The walk through Mt. Ulia from San Sebastian to Pasaia (San Juan) is 6.8 kilometers ( 4.22 miles) on the main walk. We started out about 12:30 PM because it should take about 2 hours start to finish. We begin at the northeastern end of San Sebastian which is right near our apartment on a semi-steep walkway. It begins with stairs and then gradually changes to more of a ramp up to the main path. It's a climb but this was only the beginning. Once we reached the main path, there were beautiful views looking down on San Sebastian and both Zurriola and La Concha beaches. Also there were signs indicating which way to go and how many kilometers from that point.
|Looking southwest on the neighborhood of Gros where we are staying|
|Zurriola Beach in the forefront and La Concha in the back. Beautiful!|
|Zurriola and La Concha Beaches|
We proceeded to make our way on the path and we were climbing just a bit at this point of the walk. Again we come to beautiful views as we begin to go away from San Sebastian.
|Beautiful inlets and cliffs along the way|
From here we continue along the main path and it starts to get a bit rocky. We greet many people along the way. Looks like everyone's out for a Sunday walk, some with their dogs and others with their hiking sticks.
As we noticed the path getting steeper, we decided to look for some thicker branches to use as walking sticks to help us keep our balance on uneven terrain.
|Me leaning on my stick waiting for Terry to finish taking the picture|
At this point we had walked for about an hour so we figured we were halfway to our destination of San Juan. In the distance we could see a huge rock formation which was actually a cliff on the coastline.
|A group of young adults from Germany took our picture|
We met up with a group of twenty-somethings from Germany who were going to the same place as we were. They were taking the scenic route so we decided to go for it and follow them. Since they were younger than us, we couldn't keep pace with them so we continued on our own. It was now starting to get narrower and more uneven to walk. Thank goodness we grabbed the sticks because they were a big help hiking up and down this pathway. We came to a rock waterfall that was set off the path a bit so we wanted to capture a picture of it.
|The rock waterfall|
|This was the view looking down from where we stood|
We were moving a lot slower now because of the VERY rugged terrain. The walking path was getting narrower and finally it was only a foot wide and very rocky. Now the two hour time frame had past and we were just following the path up and down. We took a lot of breaks because we were getting winded with all the climbing. Then we come to a treacherous steep slope down. We were now pretty far from the rock formation and Terry asked me if I wanted to go back to the main path. At that point I wasn't about to turn around and walk all the way back, so I pushed on. Here's a picture of what we had to climb down. We were careful with where we walked but I ended up twisting my foot on a slippery rock. It wasn't my ankle thank goodness and I was able to keep walking. I just was having trouble flexing when I walked and couldn't hit the side of my foot on anything. This may not look that steep from the picture, but it's like when you go skiing and you are on the easy/intermediate runs and you make a wrong turn and end up on the black diamond runs. There's no way to go but down! Very slowly
Needless to say that after conquering this we needed a 10 minute break. As we rested, all of a sudden our friends from Germany are coming toward us heading back to where we came from. They said that there was no way to get to a path because there was a building ahead that seemed to be blocking any further pathways through the mountain. How can that be?
We really didn't want to make our way back and up that steep slope again. As we were discussing the situation another couple who spoke Spanish (someone in the German group spoke it as well) explained to them where the path started up again and the way around through the mountain to get to San Juan. When we arrived at the little house in the picture we walked around it and the path started up again. How could the group from Germany not noticed this? We laughed! Three hours had now passed and we figured this was the LONG way to our destination though undoubtedly beautiful. We tried to stay up with them, but again they were too fast for us.
All at once we realized we hadn't come across any signage in quite a while. It seemed as if this was never going to end and we were preparing ourselves for the possibility of spending the night up here.
We took inventory and realized we had 2 lighters so we could make a fire to keep warm and cook whatever we could find. Water would be a problem, we would have to ration it. Another hour passes and it's now been four and so far we don't see the end in sight. What we did see was a huge snail 6-7 inches long and at least an inch thick on the path that Terry mentioned could be food if we got stranded. NOT!!!
