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DAY 8-9: No need for Bells and Whistles!

We were already 5 kilometres down a secluded paved road path that spat sneak peak views of an unmistakable mark of civilisation below, when a realisation hit us hard. As hard as 10 kilos of swiss cheese rolled down a mountain. The sprawled out city stretching out in front of us was Bilbao, Spain’s 3rd largest city and home to the famous Fine Arts Museum, Atlético Bilbao Football Club with its world class football stadium Saint Mames and the Guggenheim Museum. To us however, it held a bigger significance. In our Camino journey, it marked just over one quarter of the way to our end destination of Santiago de Compostela! Our first week of walking was over, the first 200 Kilometres (124 Miles) and as we entered into the second, I couldn’t help but do a small dance of accomplishment, on the inside, as I was too tired to actually do one in the middle of the city’s shell shaped water fountain.

Bilbao

We descended down into the valley saying our final farewells to the people in our walking ‘group’. We had been walking the same trail with the same people and staying in the same Albergues (Pilgrim Only Hostels) for the past 4 days, and as they disappeared one by one into the sunlit city, I pondered whether this might be the last time we would ever see them again. A few were staying the weekend to rest and relax, many more were heading onwards without a break. We, however, were looking forward to a whole day dedicated to recuperation, and so we were in no rush to race through Bilbao. In fact, we had a few errands to run. My backpack and Mum’s shoes hadn’t survived our first gruelling week and so our first stop in the city was the sports store of Decathlon.

After picking out a mesmerising purple pack and a neon violet and lime pair of hiking shoes, we stocked up on fruits of all kinds, including sweet and juicy doughnut peaches, some freshly squeezed orange juice and the king of all dates Medjooli Dates or as the Spanish call them here Imperiales. We then ate a lunch of Vegetarian burgers and Patatas Bravas (chips/french fries in a spicy salsa sauce), before we turned our attention to our accommodation for the night. We had decided to splurge on a private hostel room instead of dorms tonight and we were taking it one step further by taking the unimaginable luxury of public transport to the hostel. Stepping through the sliding doors of the autobus and into what seemed like a high-tech space station, the wave of air hit us and transformed our beings in an instant! The magical invention of air-conditioning doped us up in seconds. Swirling in a star galaxy of cool air and moving wheels with pneumatic suspension, we stared at the stops, knowing we had to go six, but somehow we lost track of our senses and the station names. It must have been the high oxygen environment of the space station we were on. In an instant, Dad jumped up out of his seat, “What is the next stop?” The bus went into hyperdrive increasing its acceleration. We pressed the stop button but it continued its acceleration to within one parsec of light speed and just kept going and going! Finally when it stopped, we had come 2 whole kilometres out of our way. Tears nearly sprang to our eyes, a fit of anger and tiredness sapped our bodies. It got worse. We found out we had to somehow ascend and cross the uncrossable freeway to get to our accommodation. Everything rested on our ability to cross a private set of apartments with the only access to the road that would take us across the freeway. One gate stood between us and another 2 kilometres walk around. ‘Would it open?’ I pondered. I reached for it and as if by magical touch the gate was unlocked! About 20 minutes later, once we saw the soft beds, clean white sheets and lounge room it was all forgotten, well, almost.

We stayed two nights in Bilbao in separate hostels and both times we were met with the kind hearted welcomes and smiles. As you walk you really become appreciative of the small things many take for granted like a hot shower, dry clothes and a clean bed. You realise that there are many people out there without any of these comforts. Your mind begins to whirr and click and you finally realise just how happy you can be with the very simplest of things. No need for all the bells and whistles at the end of the day. This has given me the opportunity to examine my own situation and what it is that I can do to contribute to this world in a meaningful way that helps others.

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