Day 4: Ermita del Calvario to Markina-Xemein

Today’s distance: 20.5 km
Total distance from San Sebastián: 102.2km.
Elevation gain: 686 metres
(on top of yesterday’s impressive 878 metre gain)
Weather: Cloudy; warm
Highlight: Suffering

View from Ermita del Calvario

Dave and I felt miserable today and could hardly wait to reach our destination. I am still trying to make sense of whatever lesson we were supposed to learn from such a day. A higher understanding or some character building must come from enduring such misery, right?

According to research about hiking the Camino del Norte, people said it is a hike, not a pilgrimage. At least today that was true. With the exception of one, pilgrims greeted us with hola, not buen camino, and we wondered if their feelings about the day might have been similar to ours. It was less good (buen) and more bad (mal). When the one pilgrim greeted us with buen camino, it sounded hollow and dishonest. We didn’t return the greeting with much enthusiasm.

Ermita del Calvario to Markina-Xemein
Ermita del Calvario to Markina-Xemein
Ermita del Calvario to Markina-Xemein

We were warned that mud could suck the boots off our feet. Now we know all about that sucking sensation. It had rained the previous night, filling ruts from tractor wheels along old logging roads. They became slippery mud holes.

There are long stretches where there are no cafes, restaurants, or places to sleep. From the time we left the albergue at Ermita del Calvario at 8 AM until we arrived at Markina-Xemein at 2:30 PM, we had only the food and water we brought with us. The only bar/cafe en route was closed, so there was no cafe con leche or cerveza con limon break today.

Today I thought a lot about suffering, e.g. the life of being a pack horse or a slave whose work was to haul stone slabs to build Egypt’s pyramids. Even pilgrims of old might have gotten an occasional ride on a donkey on their journey. We wanted a donkey! Could taking a bus be the modern equivalent?

“Dominic” the Flipping Eared Donkey
Long, steep descent into Markina-Xemein
Dave waiting for the Albergue de Peregrinos in Markina-Xemein to open

Once we got to Markina-Xemein, we waited in line for the Albergue de Peregrinos in the Convento de Los Padres Carmelitas to open.

It opened at 3 PM and what a relief it was to settle down for the rest of the day. This facility operates by donation and has 28 single beds (no bunks). In our room, at least, there was small latticework between each set of four beds which provided both a sense of privacy and a place to hang damp clothes. A simple breakfast is included. The bathroom is a short hike away from our dorm, nothing to complain about after the hike we endured today.

After such a gruelling day, Dave and I wolfed down a pilgrim meal at a nearby restaurant and made a plan for the following day: to take the modern equivalent of a donkey from Markina-Xemein to Gernika – a bus.

Maybe the reason we had to endure this suffering is so that we can better appreciate what we usually have handed to us on a platter. No doubt about that! 🙂

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4 Responses to Day 4: Ermita del Calvario to Markina-Xemein

  1. Marjorie Law says:

    Reading this on Mother’s Day Judy. What a role model you are for us all. Bravo!
    All I can say after your day of hell is good grief!
    Wishing you a Mother’s Day with sunny skies, a dry path and cafe con leche whenever you want it.
    Love the donkey photo. And yes, yes to the bus.

  2. Tania says:

    Happy Mother’s Day Mom!! I hope today is much better than yesterday’s mucky trek. Wishing you sunny skies, a nice comfy ride on the modern day equivalent of a donkey, a satisfying cafe con leche, a scrumptious meal, and the best glass of vino tinto. Thinking of you and thankful that I have such a lovely mom (and an awesome dad too who is there with you to keep your spirits up). Buen Camino! Love, Tania 🙂

    • Judy says:

      Hi Tania! Today is 150 per cent better than that mucky day. Venting our unhappiness on the blog helped as well as today’s sunshine, buses, cafe con leche, vino tinto (although the meal could have been better!) Happy Mother’s Day to you, too, Tania!!! 🙂

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