Day 70 – Ermua to Bilbao

Ten weeks on the road. Wow. And it’s the Solstice. Wednesday, June 21, 2017


No getting lost today; the hotel sits on the N-634, which splits this poor town, choking it with fumes and traffic. Why anyone chooses to live here amazes me. Just past the hotel is the old town; a tiny square, a huge church, and a couple of restaurants/bars. Everything else is jammed along the narrow ridge the town is built on – Railway one side, Motorway/steep valley the other, and the N-634 splitting the town along the ridge; high-rise units, a few shops, and massive pollution. It would have been a pleasant place a hundred years back – the internal combustion engine has ruined it.

The skylight in my room wasn’t that much of a hassle; I woke around 7:30 am. Trains also stopped overnight – I vaguely felt one just as I woke up. No rush today. I tried to find a hotel half way between Lasarte and Bilbao; this was the best I could do. It only leaves 45 km to the Spanish Hobbit’s home – Bilbao Baggins.

I’d stay here at the Hotel Villa de Ermua anytime. Big comfy rooms, very new; great bathroom, superb wifi, and decent food – if you’re not too fussy. Every room is booked between now and mid september; it sits on the Camino, is roughly half way between San Sebastian and Bilbao, and is in the middle of several other, not quite so famous or popular, walking tracks. There’s also some quite heavy industry in and around the town. As I pedalled along yesterday, I’d often see walkers/pilgrims way down in the valley below. They must have strong legs; constantly climbing up. then down, for days and days….

Breakfast was OK – fresh orange juice – the waitress squeezed the oranges as I watched; coffee, and a croissant. I’d had a large pizza last night, so that was enough to get me on the road. Two minutes of flat, then the climb out of the valley..


It’s not often that you look down to the seventh floor of a ten storey high-rise apartment block; I doubt that the first couple of floors ever see the sun.

I’m glad I stopped where I did yesterday; this climb would have killed me. Even today, after a good nights sleep, it hurt – my legs are leaden from yesterday’s efforts. The road is busy, too; with the motorway just there, I’d expected much less traffic. Still, it was mostly safe enough – every couple of km there was a sign like this :


Now most of us could hazard a guess at the bottom line, and translate it reasonably well. No, it doesn’t say cyclists are in the way…. 🙂 The line above is in Basque. WTF the root of this language is I have no idea.  Totally untranslatable. Most people here are trilingual; Spanish, Basque, and another – usually English, but often French or German. I truly can’t see Basque hanging on – it’s like Welsh, or Celtic – doomed to die through lack of interest, or lack of speakers. Mind you, the Basque are very passionate about their part of the world; they make us Yorkshire folk seem like moderates….

At the top of the climb, the view opens up


and I dropped into the Rio Bilbao valley. Like the climb, the first couple of km was an 8% drop; it then levelled out, and ran ever so gently down hill to Bilbao – dropping 200 metres over forty  km.

The valley is fertile, and narrow. Lots of small towns, lots of light-to-medium industry, so lots of traffic. There was usually a reasonable road shoulder to ride along, but every now and again the road would thread through a small town, and the shoulder vanished; building walls had less than a metre separation from the road. I just played it steady; if in doubt, stop, and wait for a safe gap. Likewise with slip lanes coming onto the N-634; stop, check, and go if clear. I saw several roadside monuments to dead heroic cyclists…

It was hot. I checked the temperature when I got to Bilbao – 38C. Leaden legs, too; yesterday ate up some physical reserves, and they don’t refresh as fast as they used too 😦

Bilbao’s suburbs are pretty endless. It took forever to reach the city centre, and there’s the Guggenheim, next to the river.


Onto the North shore, which is a good twenty metres higher than the South shore; it took me a while to find a bridge back across – my hotel is on the Southern side, next to the Town Hall.


My pub is just up river a bit.


I checked in, glad of the air conditioning; the lift was huge, and I took my bike up to my room.

Washed my cycling gear, probably for the last time; only two more days cycling to go – not sure how I feel about that; sad? elated? Dunno. Then a quick shower, check with reception about local places to eat, then left, past the town hall, and into the Cafe Varona. A good choice. Fish soup, a grilled piece of some sort of fish, cheesecake and coffee. Wine included. 14 Euro. It took a couple of hours to get fed – no rush is the Spanish motto – then back to the hotel. The digital temperature sign outside the own hall claimed it was 45C. Possibly, as it’s on a huge tarred roundabout, with little shade. Too hot for me, anyway; back to my room to write this.

It’s now 6:00 pm. I’ll crash early, and spend tomorrow exploring; I’m not sure I have the energy to get out and mingle this afternoon – it’s still way too hot, and by 9:00pm I’ll be looking to crash anyway. The plan for tomorrow is to walk my way out of town, then do the Guggenheim, then lunch, then – whatever 🙂

See you down the road.



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