Romanza: Santander to Santillana del Mar and Comillas

Day 15: Santander to Santillana del Mar (~42km) The stretch of the Camino del Norte beween Santander and Santillana del Mar was one of the most beautiful parts of the walk (though admittedly, I'd recommend it on a bike rather than on foot, due to all the asphalt, and in order to speed past the more-boring parts!). It was a great day at a bit over 40km, full of lots of sweet little towns. Additionally, Santillana del Mar was absolutely stunning, and one of the most romance-imbued places I've ever been—a big call, given my cynical tendencies! I'd planned on getting up early, though that definitely didn't happen. As such I left late, but was still in time to see some beautiful filtered morning sun falling through the town of Santander as I left it. I'd made the ...
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Americanos: Tarrueza to San Miguel Meruelo and Santander

Days 11 through 14 of my Camino del Norte saw beaches, blisters, and my becoming smitten with an American couple. Day 11: Tarrueza to San Miguel Meruelo (27km) Day 11 had another very lazy start, with my not leaving the albergue until twenty past 8. I was still quite tired and sore, and not feeling especially motivated. However, I'd run out of chocolate, so clearly things were quickly becoming urgent. I soon reached Laredo and stocked up on a lot, repeat a lot of chocolate and other snacks, then set out for the beachfront. My achilles were still killing me from the Islares walk, which was a good time. I'd stopped at a bench to pack all of my new goodies into my bag, when suddenly some people stopped on the path behind me. I turned around, to ...
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Vecinos: Islares to Tarrueza

Day 10: Islares to Tarrueza (20km) I left Islares at 8am, which was pretty late by my standards at that point. It was a beautiful morning, though with a rather brisk wind. It all progressed fairly uneventfully, though, with my biggest adventure being the stress incurred when I was unable to find a coffee. Coffee was needed. Oh, was it needed. I eventually reached Rioseco, which my two apps had promised me had a bar. However, it was rather devastatingly closed. This led to my asking a little old lady if there was somewhere nearby which could help out a desperate coffee-drinker, and after a solid chat, she sent me onwards. I was to go past the 'rotunda' and find...something else. As it turned out, this led me straight to El Pontarron, a small town. After a coffee ...
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Italianos: Portugalete to Islares

Day 9: Portugalete to Islares (45km) Well. This was a huge day. Unlike the Camino Frances, the Camino del Norte is not that well-trafficked. As such it doesn't have the infrastructure to support it that the Frances does. Apparently, on the Frances, there are albergues around every 2km. On the del Norte, the distances were much, much, much greater--and the fact that it wasn't yet the 'season' meant that a lot of venues were closed. As such there was nowhere to stay between Portugalete and Castro Urdiales, 37km further on. Apparently there was a way to shave off 10km by walking along the coast rather than following the Camino, but that seemed a bit like cheating to me. Plus, the coast was flat, and as it turns out, I'm a masochist when it comes to hilly interiors...! The ...
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Perros Peligrosos: Morga to Portugalete, Castro-Urdiales, and Islares.

Days 6 through 8 of my Camino del Norte saw some rest days, a lot of pintxos, and a number of friendly dogs. It also saw Rie abandoning me to go back to Granada. Day 6: Eskerika to Bilbao (30km) Waking up in our hostel in Morga/Eskerika, we set out for Bilbao, on what would be Rie and I's last day together. It was a somewhat hilly day, which started by ascending before rounding some hills and seeing some very Australia-esque landscapes. It was quite muddy, and at one point I decided to make a nice bridge across some mud which Rie labelled 'dangerous'. Dangerous! Geez. In either case, day 6 was nowhere near as muddy as the day before. Here we had bunched into the group of older Spanish and French people and done some wading through ...
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Rubia/Nordica: to Deba, Markina-Xemein, and Eskerika

Days three through five of the Camino took us from to Deba, thence to Markina-Xemein, Gernika and Eskerika. It also took us to around the 150km mark of the walk, which was at that point by far the farthest I'd ever walked in a week. Day 3: Getaria to Deba (18km) We woke up in Getaria to see sunlight streaming through the stained glass—though admittedly, this didn't last very long. After I was finally ready, me being the one holding us up every morning, we set out for yet more hills. Rie taught me how to say 'fuck these hills' in Spanish, which was obviously appreciated. However we hadn't made it very far when suddenly I saw a frog on the road. Now, I was quickly getting used to this 'animals on roads' nonsense: the previous week, I'd seen my ...
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Ballena Loca: Irun to San Sebastián; San Sebastián to Getaria.

The first morning of the Camino del Norte did not bode well; the weather was exceedingly grumpy, and not afraid to show it. Nonetheless I set off, following the somewhat random directions given by my GPS, until suddenly I spotted some people on a path near me. They'd evidently spotted me, too, as the guy yelled out, "Camino?". I ran over to join them, at which point he followed up with "Deutschland?". He was so excited, too. But nope. This guy, Gunter, was an absolute mental case‐something which could be established despite the fact he spoke exclusively German. That's how much mental there was. There was also a petite Japanese girl walking nearby, whom I'd spoken with at breakfast. That was a strangely momentous breakfast, as it turned out; I met not only Rie, the Japanese girl, but also a ...
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Day 0 Brussels to Irun

Back in January, I took a few days off to go hiking in Portugal. Brussels just doesn't represent as far as things like 'sun', 'ocean', or 'hills' go, and with flights something like 15 euro each way, it was hard to say no. While I was there and directly after getting somewhat off-trail and then sliding down a giant muddy mountain biking path on my ass, I found myself confronted by a couple from Cornwall, who weirdly had been sailing at the place I used to work at. The guy explained that he was preparing to walk 'the Camino' in Spain in September. I'd heard vaguely of this before—a couple of people I know have walked it, and Mr France also mentioned that it existed. I said that I'd love to do something like that, but because of breaking my ...
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Grad School

Well, I am currently in Russian class, which is today being exceptionally and exclusively delivered in Dutch. Needless to say, I have no idea what’s going on—so after a rather protracted break, voici—a blog post! I handed in my final piece of work for my Masters course nearly a month ago now. Already. I don’t even know how that happened. It seems max four months ago that I was sitting in my course convenor’s office, giggling uncontrollably because I was so excited to start!! (Yup, I’m that student.) The last six months in particular were spectacular—in terms of my subjects, in terms of writing my papers, and in terms of writing my dissertation as an experience. Plus, I’ve been lucky enough to have some truly awesome professors at the school. Grad school is very different in Europe to in Australia, ...
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Integration

The other night I was waiting for the bus home from Russian class. There were two others waiting with me, both brought up in Belgium, and one was going on an anti-immigrant rant. I'm sure you'll be familiar with the 'migrant crisis' that is currently underway, so I won't go into too much detail. Suffice it to say that this girl does not like immigrants, and she does not want them in the country. I waited until she paused, and then interrupted—"You realise I'm an immigrant, right?" She paused and looked at me for a second. "Yes, but you're white." Wow, right? She then went on with some standard white supremacy type theories, saying how all the 'white' countries are developed and all the others are behind because of some kind of genetic deficiency. Eugh. The thing is, while this ...
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