Day 4: Espinal to Akerreta

Today we walked 13.6 miles (21.9 km).

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday we were forced to stop because of cold rain after only two hours, and today we walked 13.6 miles and ended up staying at a fancy, 300-year-old hotel that was featured in the movie The Way. But we’ll get to that…

We woke up in the albergue in Espinal, still seeing rain and wind out the window. With fingers crossed, we loaded up and headed out into the cold. But today was definitely better. We only had quick periods of light rain showers every hour or so, and we never really got all that wet.

The biggest problem, though, was the mud. Occasionally we had nice stone pathways to walk on (which we started referring to as the Yellow Brick Road, even though it was gray), but much of the day was spent walking through muddy trails with lots of rocks. Every few minutes, we’d come across a mud-swamp and have to figure out how to get across it without filling our shoes with cold muddy water. Neither of us have waterproof footwear, which would be fine in a normal year in late May, but not this year. So while we’re working out the best way to skirt the giant puddles and get past the swamp unscathed, other pilgrims just stroll right through it with no problem at all. The worst part was the last few miles coming in to Zubiri, with a never-ending downhill and never-ending mud. We never thought it’d end.

But we finally made it to Zubiri — the town we’d planned to walk to yesterday — and after having lunch there, we decided we felt good enough to continue on another few miles to Larrasoaña. The albergue there is a super-cheap six euros (they’re normally 9 or 10), but with no WiFi, no kitchen, and pretty much no anything else — the book describes it with the single word “basic”. But just as we were about to stop there, we saw a sign for Akerreta, and I mentioned that the hotel there was where Tom first meets Sarah in the movie The Way. The hotel is 79 euros a night though, and way out of our budget. Then Kathey reminded me that she got a $100 gift card from a friend of hers, to be used somewhere along the Camino, and we decided it was the perfect opportunity to use it. So we topped off our first half-marathon day with a great splurge!

The albergue in Espinal:

Back on the trail. Apparently bathtubs aren’t just for bathing.

We see bikes along the Camino every once in a while. Sometimes when we’re going uphill, and they’re struggling in the lowest gear, we think how lucky we are not to be on bikes. Then when they go whizzing past us on a downhill, they’re probably thinking how lucky they are not to be walking.

Coming into the little town of Gerendiain where we had breakfast at a bar.

We walked with lots of other peregrinos today, all decked out in rain gear.

A steep uphill climb.

An example of one of the many mud-swamps today.

Finally arriving into Zubiri after the never-ending downhill with never-ending mud.

After a nice lunch, it was back on the trail for a few more miles.

The book described this as an “unpleasant stretch near a magnesium plant.” I took several unpleasant pictures, but Kathey said I could only post one — so this is the most unpleasant.

There are fonts (fountains) along the way with clean, safe, drinking water.

And our splurge, the beautiful Akerreta Hotel. The owner told us stories about when Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez were here filming.The incredible view out our window. :-)