The Camino del Norte – or northern Camino route – turns back toward the coast on this stage. It felt so good to see the water and feel that breeze again!
Our bodies felt great on this day, but my feet really hurt. New blisters just kept developing. At this point, I am learning that it is really important for me to keep my feet very dry, but I didn’t yet have a strategy to do that. I stopped at a pharmacy on the route and stocked up on Compeed, foot powder, and other blister-fighting devices.
I didn’t know it on Day 7, but this would be the beginning of a foot-care routine that would cause me to get up 20 minutes earlier every morning to get my feet ready for the day.
When we found the beach again we relaxed for a while at Playa de la Arena.
Since we had some trouble booking at the traditional stage-end of Pobeña, we kept walking to a hotel just beyond there and just shy of Ontón. It ended up being a really cool destination because it was literally on the border between Basque Country and Cantabria.
Which brings me to the intrigue of Basque Country.
I loved walking past the sometimes shocking – and always passionately political – graffiti, postings, and signs that we walked past throughout the region. Though both Basque Country and Cantabria are autonomous regions, the Basque people have a long history, much like in Catalonia (where Barcelona is located), of seeking true independence.
Some people may remember Basque Country from the armed attempt of the ETA to define independence, earning the dubious designation of a terrorist organization before disbanding. The issue still divides Spain as former ETA members are still in prison all across the country.
With its own language and flag, Basque Country feels like its own country even without the signs that defiantly remind us Pilgrims walking through that we are not walking in Spain.
Basque Country stretches across the border of Spain and France, so my hybrid Spanish and French worked well during the first week on the Camino del Norte. Of course, it didn’t work as well as the native language that is the primary tongue of the region, but I didn’t have a chance in Hell of learning Euskera, which is the oldest language in Europe and has no connection to any language currently spoken in the world.
(I did learn “bide ona,” which means buen camino in Euskera.)
So, yeah, our hotel right on the border between the two regions was pretty cool. Of course, though, it was – as always seemed to be the case – at the top of a hill!
We booked in advance this time around both because we heard the beds were booking up fast due to the ongoing festivals and because we needed our own rooms. After a week in bunk beds, it was time for some space for ourselves.
Once we made it to the hotel, I took the longest shower I have ever taken – no exaggeration. And then Lizz and I walked across the border for our first dinner in Cantabria.
When we returned, I took a moment to take in the paintings hanging in the hotel. If you have followed my journey, you know that both Gustav Klimt and sunflowers represent a sign for me from my partner who died of cancer in 2018.
I had to smile at what seemed like a strong sign as we spent our last night in the Basque Country and started out for Day 8 – the day we would hit 100 miles walked!
Stage Miles: 8
Actual Miles Walked: 10 (16 kilometers)
Bus forward Miles: 0
Total Miles Walked So Far: 89 (143 kilometers)