Friday, 24 June 2016
Day 1 Camino Ignaciano. Loyola to Zumarraga.
It was an early start this morning to day one of the Camino Ignaciano which starts at the Basilica in Loyola and finishes about 20K later in the small town of Zumarraga. Before we even got to Loyola we had an hour bus journey from San Sebastián. After a breakfast in a cafe near the Basilicia, at 9.30 am, we shouldered our backpacks and took our first steps along the way that will eventually end at Montserrat. On this our first morning the weather was kind to us. The previous couple of days were very warm, sunny and with cloudless blue skies,weather for sunbathing, but not for walking, whereas today it was cloudy with a slight breeze and the threat of rain. The walk had a gentle start as we walked along a path following a river for about three kilometres and then it started to gently climb. This was a path that was covered on both sides by dense vegetation. The first town we passed through was Azkoitia, only about 4K from Loyola, which was an old historic market town with some very beautiful stone buildings and an impressive Basque Romanesque Church. Through the town we trudged and on the outskirts joined the Urola Greenway which is a disused and converted railway line that climbs its way up the mountain towards Zumarraga. During this journey we walked through at least twelve old railway tunnels that had been hewn out of the rocks and in one marvelled at a large mural dedicated to the railway. The first three days of this walk is also known as the Route of the Three Temples starting with the Basilica in Loyola and the second one being the 14th century Basque Hermitage of La Antigua where the beautiful wooden ceiling gives it the name, the cathedral of shrines. When we eventually arrived at the beautiful hotel Etxeberri, with its famous restaurant, I had begun to reflect that this could be, for me, a very hard and fast walk. During today's walk Mary and Aisling kept disappearing into the distance and I walked slowly in their wake. You see, they don't realise how fast they are walking because it is non stop talking all the time. The walk today was outstanding for its beauty and if this is a sign of things to come then the Camino Ignaciano will be a real treat. The accommodation tonight is one of the best we have experienced on any of the walks. This is old charm, Spanish style and tonight's meal in the famous award winning restaurant should be worth all the effort used getting here.