Monthly Archives: August 2015

Goodbye to Cantabria 

Today is our last day in Cantabria region where we saw some of the beautifully preserved medieval villages and walked along some of the beautiful coasts. 

We had stayed at the top of the hill next to the church.  The early morning light gave us some wonderful views as we left town.  

  
 
 
    
 
The first 9km was along the road, and the light, fog, and the early morning breeze made the walk memorable. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
 
   
    
    
    
    
    
 
By about 8:30, the sun had lost the battle with the fog as we continued to enjoy the cool morning. We crossed Ria Tina Mayor along the way. 

   
    
 

   
    
   
After 9 km we came to a nice path to walk.  The path was along a rail road track. 
   
   

We finally reached the border town along Ria Deva. The other side of the river was the first town of Austria region. 

   
   
Austarias welcome was a long climb. 

   
    
    
    
 
After 15 km, on the downhill side of the hill, we reached the cute little town of Colombres. The town has a house built on Austarias Indiano architecture that has been converted to a museum. 

   The 
    
  Magnolia grand flower 

  
In the main plaza of the town,  preparations are underway for an evening dance and bazar that we hope to enjoy.  

San Vicente de la Barquera

Our goal today was a modest 12 km so we could enjoy the medieval town with an 8th century castle and a 12th century church. 

Comillas had a lot to offer but because we were walking so late in the day yesterday we did not get to enjoy the city much. We made up for it this morning as we hiked past most of the structures on our way out. 

   
   
Outside the town of Comillas, Ria del Reba merged into the ocean. 

    
    
We traveled beside a highway for a bit before turning into the country path. 

   
 The town of San Visente sits along Ria San Vicente. The castle and the church are high atop the town by an old road while the town sits by the river. 

   
    
     
   
 

  When we crossed the river it was high tide with boats anchored in the water and fish swimming around. Later in the day you could see all the boats beached as the water had receded in the few hours we were there. 

   
 

Back to the future

After spending a day and a half in the medieval town and among the Paleolithic art, it was now time for us to move out of the past and into our future. 

   

Our future was 23 km away in a coastal town of Comillas. The morning walk was peaceful and uneventful. 

   
    
    
 
We passed some small towns, each with a park and benches to sit and rest at. Some historic churches were along the way, unfortunately all of them closed at the time. 

   
   
We even found a town with a cafe around 10 km and enjoyed a nice break and some fried eggs, mirroring our walks from the Camino Frances.

   
    
   
Another 2 km and we were at the first beach. The temptation was great to just settle down for the day but it was only 11 am and we were not ready to call it a day. 

   
    
     
    
    
 
The sun mixed with the ocean breeze were a good combination, and we would have been happy to pause and enjoy them if we had only had another 5 km to go.  However, we needed to go another 10+ km more, with hills, before we could stop.
   
   
After 23 km, we reached Comillas, our planned destination for the day. Tired and hungry, we were hoping to settle down but no such luck. The alburgue was full, and the 7+ pensions, hostels, and hotels that I checked were all “completo” (full). The fellow behind the counter at the albergue said the whole town was “completo.”

Fortunately a lady was sitting at the alburgue, with an offer to stay at her house for a reasonable price. I was not about to walk around town for another hour looking for a place, so we accepted. Turns out she has a clean and well-furnished bedroom in a nice apartment complex, and we are happy and fortunate to be off our feet.

Sistine chapel of Paleolithic art 

It is mind boggling to imagine the art work preserved from 15,000 years ago. The people lived here from as early as 36,000 years ago. The caves were naturally sealed off 13,000 years ago due to a  rock slide and were discovered again in 1879. 

It is amazing to see the desire and creativity for art that has existed in our psyche that far back. 

When we entered, we discovered that the paintings were on the ceiling, not on the walls.  It is believed they were first imagined as shapes of a bison standing, or a bison curled up sleeping, or a female animal that is pregnant–then outlined with charcoal and rubbed with the mineral ochre for color.  Sometimes also etching.  The natural cracks and shapes on the ceiling gave dimension.  These paintings were constructed over the timeframe of over ten thousand years!

   
    
    
  

The morning walk out of town was peaceful and quite. All the tourists were still sleeping. Occasional pilgrims were heading out for their next stage while we were without our backpacks heading to the cave museum. 

   

  

  

  

  


After the cave we sat down in an outdoor restaurant to enjoy a leisurely lunch. 

     

We are thinking of embracing the Spanish culture fully today.  We may succumb to the siesta after this big meal! 
  

Blast to the past

We have been going, going, going since we landed in Frankfurt over a month ago. After completing almost 300 km of Camino del Norte, it was time to rest. 

Rather than stay in the bustle of a big city like Santander, we decided to go into the past. Our next stage on the Camino is Santillana del Mar.  But getting to it was through another concrete jungle. We decided to get out by bus to allow us some extra rest in Santillana. 

As you walk into the town, you step from the 21st century to pre-modern age.  The asphalt turns into cobble stone, and one steps into the end of the Middle Ages.

     
         
    
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We found a cute posada right next to this Claustro Y Collegiata de Santa Julliana (a 12th century church). 

     
 
This town is famous for the Altamira Caves (a Unisco world heritage sight). We are hoping to go see the museum and the replica of the cave (the actual cave is closed to the public) that houses Paleolithic cave art on the walls. 

