On our left was the water

We walked through the old harbour village of San Juan. On our left was the water.

It was flowing from the industrial port of Pasaia out through the strait between our village and the opposing San Pedro. We glimpsed it every now and again, through the arches of houses set on the river front, as we wandered down the old cobbled streets.

“Aúpa San Juan” hung on banners between the tall old houses. “Come on San Juan”.

We passed the home of Victor Hugo, the famous french author, where he took refuge after the tragic death of one of his daughters. It is now a museum dedicated to the labours of his life.

DSCF0902.jpgContinuing, the water was always on our left. It became more visible as we crossed a large square slowly filling with locals sitting and eating and drinking in the late September sun. Soon it would disappear, and the clouds that had been looming for days over the north coast of Spain would tumble down upon the land.

On the water we spied the old, small, green and white ferry that carried us from one side of the harbour to the other. It is the only way to cross within an hours walk. It was continuing in the small circle that it had always sailed. From one village to the other. Clockwise. It seemed as old and as infinite as the cliffs looming over the inlet.

We continued walking. Now we were along the water always, a well paved path leading out of the village and straight to the Atlantic.

Everywhere was sun. Everywhere was green and yellow and blue. The recent rains had brought out a myriad of blossoms on the verdant cliffside, and water ran in small falls off the limestone walls.

Some ingenious worker had installed basins to temporarily capture these falls, and small spouts to provide water to walkers tackling the Camino. The small red and white flags of this famous walking trail were painted regularly on the walls, buildings and arches of the path.

DSCF0989.jpgWe continued walking. Past the cats sunning themselves on the harbour walls, past the old couple holding hands on a bench overlooking the water and past small bar serving simple drinks and food to accompany the view.

We turned a corner and started to climb, passing a small forest of pine trees and blackberry bushes on our right. The water was always on our left. We climbed and climbed and at the top we stopped.

Before us was a vast nothingness. The Atlantic.

The blue stretched on forever and ever, changing in hue as it swept up from the horizon and turned to sky. A large swell lifted and dropped the small fishing boats leaving the harbour, emphasising their frailty.

We sat in the sun on that grassy hill top. The twin ports were behind us, and the ocean was before. We sat on that grassy hill top and we watched the boats and the birds rise and fall on eddies and tides.

We sat on that grassy hilltop and bathed in the sun and I could think of almost nothing but how lucky some of us could be.

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