Flysch and Karst

Sept 19 and 20-

For the past two days we have been trekking through  an extraordinary geological part  of Spain. The area which has been designated a world heritage site is called a Geopark. We were fortunate that the Camino del Norte goes right through a large section of the park.

As we walked from Getaria to Zumaia and on to Deba we were struck by the interesting rock formations. It was only later that we learned we were walking along land masses of flysch and karst that were formed 60 million years ago and are very famous in the scientific world.

Here follows are very simple non scientific explanation of both terms .

Flysch are thin layers of shale which were formed when the Pyrenee mountains shifted and pushed against the coral reefs at the edge of the ocean.

Karst are limestone formations, mainly caves and underground rivers that are found higher up in the mountains, much softer rock changed over time by water.

For two days we alternated between the flysch cliffs and the karst hills. Always up and down, whether on the cliffs or in the mountains. A real workout that lived up to its 5 boot designation.

As we walked along the edge of steep cliffs we were in awe. We hauled ourselves and our packs up and down over and over. A steep up, a steep down, a little beach, repeat until it was time to turn away from the coast and head up into the mountains.But flysch was only half of the story. There was also karst up in the hills and our path took us there too.

The hills are dotted with caves which  are famous for the ancient cave paintings. We will see one of theses sites in several days further down the path as most are closed to the public.

So we walked up our flysch path to get to our karst mountains.  It was even steeper, even  slower and very hard on the feet, requiring total concentration to stay vertical! Periodically we’d stop to breathe and  marvel  at the beauty of the landscape around us.sAfter two days of up and down, 300 plus “flights of stairs” and forty miles we rewarded ourselves with a night in a wonderful agrotourism. ( a B and B on a working farm). There we were treated to  more incredible views and a gourmet  dinner with every speck of food and drink produced on the premises.

And on our quiet mountain top we fell into our beds under a sky full of stars.

All in a day’s walks

Sept 19 -Orio to Getaria

We are up and away shortly after sunrise which in Spain in mid September is not until about eight o clock. Window after window is decked with large yellow flags. In fact there is yellow everywhere. We are curious but stumped.

On our way out of town we are treated to a glorious morning sky and the path is easy to follow.

We also solve the riddle of the yellow flags. As we watch two long yellow rowing boats beneath us the on the river a man stops and gives us a local history lesson.

The boats, called traineras, were originally used for sardine and anchovy fishing.

The fisherman who returned first to the shore to sell his catch received the highest price. Since His his crew earned a percentage of this price it was to everyone’s advantage to hustle back to the shore.

Over time this developed into a competition between boats and eventually towns.

Since 1859 races have been held the first two Sundays in September along a three mile course in front of the beach in San Sebastián.

Modern boats are made of carbon fiber and carry a crew of 13.  Each town is identified by a different color. Orio is yellow and they had just won the Regatta for the 31st time.  Hence the celebratory flags.

Our walk takes us through vineyards, along the beach swarming with surfers who file down a steep path from the campground to the sea with their boards on their heads. We can barely make it with a backpack. I can’t imagine a long board. We assume they get a ride back up!

(Surfers come down from the top of the hill on the right.)

Stop for a chat and photo op with two men from Barcelona and Brazil who are here to surf but have done the camino.Spend a pleasant afternoon walking our final six miles to Getaria above the sea on a pedestrian boardwalk. People of all ages are happily walking, talking, running and enjoying the day.

Arrive in Getaria, home of two famous sons.

Juan Sebastián Elcano was the Captain of the Nao Victoria, the only one of Magellan’s ships to successfully circumnavigate the globe. He did it first!The other, son of a fisherman and a seamstress, went on to become one of the most famous haut couturiers in the world- Cristobal Balenciaga. His museum, opened in 2011, is stunning as are his clothes. Not exactly camino wear but a feast for the eyes          and looking doesn’t add weight to the bag.

A dinner of, what else, local  wine  and fresh sardines and it was off to bed to dream glamorous dreams and hope our washing dries by morning!

Mea culpa

Please forgive all the typos, misspellings and grammatical errors in the last post.  I am new to this and it escaped before I was finished.  

For you Fit Bit people. 42,756 steps, 19.23 miles, 152 flights of stair, 494 minutes

 walking( 8 1/2 hours) 4,256 calories burned and too tired to eat. Note to self. All first days are like this

The first day is the longest day

Sept 17

The first day of any walk is always the hardest. If you have spent the night before in an alberge it could be even harder. On one end there are excited people who talk far into the night and on the other there are people who get up very early  to get a jump on the race for a bed at the next alberge. Add to this the rule that everyone is out by 8 am. Our hospitaler does a yeoman job fixing breakfast for all of us and we are off.

The forecast is for rain but the morning is clear. The first steps are brisk.? We are happy and up to the days walk which is given a 5 ( hardest ) rating for “terrain. Read that hills, steep hills. 

We are always the slowest on the trail. We average about two miles an hour so we are already planning to stay in a hotel tonight as the next alberge only has 14 beds.

After four hours of up up up the pack has doubled its weight, we are twice as old and half as strong, we are only half way and it is raining lightly so the path has become muddy and slipperyand of course, steep. The views are the Bay of Bisque are shrouded by clouds and usual slow pace gets even slower.After seven hours and a very steep road down and a ferry ride across the harbor it’s time for google to find us a hotel. 

We spend an hour following the dots to our hotel and go round and round and finally realize the pile of rubble on the corner is what is left of our hotel.

More google.  Another mile to a hotel which is full.  We give up. A taxi takes us to a hotel and we go to bed.

Who knew?

Sept 16

Pouring rain is not the best way to begin a camino if you have a choice. We have a choice and we are flexible.   Today we will stay put and “do the town”.

First stop. What a surprise!  The bookstore. B gets a map and of our walking area and I get an updated Camino Norte guide.  (heavy and in Spanish)

Second stop. A sports store. B finds a pair of hiking sandals and we are taught how to say thank you (A scary cosco)  and goodbye ( R silent – Aoul).   When used this produces many smiles.

Third stop. The Oiasso Roman Museum- a little gem. Oiasso was the Roman name for Irun. It was an important port of the Roman Empire. Copper and silver were mined here and fruits from the Mediterranean were introduced here. This museum is a store house of information and archeological artifacts.

Last stop. The Camino Alberge ( hostel) where we get our credentials ( camino passports stamped) and are assigned beds for the night. We are in ” girls room “- two Americans , a Canadian mother and daughter, a Russian and a Finn. The alberge is overflowing and people are sleeping in the basement. 

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