Stage 2: Zumarraga to Arantzazu

We were joined today by another walker, Claire, who arrived late last night.  This was a walk which the previous group had found too long, so it was suggested we take the train for the first 8 km. Some of us (the same three as yesterday) decided to walk it, leaving at 8 am. A pleasant track to the factories of Legazpi where “life revolves around iron and its manufacture”.  Arrived at the town centre just as the church clock chimed 9 and the supermarket opened its doors. The track continued through some old iron villages going back to the 14th century.  Arrived at Brinkola, we decided to walk up to the sunshine and wait there for the others.

Up a fairly main road to a dam built in 1981, where we got on to a track which might have gone back to Ignatius’ day. Quite steep, but only the last bit was a rocky path. Then we were at the pass, with splendid views, and had lunch. The way down was harder, and I found myself at the back, picking my way among stones and mud.

We arrived at Arantzazu at about 3:30, and after one hour’s break walked down to the sanctuary.  Burned down three times since Ignatius prayed there, it is now a brutal building of 1951. Light shining through the windows made a wall look blue. We were taken upstairs to see Our Lady of Arantzazu at close quarters – the story is she appeared to a shepherd in 1468, standing on a hawthorn bush, and the name of the place means ” you on a thorn?”. Thorns and cracks featured on the east wall, while nearby was a gentler painting with the text “My soul thirsts for the Lord”  (Psalm 63).  Eileen and I went to Mass in a side chapel at 19:30 and sang a Basque hymn to a familiar tune without understanding a word of it.  I wished I had checked the gospel text beforehand, as the preacher was very expressive but I don’t have a clue what he was saying.

Then back to the hotel, which does go back to Ignatius’ time, to dine on baked aubergine, cod in green sauce, and sheep’s yoghourt.