Up and at 'em
Updated: Jul 5, 2018
Day 2, Irun to Pasai Donibane - I spent a restless night willing the snoring Swede in the bunk above me to roll over and shut up (I may have kicked him a couple of times to help the process along). I was therefore unenthused to be woken by the hostel managers playing hymns at full volume. Clearly these were the vengeful, Old Testament type of Christians.
After a meagre (but free) breakfast, we were turned out into the cold grey dawn like a pack of ferral street children, all spiky hair and shirt buttons done up wrong. I cheerfully bid Irun and its hostel (both of which could generously be described as a bit of a dump) goodbye and set off on my merry way, quickly falling from pole position to not even competing in the same race as the other pilgrims sped off ahead. The weight of my bag seemed a little more bearable today (or at least less of a shock) but my flanks still complained like a beaten mule at being saddled up again.
I weaved through fields - playing spot-the-yellow conch shell - over brooks and up a steep hill to a small chapel. I had a look inside; it looked like every other chaple ever constructed so I continued down the forested path that wove round the side of a long, sloping ridge. It began to drizzle so I ferreted out my poncho, delighted to have now used everything I brought (except my sunglasses). The rain immediately slowed but never entirely stopped. At the same time, without the sun ever showing its face, it got unpleasantly warm. I sweated on under the poncho, never sure whether it was wetter outside or in. Moisture clung to everything. The grass was edged in silver, and arachnid diamond merchants displayed their wares in glittering gossamer baskets at the side of the road.
After an eternity marching though a quiet tunnel of green - during which I began to halucinate Gregorian chanting, only to find it was the hum of the motorway far below - I began to descend to the river and the shabby charm of Pasai Doninbane. The town, with its painted shutters and wooden pillars, rose Venice-like straight up from the water. Its picturesque setting, clinging to the side of the steep hills, was only somewhat marred by the large industrial port clinging to the opposite side of the estuary. This didn't seem to put off the local children, however, who enthusiastically hurled themselves in the late-breaking afternoon sunshine off the dock of the bay into the murky waters.
Broken and smelling like a wet dog after 17 km in the mist, I decided to sack off getting to San Sebastian today (especially when I saw the last part of the led trail up some unfeasibly steep stairs) and spend the night in the tiny pilgrim hostel clinging onto the back of the church. I checked in, laid out my sleeping bag and purchased a beer from the friendly managers. I was feeling pretty pleased with my decision when a knock on the door heralded the arrival of more travellers. All eyes turned to the door.
In walked the Swede.