Still creeping along on the rocky terrain I heard water in the distance because there was no one else around. Sure enough, we came to a nice rest spot with a concrete table and a water fountain with spring water. We had taken a bottle of water with us so this was great that we could fill it up again.
While we were here all of a sudden more people started showing up from both ways. Terry and I looked at each other and high-fived because we now knew that we were on the right track. This was the point where the two paths met up, the 2 hour one and the scenic one we were on. In the distance we could see the huge lighthouse on the rock where on the other side sits San Juan. We're almost there, yeah!!
On the way to the lighthouse, we came to an old aqueduct that is still standing the test of time.
We get to the lighthouse where we have a choice to climb up to it or continue on the wider path. We decide to fore go the lighthouse and just take a close up photo of it so we can keep going.
Now the signs pointing to our destination reappear and we're going the right way. Only a couple of kilometers left to go, so all in all about a mile. We can see down into San Pedro/San Juan port now.
We come to a group of older women sitting on a bench next to a signpost with arrows pointing in different directions. Now it says to take a different path to get to Pasaia, not on the road which we were so happy to be on. We ask them to be sure and they say "yes" to go on the narrow path. Terry and I walk, and walk, and then come to concrete stairs that take us down to the lighthouse in the picture above. We're hoping that those women didn't steer us the wrong way. Once down the steps to the lighthouse, Terry goes on to look ahead to see where it goes. More steps. So we make our way down and sure enough we're finally at our destination after 5 hours in the mountain. What a great feeling of accomplishment we felt!! Here's what we saw as we walked down the steps to the walkway along the water.
|Leaving our sticks behind at the end of our journey through Mt. Ulia|
|The port of San Juan and San Pedro. San Juan on the left, San Pedro on the right|
We checked our pedometer and we had walked 6 1/4 miles not the advertised 4 1/4 miles if we had taken the regular, not scenic route. From here, we took a small boat across the water from San Pedro to San Juan. Here we were hoping to get something quick to eat, but again, our timing was off. Because we took the scenic route, the restaurants were closing until 8 PM when they reopened, Siesta time AGAIN! It was only 5:30PM. We took a few pictures of the small street and plaza in San Juan as we tried to find where the bus stop was. At the same time, we ran into the group from Germany and they were looking to eat as well. We all laughed about taking the scenic route with the rugged terrain and the fact that we finally caught up to them some 2 hours later.
|The boat docks|
|Entering the small town|
|Looking into the plaza|
|The colorful houses|
A nice woman in one of the bars that was open explained where we could get the bus back to San Sebastian. She pointed to the church and told us to follow the staircase up to the street above and it was a bit further down.
|St. John the Baptist Church in San Juan, Pasaia|
We saw all the stairs to climb to get to the street with the bus but took an elevator instead. No more climbing! We found the stop and the bus was scheduled to arrive in about twenty minutes. Sitting at the station, Terry and I just marveled at the fact that we took the hardest route through Mt. Ulia and accomplished it. That's why it took us 5 hours instead of two. While sitting at the bus stop we were entertained by a little girl who wanted to crash her little scooter into anything she could find. She was very personable and eventually picked a flower and gave it to Julie. She was very touched by the gesture. By the time we got back, we thought about having Chinese food from the restaurant down the street. Guess what? Closed. We should have known, it was a Sunday. So Terry made me a couple of wraps that were good. I was so hungry I couldn't stop eating. After the wraps, I ate the rest of my special chocolates that we purchased in San Jean de Luz. My foot was hurting so I put an ice pack on it and then we both went to bed. We were exhausted from such an active but wonderful day.
Note from Terry: Julie also drank a few glasses of wine and started to get giddy. I fell asleep as she was singing songs in Italian, Spanish and English, giggling the whole time. It was very cute :)