San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

The path from Bakio

The path from Bakio

My hands down favorite part of this weekend was the hike to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. It’s very surreal to me that I had the opportunity to go and that this place exists after seeing a photo of it randomly on Pinterest several years ago. So what is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe? Read on…

We began by taking a short bus ride from Bilbao to Bakio, a coastal village with typical Basque food and a nice beach. Apparently the hike can also be done from Bermeo (it’s in between), but I don’t know what it’s like from that direction. When I asked the bus driver which direction San Juan was, he looked at me like I was crazy and said “San Juan is 45 minutes away…” And I said “Yes, I know, just follow this road?” and off went the two silly American tourists… Then we noticed the sudden 45 degree incline.

The hike up the mountain was really challenging, but insanely beautiful with the lush green hills and view of the ocean. I was hot, sweating, and struggling to encourage Jay who was hobbling right alongside me. Thirty minutes in, we saw our destination through the trees. But where was the path to it? After awhile I asked a passing hiker how to get there and she explained that we also had to climb down the mountain to the base of the steps. We were disappointed, but the closer we got to San Juan the more motivated I felt because I was actually going to see it firsthand. Coincidentally, right as we started our final descent, the gray clouds were blown away and left the clearest of blue skies. The combination of clear skies, blue sea, and rocky coast reminded me of Tinos and Temple of Poseidon in Greece. We had the best weather we could ask for, and an incredible sight before us.

It’s significant to me because it takes me back to a time in my life when none of this moving abroad, living in Spain, teaching thing had even materialized yet. A time when it never even wasgoing to materialize. I was in a completely different place. In this one month that I’ve had to painfully leave behind loved ones, fight to get established in a foreign place, and really “put myself out there” in a sense that I have to make a life here and shape it for myself, there are times when I just wanted to go home and hide in an American hole. When I finally reached the base of those 231 stairs and saw the view in front of me, I felt like I had a handle on what life could have in store for me if I wanted to make it happen. This was one of the best experiences of my life to date and I won’t forget it.


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