As we were walking back to our room tonight we ran into our friends Richard and Margie. 

  

Coastal walk to Santander – part 2

We continued our journey along the beautiful coast admiring the views. 

   
    
    
    
    
  
Eventually the path dropped onto the beach. The last 2 km was walking on the beach with Sunday morning runners, surfers, surfing school classes, and a receding tide.

   
    
    
    
   
We reached the village of Somo (before ferrying to Santander) and sat down for coffee and bocadillo. As we were sitting in the cafe we saw many pilgrims pass by. We ran into Richard and Margie again (the wonderful couple from California whom we met a few days ago and who were with us at the albergue last night). 

  
    
   
We took the ferry together to Santander. 

We had about an hour to visit the Museum of Prehistory and Archeology before it closed for the afternoon.  We also walked around the city, although most of the attractions are closed on Sundays after 2:00.

  

A beautiful coastal walk to Santandar

We had the opportunity to meet the 77 year old Ernesto, who started the Alburgue about 15 years ago from his ancestral home. He talked for about an hour before dinner to a crowd of about 70 pilgrims. The talk was in Spanish (with some translation into English by a pilgrim). He is a well traveled man and is involved in quite a few projects in third world countries. 

   
   
We had a nice group dinner. In the morning, breakfast began at 6:30 and we left by 6:45. 

   
   
We chose once again the longer path to the city of Somo so that we could enjoy the more scenic route. The first 5 km was through country roads with the smell of eucalypts in the air, dim early light and a cool morning breeze. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
 
Finally we hit the coast and we’re glad that we choose this route. Every curve was better than the previous, and this went on for about 8 km. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
 
We stopped for our morning snack along the way as we watched surfers down below. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
I have a fast internet connection so I am loading more pictures. Unfortunately, my wordpress can’t handle the volume, so I will continue my blog on part 2. 

To Guemes – the best Alburgue on the Camino del Norte so far

In Noja, we are close to Santander, the Capitol of Cantabria.  Fortunately the approach to Santander is by ferry, so we can walk there without crossing the concrete jungle. Since Noja is still about 34 km from Santander, we will make it a point to visit a much talked-about albergue about 17 km away, in Guemes: Albergue la Cabana del Abuelo Peuto. 

We left Noja early as the night was turning into the day. 

   
    
    
 Today was probably the easiest day that we have had. Most of the way was through country roads and paths full of lush green pastures and valleys. 

   
   
As we made our first stop, these beauties, the horses, came by the road to visit us. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
 Around 10 or so the sky looked socked-in and we had a downpour. Fortunately, we were near our only cafe of the day so we could enjoy part of the downpour from the comfort of the balcony while having coffee and cake. 

   
   
The rest of the walk was stunningly beautiful panoramic views of pastures and green valleys. 

   
    
 We were greeted at the Alburgue by water and biscuits. After settling in we were offered a community lunch. The albergue was created by Pastor Ernesto, who grew up in this house. We will have a community meeting at 7:30 followed by a community dinner. All of this is “donativo,” meaning, give what you think it is worth to you. This is an oasis that we are enjoying with other pilgrims. 

   
    
  

   

End of week 2 on the Camino del Norte

We needed to use the ferry this morning to take us from Laredo to Santano. The ferry operates beginning at 9 am and it is about a 5k walk along the beach/boardwalk to get to ferry. This allowed us the opportunity to wake up leisurely and leave around 7:30 in the morning. 

    

  

  
We enjoyed our morning walk along the beautiful and breezy beach of Laredo. 

   
    
    
    
       
At the end of the beach, we found a different ferry than what we had used on our way to San Sabastian. 

   
    
   
Walking along the town of Santono, we ran into Richard and Margie (the Americans we had met yesterday). 

At the end of the town was our first and only climb of the day.  While it was a short climb (only 82 meters high), it had its challenges. The view as we climbed and from the top was spectacular.

   

   

  

  


From the top one could see the mountains we climbed to get to Laredo, the beach we walked on at Laredo. The town and the beach of Santono, and our destination of Noja. 

      
 
All in all a beautiful and easy hike of 15 km for the day. 

  

   
   

To Laredo

Some mornings the sky for a brief period has colors that takes your breath away. Today was such a morning. We were up early as usual and out of our albergue by 6:30. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
   
This morning we had a choice to make:  to go along the highway or take the country roads and mountains and walk an additional 5k.  We chose the longer but more beautiful path. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
Half way up our long climb the breeze became cooler and the sky looked ominous. Within seconds of trying to capture this scene the rain showers came.  

   
We had less than a minute to get our raincoats out and on. This was a real rain, not the Basque dumb rain. 

   

As we were climbing, I heard the bells and saw a herd of goats coming down the path. I immediately pulled to the side to allow them to pass. They saw me and stopped in their tracks. Eitherthey were real gentlemen or scared of my getup! They moved out of the way so we could pass. 

   

   

Heavy rain lasted for about 20 minutes.   

  
    
 
We enjoyed our way down “a gentle slope,” for the first time in many days.

   
  

    
   
At 17 km we finally found a cafe to sit and eat in the town of Liendo.  The woman in blue spoke a long time to us about how good the albergue in their town was.

   
    
 
On our last climb of the day we met our first Americans of this Camino,  Richard and Marjorie from Santa Clara, CA (on their 13th Camino). 

  
Finally after 24 km we are in the beautiful coastal city of Laredo.