Saturday, March 29, 2008

Further into the Basque Country

It was time to explore the northern region of the Basque country on my second day. After our late breakfast of chocolate con churros (which we had every single day, not that I am complaining!), we packed our food and headed to the beach in San Sebastian.

As we made our exit out of Pamplona, a different landscape welcomed us into the rustic region of Navarra. The scene started with gentle slopes and flatlands. Soon, jagged mountains surrounded us, standing by for a few minutes before they disappeared past our line of vision. The mountain range in Navarra makes a cupcake out of the Black Forest in Freiburg. The highway to San Sebastian sits on one side of a mountain that gives motorists a view of the mountains slopes across the valley. From the faint sunlight, the valley below looked like a deep abyss of the unknown.

We approached the town of San Sebastian after about an hour's drive, and arrived at the beach five minutes later. Dark clouds threatened the sun that barely shone, and strong winds have started to build up. The waves began to rage as I saw a couple of people in their warm suits getting out of the water. I thought of the last time I saw of white beach, and remember it was about a year ago. The one in Barcelona had brown sand and looked "industrial" with monster cranes jutting out of the seascape from Barceloneta. San Sebastian's sand is lighter, mocha, as a beach bum may be wont to describe.

I had barely took in the view, no more than 10 minutes, when big raindrops started to fall. Like the rest of the beach combers, we practically ran for cover. When we reached the car and after getting rained out, we decided for ourselves that the weather won't get any better and drove to a natural reserve. The rain must have been following us. A light drizzle started and fortunately remained as such. We settled onto one of the picnic tables and laid out our little feast of cheese, wine, pate, canned anchovies and mussels, bread and tortilla de patata.

After our fiesta, we wandered through the natural reserve. The park was bright because some of the trees were still barren even though spring is already around the corner. We wove through the footpaths and little bridges over the streams and swamps. From time to time, we would stop and take some photos, especially of Rafa's daughter who is a natural in front of the camera.

We hit the road again and made a pit stop to a bar not far from the park. The photos hanging on the walls of the suggest the owner fell in love with Vietnam. The photos featured the rustic and street scenes of Vietnam: farmers in conical hats, children readily smiling, and a fisher on the edge of his boat, tipping it on one side. I sipped my cafe con leche while reflecting on how far I've come from my own concrete jungle in Metro Manila.

Once the caffeine kicked in, we continued our way back to Pamplona. Still possessing the time to kill more time, we went to the Taconera Park. In the middle of the park is a moat filled with free-ranging peacocks, ducks, and deer. Pigeons seem to tease them of their limited mobility as they swoop down and scavenge on leftovers. It was a Saturday, and a few people were scattered enjoying the warmth of the day and the sunlight. Our feet brought us to a full circle of the park in about two hours, most of the time pausing to take pictures.

We called it a day by seven in the evening. I touched the tip of Navarra and was spoiled by its hidden natural treasures. Yet separated close to 80 kilometers apart, San Sebastian and Pamplona seemed so close. After my second day in the region, I think I am ready to call it home.

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