Zumarraga-Arantzazu - June 11
I woke up at 2:40 AM and listened to the rain falling outside. Safe and cozy in my room at the pension, Balentina, the dread of the coming stage interrupted the peace. "You'll be alone tomorrow. It's steep and muddy. It's the hardest stage and you haven't prepared. It will be covered in clouds. It's not worth the risk." Noting these concerns but desperately wanting sleep, I threw out a short prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to make it clear in the morning what I should do.
Jutta and I met Mikel for breakfast, and together we decided to take a bus to Oñati, explore a bit, and then call a taxi to take us to the shrine of Arantzazu. First, we attempted once again to see the Iglesia de San Martín de Tours (I'm 0-3 on visit attempts). Unable to get ahold of the priest, we ran into a friend of Mikel's who worked for Urrextu's City Hall, and she brought us on a brief tour, during which we met the mayor!
In Oñati, we walked around the city long enough to wait for the opening hours of the Monastery of Bidaurreta of the Poor Clares. It was well worth the visit - Eucharistic Adoration was occurring, and there is a stunning retablo in the North trancept depicting the Apostles and all of Salvation History.
Late in the afternoon, Jutta and I got a taxi for about 17 euros which took us to Arantzazu.
We were the only pilgrims in the 52-bed albergue. A few tour groups came through the sanctuary but it was otherwise quiet. There are differing opinions regarding the basilica. While I don't especially care for the exterior, the imagination and symbolism is apparent, and it is undeniably memorable as a symbol of Our Lady among the thorns. Even someone who is not religious will find it worth a visit merely to witness the collaboration of significant modern artists in the design of the basilica as well as the murals in the crypt. The interior was quiet, with an impressive stone retablo in which is presented the wooden figure of Our Lady of Arantzazu.
By evening the rain had gone, and Jutta and I ended our day with tea on the "patio" outside our room, taking in the dramatic, magnificent view of the surrounding mountains which only hours before were completely enshrouded in cloud and fog. The next day was bound to be exhausting, and a fantastic adventure.