There are pleasant surprises awaiting for you every day on the Camino de Santiago. They may be another pilgrim who you meet and bond with, even if it’s for a short while. It could be the landscape, a field of flowers, a friendly dog, a tasty meal, or an ancient landmark or building. It could be yourself, as you get stronger, and what would have been a difficult climb at an earlier point in your life or even your Camino, wasn’t so daunting now.

On this day, as I walked through the hills east of Gernika, the surprise was in the form of a ancient structure that I had no idea existed. It was one that without the nearby sign, you could pass by with barely noticing. I’m talking about the Puente Artzubi and we’ll get there very soon.

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Zenarruza to Berriondo, past Berriondo as we get closer to the town of Elexalde. Now, lets continue as we travel trough a mix of small communities and forest.

Berriondo Elexalde road basque camino del norte

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I left the albergue in Zenarruza still feeling tired and weak after a long, hard walk the previous day from Deba. I didn’t worry about awaking early and was out by 9 AM. Markina-Xemein was a memory now and I wanted to put the experience of almost getting robbed behind me. Still, I couldn’t help feeling uneasy for the days to come.

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Bolibar to Zenarruza, at the Colegiata de Zenarruza or Monasterio de Zenarruza. Now, let’s continue with the small town of Munitibar ahead. From Zenarruza, there is a good climb of about 75 meters before a steep drop to Munitibar.

Zenarruza basque Camino signpost norte

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If you are walking the Camino del Norte in the hills west of Markina-Xemein, please give yourself some time to visit the Colegiata de Zenarruza or Monasterio de Zenarruza. I wasn’t expecting the monasterio and was quite surprised when I visited late into a very long day. I was absolutely dead tired after walking over 32 kilometers from Deba, of which the last two hours were not planned. I arrived to the quiet grounds and felt a sense of peace and started to regain my strength. It also helped that I wasn’t carrying my backpack, as I left it in the near-by albergue where I would be staying the night.

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Markina-Xemein to Bolibar, in the town of Bolibar. Let’s continue climbing with about 150 meters of elevation gain to Zenarruza. I couldn’t figure out what Ziortzara Doan Bidarria refers to. If you know, I’d appreciate a comment below. We’ll go right here…

Ziortzara doan bidarria sign spain

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I apologize that I don’t have many photos of Markina-Xemein, but I had a rather unsettling experience as I entered the Basque town. The first three days on the Camino del Norte had already worn me down, and I was sick and very tired. All I could think of was finding a bed for the night.

While walking alone besides a farm just before the town, I was approached by a very large man (I don’t mean tall) who came right into my face. He demanded money and my phone. He wasn’t armed that I could tell, and although I was in shock, I said no and started walking away. He then got right in my face again, so I yelled and the farmer up the road looked our way. The would-be thief then went along the path toward the town. I didn’t want to go backwards so I cautiously went ahead, hoping he had disappeared. Instead, he was waiting around the curve and walked toward me again. This time, I picked up my speed to a jog, got around him, and even with my backpack on, the burley thief could not keep up. I kept checking back, but was lucky he quit following me. Or so I hoped…

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Olatz to Markina-Xemein, just before this spot. The aforementioned incident took place below the farmhouse.

Markina Camino del Norte Basque

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In France, I bet you could easily guess the most popular tourist attraction. You are right if you said the Eiffel Tower, Tour Eiffel. Now you may be surprised that the second most popular attraction is not a lavish cathedral or grand museum. It is Cité de Carcassonne, the medieval fortress in the city of Carcassonne in the southern region of Languedoc-Roussillon. The impressive structure sits on top of the hill as it has for centuries. In fact, the site has a history of over 2000 years and predates Roman times.

Although, I refer to Carcassonne as a city, it looks more like a large town—quaint and laid-back. It has a population of 47,000 that swells during the tourist season. Carcassonne really consists of three sections. There is the fortified city and the adjacent “new” town. Across the River Aude is the old or lower town, La Ville Basse. While I enjoyed the old town, the main attraction is the medieval Cité de Carcassonne. It was built up over many years beginning in Roman times with the fortification completed in the 14th century during the 100 Year War. By the mid 19th century, the castle had fallen into disrepair to the point that it was set to be demolished. This caused a great outcry and eventually, the government saw the importance of the castle, not only for the region, but France itself. Cité de Carcassonne was significantly remodelled starting in 1853 by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc during an extensive operation that lasted until the late 19th century.

On a beautiful Summer’s afternoon, I was so lucky to be able to visit Cité de Carcassonne. The view of the castle from a downstream bridge over the River Aude.

Carcassonne Citadel France Languedoc Roussillon

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As I continued to walk the Camino del Norte from Olatz, I realized that I was getting progressively weaker during the hot Summer afternoon. The steep climb and heat zapped my energy. My periods of walking were getting shorter and my breaks longer. At one point, I laid on a nice, soft patch of grass under shade in the forest. Many pilgrims stopped to see if I was okay, and it was here I befriended an Italian pilgrim. Although he was much older than I was, he was also among the pilgrims in the best shape that I had seen. We would walk together at times over the days ahead.

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Ermita del Calvario to Olatz, outside the bar in Olatz. Now, let’s continue as the Camino leaves Olatz with about 300 meters of sometimes steep climbing ahead. Please make sure you carry water past Olatz, as when I walked, there was only one drinkable fountain along the way.

Olatz road Camino del Norte Gipuzkoa

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