Isabel, a Shiatsu practitioner and Free Dance teacher, who I didn’t know but with whom I had been put in contact by the redoubtable Gill, met me off the bus in Salvatiera (Agurain in Basque) in hot, hot sun. She drove me to the nearby village of Egileor where she lives with her daughter and partner in their beautiful, self-built house and garden. Fields, countryside, and hills surround it, and watching the enormous, orange Autumn moon rising faster than I have ever seen, seemed to fit the special atmosphere of the place.
Throughout the property they have paid attention to detail, from the alabaster in the sitting room through which the sun shines (above); to the carefully placed sculptures; and the circular, garden dance space (below).
Sculpture by Paco San Miguel pacosanmiguel.com
We visited Feria, a local town celebrating it’s annual festival. It was full of animals (including donkeys) in hastily erected stalls in the streets; typical regional architecture…
..groaning tables of produce..
from neighbouring towns; and families enjoying themselves in costume.
Vitoria-Gastiez is the first Spanish municipality to be awarded the title of European Green City in 2012. Amongst the shopping streets were these drummers (just like the group I used to play with in Edinburgh)…
supporting this cause (rebels against poverty).
And beside La Florida park was this secret garden, photographed at night.
The Jardin Secreto del Agua was created in 2006, with 29 varieties of plants which all require a low consumption of water. It is huge, situated on a patch of land measuring 3,100 Sq m.
The view from the bedroom
Other members of the family and friends were welcoming and I joined a traditional Sunday lunch of bacalao (salt cod). I was looked after so beautifully and so pleased to give Shiatsu to my hosts in return for their care.
The first day-long walk up on the hills was behind Isabel’s house. What magnificent views! Sticky clay soil was underfoot, and heather, brown at the end of this year’s life, even occasional thistles, were on the slopes. Then 1, 2… 15 huge birds took off one at a time from the forested side of the mountain and abseiled down an air current before swirling around in an upwards pillar, slowly making their way back up. The vultures formed the shape of a handlebar moustache. I loved it all.
A companion ran along beside me.
San Sebastian, known as Donotia in Basque, is on the Bay of Biscay, with its sweet sands, stunning views, and English speakers.
Going up Monte Ugueldo on the narrow gauge railway allows one to see the Playa de la Concha stretched out below. At the same time as some people were swimming, there were women fully dressed in fur coats, smart with lipstick on.
The zig-zag road back down is surely the place to go if you are a young man, have a car, and want to impress your girl, racing round the helter skelter hill.
I walked back from Salvatiera station (6km) as a test to see if I could manage a few days of serious walking.
The sun and beauty of nature by the roadside was enticing.
A very welcome invitation to stay in Pamplona was received, and after my days in Egileor I went to Merce’s, another experienced Shiatsu practitioner.
Even in the rain this elegant city is worth seeing. There are the streets where the bulls famously run; the Câfé Iruña where Ernest Hemingway and other writers met and inspired each other to sip green tea in (below); and the city walls to take more photos from (above).
The next morning I gave a Shiatsu, and packed a small bag of unnecessary and heavy belongings to be sent on to Madrid. I was given victuals which would last me the next 3 days (such kindness), and dropped off at the bus station, rucksack on my back, where 20 minutes later I at last joined the Camino Francés.