Camino – San Sebastian to Orio

So Peeps, we have an adventure!

We took a day out yesterday to sample the delights of San Sebastián and take it easy.

Today we’re walking to Orio, only 20 kilometres but over terrain that is slightly higher than the last leg and hugs the coast a little more so it should include good views.

We leave Donostia/ San Sebastian at 0830 and make our way to a cafe for a breakfast coffee. The Hostel Juvenal that we stayed in offered us a double room and at just over 30 euros was a gift. Ensuite again and very comfortable, they really have this cracked.

We carefully avoid the square that the receptionist recommended for breakfast and The Pilgrim spots another near the beach so all is well. Coffee of two distinct varieties is consumed followed by a walk to the point of the bay when we realize that we’ve missed the yellow arrow that should have taken us five hundred feet up the ridge but there is a silver lining. The Pilgrim tells me that there are sculptures at the end of the breakwater that create music when the wind blows through. Sadly, today is not the day as there is no wind but we do manage to make a few photographs of the sculptures.


Click on any image and you can page through the photographs at full size…


OK, so we’ve added two kilometers but it doesn’t matter, we’re not against the clock. As we make our way back to the town we spot the first yellow arrow and make out way across the street. There’s a funicular railway behind a health club but the yellow arrows lead us away from such a modern device.

We’re expecting a significant climb out of San Sebastián, it’s about 500 feet in less than a kilometer so it’s quite a rake. About halfway and we take a break to look back. The sun is shining but the water in the bay looks cold; however, there are a number of hardy souls on the beach and one lady in swimwear about to enter the water. I’ve read about people in Britain that go in the sea every day regardless of weather but never met any to ask them why?

Towards the top, the path becomes a track and there are hedges with brambles on both sides creating the appearance of an English lane. The season is about 6 weeks behind the UK so what we saw in early October is what we’re seeing here now. The leaves on some of the trees are an astonishing gold that stands out against the hill or mountainside like fire. The sunshine on it, especially at this time of morning when the angle is so acute, is creating a three ‘d’ effect so it looks like parts of the slope are ablaze.

As we walk we have more mountains in silhouette on our left and the sea and coves to our right. Both are constantly changing. Occasionally one side or the other will disappear behind a hill or trees and then reveals itself again but completely changed. The Camino here is on roads but they’re almost deserted. We pass isolated houses with orchards of apple, orange, lemon and figs. The citrus fruits are either yellow or green, I’ve noticed that they ripen almost overnight, one day the oranges are green and almost unrecognizable in the foliage; the following day they’ve been switched on and glow like beacons amongst the leaves.

The way has suddenly become a particularly lone section and the track is nothing more than a narrow footpath but quite rocky underfoot. Every step needs vigilance as the rocks are such that occasionally they need to be negotiated like stepping stones in a stream then we get the luxury of a section that is soft grass or, even better, clay. It’s more open now and we can see it snaking away into the distance. It doesn’t hug the contours like the first day so we’re going up and down as well as zigzagging between the trees.

There are occasional signs that reassure us of progress. They’re mostly to the left, Igeldo, Mendizerrotz then we pass through Minietta and just after we start our first consistent ‘down’.

The Pilgrim tells me some of these tracks are Roman and over 2000 years old. You don ‘t need too much imagination to envisage centurions and their men marching along them although fighting at the end of a long march on these cobbles and rocks would seem a big ask.

The descent to Orio is steep at times on tracks that are challenging to say the least but the views continue to sustain us and we’re blessed with the best of weather.

As we reach the edge of the village we have to go under the main motorway. It’s a road that we traversed in the car a few days ago and I never expected to be walking under it. At the other side, after nearly 20km of difficult terrain, there’s another ascent, a proper sting in the tale, it’s just under a kilometer but the rise is 300 feet and certainly make me sweat. At the top is a small church and hermitage of San Martin. The bonus is that there is also a cafe so we make a detour to take a break and and indulge ourselves with a coffee. They won’t serve us! I guess I’ll never know if it’s because of how we look or that we only ask for a coffee, either way, we’re back on the road and heading down to Orio along a tarmac path with crosses distributed on either side all the way down. The Pilgrim tells me to look out for one that is rather more ornate than the rest and tells me it was commissioned by the father of a boy that was killed in an accident.

We finally arrive in Orio and make our way to a bar on the quayside that sells a seriously acceptable soup with most of a loaf of bread. It’s served in a tureen thingy that’s plonked on our table followed by two bowls and ladle to serve ourselves. To say that it is tasty is an understatement. It reminds me of the thick broths that my mam used to make and then it would sit on the hob for days being revisited with plenty of fresh bread. Although I didn’t appreciate it at time, it was a feast amongst feasts.

We need accommodation and rather than wait for the Information Office to open (we found from previous experience that this may or may not happen), I go online to Tripadvisor whilst The Pilgrim asks the waitress if she has any recommendations.

Both of us end up with a result, I have a casa rural and The Pilgrim has a room with someone’s mate. You can guess where I’m going now!

Casa Rural Mailan is a 6 bedroom villa just the other side of the river on offer at £45 and looks promising so…

…we’re walking with a barman that we’ve just met and heading towards a building that has definitely seen better days – but at least the door has been looked after. Our new found friend is ringing the bell and I’m feeling a little uncomfortable. The door creaks open and a person stands before us looking puzzled; however, there is no sign of a bolt through his neck. There’s a brief exchange in Basque and the door closes again, clearly the wrong door.

Our barman friend then takes us next door where the building actually looks significantly better but conversely, the door has seen better days, there are some words in Basque scratched into it but I’ve no idea what they mean.

I express my discomfort to The Pilgrim who has clearly become a little concerned herself, she responds in a stage whisper, “We can have a quick look then tell them we don’t want it”. My thoughts were more along the lines of I hope this one doesn’t hang upside down at night.

The graffiti disappears into the darkness as the door swings open and a tall man stands in the gloom of an anti-room that is littered with some sacks, a mangle and some bikes, it leads to another door. There is a brief exchange as we are referred to by both parties as “Los peroginos que quieren un cuarto”. (Pilgrims who want a room)

The man speaks reasonable English and seems pleasant enough so I’m taking a view that this could work. Our prospective landlord has got us as far as his living room and his friend, a disabled gentleman on crutches, is struggling to make his way out. I’m now becoming more committed but The Pilgrim is changing her mind and she asks the cost.

“40 euros”, is the reply.
“No, we have another place booked”, she says!.
Not to be outmanoeuvred he asks if it is cheaper.
“Yes”, is the immediate response and we are gone.
“I’ll book the casa rural then”, says I…

Never a dull moment with The Pilgrim on the Camino.

Enjoy the snaps…G..x


If you think others would enjoy the pictures, walks and anecdotes please feel free to “share” using the links. Thanks.

This is life after an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm open repair. Don’t be afraid of the operation, it set me free. Please be encouraged and inspired to walk, it’s liberating…G..x


Here’s the next article:

Camino – Orio to Zumiai


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