The Basque region of Spain
It is with some trepidation that we arrive here in Spain or, more specifically, the
Basque region of Spain, for we had heard tales from the French which put the Basques
in a poor light.
So one thing we did do was to obtain a Basque courtesy
flag and fly it in place of the Spanish flag. Whether this helped we'll never know
but we did find Basques to be as friendly, open and honest as any other people we
have met. Originally we thought our inability to speak Spanish would be held against
us but it soon became clear that the unusual Basque language, having no similarity
with any other European language, had caused the Basques to learn other languages
including English in order to communicate with the world at large. So we often found
English speakers even in small town shops and bars.
It is interesting to note that language is not the only difference between the Basques
and Europeans in general. On average they are about 1 inch taller and have a non
typical blood grouping. It has even been said that they were the first settlers
of Europe, maybe millions of years ago.
Hopefully, as you read this page of our travelogue, you will realise how wonderful
both the country and people are.
Hondarribia (17th May, 0.5 miles from Hendaye in France.)
Old town from the marina
O ur first Spanish port. As we arrived
in the marina the guy from the office asked that we tie up securely, as this is
something we always do we thought it a strange request, until later.
We managed our visit to the office to register, because, in response to our extremely
limited Spanish, the girl replied you are English and proceeded to speak in first
class English; apparently she had spent some time in Exeter where she learnt the
language. As we walked back along the pontoons we where amazed at the amount
and thickness of the lines each boat was tied up with, lines where fixed to the
pontoon either by plastic covered chain or small car tyres and all lines had either
rubber surge dampers or metal springs.
A little later in the evening we understood why, the swell crept into the harbour
creating constant movement on the lines and fenders. In the three days
we where there, one of our fender socks wore through, and our fenders without socks
were covered in black rubber which transferred from the pontoon edge. During
our stay the wind was only an F3 from SW so it must be grim in a big blow. Other
than that its a pleasant place with good facilities.
Street in the old town
We were pleasantly surprised by the town, very pretty and a well stocked albeit
small supermarket. The old walled town is superb, and unspoiled. It has very
few shops and bars just wonderfully old and well maintained buildings with beautiful
geranium filled balconies and window boxes.
We also caught the bus to Txingudi an out of town commercial area, where Barry bought
a new bike computer, well it is his birthday this week. We visited a huge
supermarket and we were amazed at the vast array of different sausages and hams.
Prices appeared to be slightly less than France. However, we were asked for
ID when we wanted to pay by credit card, we were never asked in France.
We anchored here
We were due to leave Hondarribia on the 21st, however the wind had picked up and
we are getting forecasts of SW F8-9 with 5-8m swell and F10-11
in Biscay. So we decided to return across the estuary to Hendaye as the marina is
more sheltered and not affected by the swell. The surfers were out in force and
the swell was quite spectacular as we watch from the safety of the beach.
There were lots of breaking waves out at sea so we decided to cycle along the coast
back towards St Jean de Luz. The bay we anchored in one week ago was deserted
and the waves were pounding and crashing over the sea wall into the spot where we
had anchored. It was good cycling, only 10km each way but very hilly. We hope to
move on to the anchorage at San Sebastian on Wed. 24th if the swell settles.
Looking across the
San Sebastian (24th May, 20 miles from Hendaye)
The westerly F3 was not the ideal wind but we were
able to sail for a couple of hours, before the swell started to win by shaking the
light wind from the main. The entrance to the bay was no problem passing between
Mount Urgull, with its 135m statue, and Isla de Santa Clara. We anchored in 6.5m,
just outside the local moorings. The view of the town and the extensive promenades
was very pleasing. We did get some protection from the swell, except at high
water when the anchorage was a little lively.
We ventured to the island of Santa Clara, it was very small but had good views from
the path, and had lots of seabirds nesting on the cliffs. Landing the dinghy
was tricky in the swell and Janet did the walk with one very wet shoe & sock.
We never did visit San Sebastian as we spent the rest of the day lazing on board;
its nice occasionally to do nothing.
Zumaya (26th May, 14miles from San Sebastian)
Guetaria from the
One of the many beetles
we saw on the walk.
Very light winds, sailing at 3knots, oh well its
okay for fishing although not for sun fish and one passed very close to us.
Sailed for a couple of hours, but again swell was a problem in the light winds so
we persevered until about a mile from the entrance, before turning on the engine.
Coastline interesting, lots of cliffs and mountains. The entrance is between
two very long training walls, very pleasant, surrounded by hills.
Janet had been looking forward to Zumaya as it was possible to walk on the pilgrims
trail from here and we did just that. We walked a section eastwards and found
it very hilly but a mixed walk with superb views to seawards. At times passed through
forests and vineyards.
There were at least 20 different types of butterfly and quite a few beetles, including
At one stage we could look down to Guetaria a traditional fishing harbour.
On another day we walked west along the cliffs, here we got spectacular drops to
a beach below which had some unusual rock formations. Again the walk was very
up and down and passed close to farms where, at one of them, we saw a local shepherd
and his dog walking a large flock of the local Latxa sheep, the ewes had all been
sheared but the lambs were snowy white and very curly. We saw lots of interesting
flowers, some we had never seen before and some particularly beautiful orchid
like flowers which were very deep purple with a velvety texture. The weather
was very warm and sunny so a very enjoyable but thirst inducing walk.
The town of Zumaya is also very pleasant, it is obviously a real town were people
live rather than a holiday centre. The streets are quite hilly and in the
small local supermarket we noticed a large number, of shopping bags on wheels,
parked just inside the entrance, afterwards we noticed that all the senior
inhabitant used them to transport their shopping. We as usual resorted to
the rucksacks, don't feel we have quite got to the shopping trolley stage yet!
The town also has a couple of beaches, but one is at the foot of the cliffs
and sun bathers are warned of falling rocks! Well worth a visit.
Bilbao (29th May, 60 miles from Zumaya)
Today we are going west, and where is the wind,
in the west, right on the nose, so we tacked out to sea. We were sailing well
in a W F3 with occasional poor visibility in the rain showers. Tacked back in shore
so as to catch a glimpse of the pleasant coastline, before next rain shower, then
tacked back out to sea to make the headland. And so it went on all day for
about 9hours. We did however see a pilot whale but unfortunately the poor thing
was dead. During the late afternoon the wind rose and we where making good speeds
albeit, best course to windward. The entrance at Bilbao was busy with commercial
shipping but once inside it was just a case of motoring the 4 miles to the anchorage
Worlds first transporter
Oh Buoy, oh Buoy!
We found the anchorage between the new pricey marina and the pontoons of
the "Real Club Maritimo del Abra - Real Sporting Club". We spent
6 nights in the anchorage and one on the yacht club pontoons 50m from the anchorage.
The transporter bridge over the river Nervion is worth a visit, we paid 4 euros
each to be transported 50 metres up by lift where we then walked on an enclosed
walkway along the bridge to the other side. The views were great, but Janet
did not like being able to see the river below through the boards we were walking
We also took the very efficient, cheap and clean metro into the centre of Bilbao.
Very busy modern town, with a lovely old town area. We walked along the river
beside the Guggenheim museum and during the walk we saw a cycling race pass by and,
from the huge entourage of vehicles and support crews, it must have been one of
the Spanish classics .
Despite the other side of the harbour being a commercial area, where huge vessel
come to collect coal and ferrous metals, and where cruise ships and P&O's Portsmouth
ferry call three times a week, the anchorage is very pleasant and safe, and very
secure due to its bottom of thick black mud.
However, beware buoying your anchor, as our friends on Morgan found when the local
dinghy school used the buoy to tie up their dinghies!
Return to top