The dismal forecast for today did not materialize. Instead we had a beautiful walk under partly cloudy skies with temps in the mid to upper 40’s. Our crazy sleep pattern continued last night. I collapsed exhausted at 9:30 and popped awake at 11:30. How does that work? So then it was back to sleep until 2:30 and then comitose until 7:50. Robin and I hopped to it and were out the door of the Hotel Loiola by 8:50. We were excited to see a clear mild day and that urged us onward to a bar up the street where we knew coffee awaited us. A lightening fast cafe con leche was all that we needed. Once done we were on our way to Zumarraga. The Camino route follows a walking path alongside the Sanctuario. The morning hours seem to be popular with local folks who were all out walking on this same trail. As we made our way along out of Loiola we heard a call from a gent behind us. His name was Fernando. He was concerned we were lost and offered to guide us to the trailhead leading to Zumarraga. We agreed and he led us along a new diversion that took us through a neighboring town’s business district before reconnecting with the trail we remembered from our previous Camino Ignaciano. He was a kind fellow and we enjoyed our brief time together. Once established on the path to Zumarraga you are on autopilot. There are no diversions. This path was a former, and very import railway in its day. These days the path from Loiola to Zumarraga is a classic “rails to trails” success. It is used extensively by pilgrims, local walkers, and cyclists.
All day long Robin and I have been thinking of the hotel and restaurant Etxeberri where we will be spending the night. Yesterday was Robin’s birthday, but our plan was to celebrate it today at lunch. And celebrate we did. The hotel is on the left just as you approach Zumarraga. We always seem to miss the turn off as it is not marked from the uphill side. But, a chat with a couple of locals had us back on course and before you know it we were there.
We checked in, cleaned up and headed for the restaurant. We sat down at 2:00 and left at 5:00, In between we shared course after course of delicious food and wine. It was a birthday meal to remember, Tomorrow we are off to the mountain hamlet of Arantzazu where the terrain steeply climbs. So today’s excesses at lunch will be tomorrow’s, much needed fuel. For now it is goodnight from Zumarraga. It has been splendid first day of this pilgrimage, Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully, more grace. Peace.