and headed to Portugalete — an adorable town right along a picturesque river.
After a light breakfast we set off. First, to get out of town, we were delighted to find the ‘moving stairs’ our guidebook spoke of. The people mover took us up the steep streets away from the river and out of the valley, saving us a tough climb. From there we mosied along a beautiful cycling trail that took us though another lush valley, again saving our legs from endless ups and downs.
Seeing my first waymarker was terribly exciting, and finding other pilgrims and more markers along the way was even better. Although Bilbao was by far the meanest city I’ve ever been to, after we left its limits we’ve met only wonderful people. We’ve heard “Buon Camino!” time after time, and had helpful Spaniards point the direction more than once. I have been terrified that people would be mean and the path would be hard to follow — today has put my worries to rest.
My last fear before beginning was that my mom wouldn’t enjoy the journey. We both were happily surprised to find that simply untrue. She had nothing but smiles and a bounce in her step the whole time — despite the unfortunate weight of her pack (they are always too heavy).
Where the south of Spain was dry, the north is nothing but green valleys and stunning peaks — some even sporting ancient ruins, showing us a little piece of the lives that came before. We watched horses, pigs, and sheep munch and simmer in the heat in the fields around us, some seeming to be standing on a 45 degree angle!
I even had the energy (plenty of it!) for a smile and a thumbs up before we found our beds for the night — in an apartment with two other pilgrims who have taken the journey seven times between them. Wow!