Lost in the Basque Countryside

My boyfriend is visiting from the States so we decided to head to the Basque Coast and hike down to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which is a little north of Bakio. Bakio is 30 minutes away from Bilbao.

We already knew it a beautiful hike and destination, but we weren’t exactly sure on how to get there. But thanks to Google, we figured it out. Google gave us directions from my apartment in Algorta to every Metro stop and bus stop. Google gave us the addresses of every bus stop. Google gave us the bus numbers, bus routes, and where we would be getting a taxi. And I didn’t have to click on 15 different pages. It was all there on one page with a map. It seriously amazed me.

We researched what to do around San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, figuring it wouldn’t take the entire day. On many Basque Country tourism websites, Bakio sounded appealing for lunch or drinks. This beach town especially sounded appealing when we found out the weather was forecasted at 73 degrees and sunny. We figured we would get to Bakio around 11:30ish, have some lunch, head to the hike, get back to Bakio for the 5:30 bus back to Bilbao, watch the Athletic Bilbao vs. Manchester United game in San Mames (home game!), and finish the day with the Erasmus students at the St. Patrick’s Day Party. It was going to be a great day.

We arrived in a ghost town…that also happened to be Bakio. Great! People were absent from the streets (much different than the busy streets of Bilbao and Getxo), and everything was closed. Not even the Sun made an appearance in Bakio. I guess we cannot always trust tourism websites? I’m sure it’s a cute little town, but not today.

Bakio, a Ghosttown

We had to walk about 10 minutes the closest open cafe. There still wasn’t very many people there. It was a Thursday around noon. Strange.

I drank some coffee and we shared a croissant just to have a place to sit until Mr. Sun showed up. After about an hour, it started to clean up and we made our way back to the bus stop to ask for directions at the Information Center. Oh, you’re closed, too? Okay. Perfect.

Luckily a man who worked for Bizkaibus had directions to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. But the 10 euro taxi was hard to come by and the bus wouldn’t come for about 2 hours. Our best bet was to walk, he said. As he was giving us walking directions, a taxi pulled up!

The taxi dropped us off at the start of the trail. We began to descend down the mountain along the narrow, steep, uneven, rocky trail. My Toms (shoes) were not expecting this. But nonetheless, it was beautiful.

The Trail Down

Once we made it to the bottom, it took a break to prepare ourselves for the 223 (?) stairs to the top. I counted 223, but I could be wrong. The “rule” is, if you count every step to the top and then ring the bell, you will get married.

The Basque Coast is rocky, green and beautiful. There was an old “bathroom,” or something that slightly resembled one. It was basically just a hole that led to the water below… David said it didn’t smell too good. I trusted his word and did not attempt to prove him wrong.

We made our way up the winding path up to the church while taking pictures every three seconds and observing the architectural quirks along the way. At one point, there a tile placed that was different than the rest of the stone walkway. It was interesting because it was the same tile that lines all of Getxo.

Once we made it to the top, we rang the bell and noticed we hadn’t heard it yet that day. Oops, darn tourists.

A panoramic view from the church (it was my first time taking one! Excuse the "perfect" rectangle!

We took our pictures and went back down the mountain. That’s when we realized that the steep mountain we just (basically slid down) walked down was now going to be that steep mountain we have to climb up. And after hiking up to the church, it wasn’t too appealing.

But we made it to the top knowing that there was a cute little restaurant looking over the coast just waiting for us. We ordered some drinks and asked them when the next bus would come. They looked at me like I was crazy for asking such a thing. They had no idea that a bus stopped there. Again. Perfect. 

We started walking or something like walking. We were exhausted, unfit students walking through the narrow, 2-laned, curvy Basque Countryside. It was safe, I guess.

I was nervous at first and felt a little stupid. How did I not get the taxi number? What an idiot. David’s bad knees were hurting after the hike, and this 30 minute walk was not going to help them feel any better.

Oh, and the clouds were coming back in. Bye blue sky, bye happy Kristi, bye happy David. 

By the way, getting lost in a city, and getting lost in the countryside are two VERY different things. When you’re in the city, you can stop and rest, you can ask for directions, you can stop and get food, you can walk on a sidewalk, you can get a taxi. When you’re in the countryside, you have to pray that you aren’t about get splattered on a semi-truck’s window like a bug, you have no one to ask directions, you can’t just sit in the road and rest, you have nothing to eat, and you don’t have a side-walk. The side-walk is knee-high, wet bushes.

But I decided to pull out my camera and find the beauty in getting lost.

We finally made it to Bakio. We only had a 10 minute wait until the next bus into Bilbao. We got into Bilbao around 6 p.m.. Of course, everyone was decked out in their red and while stripes for the big game at 7.

We went to the closest restaurant from the bus station that had a wide range of food (something you won’t find in Spain often) and wi-fi to see where the rest of the USAC group was going to watch the game. Of course, the restaurant with the big menu was only serving sandwiches that night. of course.

We were exhausted. We started making our way toward the stadium where it’s popular to watch the game. Every bar is packed and has layers and layers of people outside trying to watch the game. Oh, and everyone is very drunk. Very drunk. It’s a great atmosphere….if you haven’t been hiking all day. We walked through the streets, absorbing everything and decided it would be best to go back to Getxo, put our backpacks down, clean up, and watch the game at a bar close to my apartment.

And we were right! Even though the bar was filled with old people, it was a great experience. One die-hard Athletic Bilbao fan was teaching us some Basque words, but I couldn’t help but stare at his loose snaggle tooth! My bad!

It ended up being a perfect night. And it helped that Athletic beat Manchester United…again!

¡Osasuna! (cheers in Basque)

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