Sunday, 19 June 2016

Bilbo-bound (still under construction but the pics wanted to go live ;-)

And before anyone gets the idea that we're running for Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, I should explain that today we're entering the heart of Euskadia, Pais Vasque, The Basque Country, and that the Basque call Bilbao not Bilbao but Bilbo. So There!

I must have slept too much yesterday, because I"m up at 5 am.  Time to capture the twilight, which is easy because my hotel is at the end of a lit street with the dark countryside starting right after the hotel.

I wake Zu at 6:30 and she agrees to yet another walk (her breakfast doesn't start until 8:30).

 We walk uphill towards some cows in the distance, crossing cow pastures, and climbing over and under barbed wire, both being sure that there are absolutely no cows or BULLS on the particular pastures.

Another pasture, another sheep. This one eyes us warily.

 Hang on. That cow does NOT have an UDDER !
There is something in his stance that makes me double-check that I have no RED clothing showing !  When he moves an inch, I start walking VERY FAST.

 The weather forecast calls for some rain again today, so we decide to try to take the train to Bilbao.  Unfortunately the train only runs 3 times a day, so we will try to catch it in the next biggest town (Gama) at 3 pm.

Muchas Gracias, Senora !

The above?  Laredo. Millions of hotels on a HUGE beach, right across the water from Santona, but 25 kms by bike (around the bloody estuary), with a rude Taperia owner that was willing to let us charge a cell phone battery but sends us away when she sees the bike batteries.  Gracias por NADA. We take our eating and drinking business elsewhere ;-)
We head up into the hills with our partially charged batteries.
At this time we still believe that there is a train line going parallel to the road that we're travelling along and that when we have enough of the biking we can find a station and catch one of the two trains that leave Gama for Bilbao at 15:00 and 19:00.

When we get here (the below picture is taken on the other side of the river in the above picture), we are jumping up and down and are all excited at our luck of not having caught the 3 pm train from Gama. We would have missed all this !

Just around the bend from the above, we find a SUPER friendly cafeteria operator that provides us with two power outlets, EXCELLENT wine, a HUGE smile, and calamares a la romana, which are OH SO TENDER and which I haven't eaten in 30 years.

Of course, there is another MONSTER hill to climb after this ;-(

 Time to recharge Zu's battery again.  That means two more fabulous glasses of wine for me and a CHOCOLATE-covered HUGE whatchama-call-them.

 A short while later we come over a hill and see Bilbao in the distance. WE MADE IT.
NOT QUITE. According to the GPS, we still have to wiggle our way through dilapidated industrial suburbs for 15 kms. That probably means we have to stop AGAIN to recharge Zu's battery.
 After yet another GPS check I demand a rest 'down that alley'. Down that alley I notice train tracks but don't clue in. Zu mentions the word 'TRAIN' and I check out the machines. This is actually the Bilbao METRO !!!!
 I have NO IDEA whether we are allowed on it with bikes, but there are no NO BIKES signs, so I come up with a CUNNING and DESPERATE plan:  Don't look at people, DON"T smile at people, just RAM your bike into the train. Make eye contact with people ONLY AFTER the train has left the station.  In case ANYONE says anything, shake your head and say RUSKI !  There probably won't be a conductor on these trains anyway, it's Sunday 8:30 pm, after all.
 Part A of the plan works without problems, There is pretty much NO ONE on the train. Part B is more complicated.  A conductor appears out of nowhere behind me.  I pull out my ticket and present it!  I'm going to argue in Russian if I have to!  The conductor just initials it and keeps going without giving me a second look. Same with Zu.  Then she finds THREE people WITHOUT tickets in the same car ( by that time there are less than 10 people in that car !) and swiftly makes sure they leave the train at the next station.   OMG. How civilized.  In Vancouver TRANSIT POLICE with GUNS would escort the CRIMINAL (LOL) off the train and detain him/her to get their personal information, so they could send them the fine ticket.
We get to Bilbao Main Train Station at around 8:45 pm, 20 minutes BEFORE the train that would have left Gama at 7 pm and that we were hoping to catch somewhere along the way.

The hotel is only about 1 kilometer from the train station and we store the bikes, dump the luggage, and go for a walking discovery tour.
 Way too many pictures of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum following:

 I notice that Zu is facing the opposite direction. She is taking a picture of the full moon!   Then I spot the bridge and the pedestrians on it. A few steps back and forth and sideways and I have them lined up:

 Crossing yet another bridge, the moon lines up with the Guggenheim itself:

All of  a sudden it's quarter to midnight and I don't even have the energy left to take a shower. I just slap Nivea on anything looking redder than the rest and collapse in bed.

So it's no wonder I'm out on the street in front of the hotel by 5:30 am, smoking cigarettes and taking pictures of the city still cloaked in darkness.

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