Friday, July 2, 2010

Coastal Walk in Hondarribia

Last week my friend, Theresa, came to visit. As you may remember from earlier blogs, she lived here for three months and was just back to visit and see the gorgeous Basque Country again for 8 days. Since she wasn't a regular tourist, having already seen the main points in Donosti, we decided to do some other activites and first decided to take a walk/hike along the coast. We have already done some coastal walks when she was living here, but this one never occured to us to do, so with a shining blue sky we set off to Hondarribia to Monte Jaizkibel (Jaizkibel Mountain).

Known as the last point of the Pyrenees or the first from the coast (I guess it depends on how you look at it), Jaizkibel boasts many biking and trekking paths at the tip of Spain. Our path wasn't so clear because we had forgotten the map from the tourist office, but decided to continue anyways. When the bus dropped us off at the port I asked the bus driver which was the best direction to start the hike. I mentioned we wanted to see both the lighthouse and the Guadalupe church a few kilometers into the mountain. He took a look at me and my Keds shoes and kind of chuckled, but I assured him I had hiked farther and in worse shoes before and only then did he tell me to head straight and up a steep hill.

Without signs guiding us, we were a bit skeptical if we were on the right path, but in the end the lighthouse came into view and we sure weren't impressed. I was expecting an old, creeky lighthouse that had a rich history but this looked like it was built 3 years ago. So, instead of gazing at the lighthouse we decided to get some drinks for the walk and entered the small bar that was atop the hill. Instead of the lighthouse being old, we found the lady working at the bar more than made up for the lighthouse's youth with her own age. We asked for two orange Kas (kind of like orange soda but with juice) to-go. Now, normally when I ask for something to go, I would think she would give us two cans. Oh no. She gave us two glass bottles of Kas and put them in a plastic bag with ice. At the time we thought it was sweet, but later when we sat down to rest halfway into the hike, we realized you couldn't open them without a bottle opener, which of course we didn't bring. After struggling for a long time, we finally opened them with keys. Next time I'll just bring my own refreshments.

Regardless, we found the path that stretched along the coast and towards the church and we were on our way. It felt as if we were walking along cliffs that drop straight down to the sea. The teal water and bright white surf clashed perfectly with the vivid blue sky and the ashy gray rocks and their spring green trees. Although the sun was hot and shining fiercely the coast provided us with a nice breeze.

After about an hour and half of walking, we started to get worried we might not know where to turn off and head inland to the church. And, since we had no map, we were even more stressed but continued walking along and eventually found a marker indicating a turn. Looking at the guidebook now, I see that we could have taken a much shorter and direct route, but in the end we found the Santuario de Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe (Sanctuary of our Lady of Guadalupe). It is said that in the early 16th century, two shepherds were in the spot of the church and an apparation appeared of the Virgin holding her Son. Immediately they built this shrine to the Virgen. Sadly, soon after it was finished the church was demolished and has been rebuilt many times. The church that we saw is of the last construction which happened in 1868. However, the original wooden altar remains, and although the gold is flaking off, is quite impressive.

The Virgen of Guadalupe not only has her own church in Hondarribia, but in 1954 was also named the Patron Saint of the city. Stories say that during wars and sweeping sickness, the Virgen always appeared and helped the city, and now I guess she is the official helper.

The church is very important to the people of Hondarribia and my bosses told me that during wedding season, you can be sure that there are atleast 3 weddings each Saturday! More that just a wedding church adorned with boats and sea tools donated by local fisherman who pass this church before heading out to sea, this church also makes up part of the Camino de Santiago - a pilgrimage that takes the spiritual trekker through France and Spain to Santiago del Compostela on the western coast of Spain. This church is part of the coastal path and is so marked with the Concha de Santiago. Concha in Spanish means shell (maybe you remember me telling you about the Concha Playa in San Sebastian - which means Shell Beach). The Conch Shell marks each church along the long walk. So, while Theresa and I and our Keds tennis shoes didn't do any pilgrimage walking, we posed with the shell anyways.

Super tired from the uphill walk we were happy to finally walk downhill and took the main road, as we were a bit tired of trails. Lucky for us, they were paving and the tar wasn't completely dry yet so the cars couldn't drive on it, and it was like we had a lane specifically for us! The bad part was that at the end of the hill, we noticed that the tar had stuck to the bottom of our shoes - I guess a reminder of our adventure. Also, our footprints are stuck in some of parts of pavement. It looks like we will always be part of Hondarribia and that Hondarribia will always be part of us!


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