I promised on Tuesday to post a photo of Laredo beach at sunrise, sans sizzling sunbathers, and hopefully this will give you at least some idea of how lovely it really is…And this one should give you both some idea of just how long the beach is, and consequentially how long it takes to get out of town…
…which also involves a whole new mode of transport – taking you a 10 minute hop from the outskirts of Laredo to the inskirts of Santona:
And on arrival, yet more tarmac to contend with – around 3-4 km worth – which I have to admit, is starting to take its toll.
I haven’t mentioned this before, but on the first day of this trip I managed to sprain my right knee slightly on one of the sharper descents that day, causing increasing discomfort over the ensuing 10 days.
This morning, the pain in the right knee seemed to miraculously disappear, only to be replaced by a considerably sharper pain in the left, making yesterday’s 28km extraordinarily uncomfortable – not least because it was actually around 35km, due to going the wrong bloody way again. But I’ll come back to that.
I’ve been treated to some stunning coastal views so far on this journey, but I hadn’t encountered a proper coastal path until yesterday:
…and then the other:
…a stretch of beach that offered unobstructed views into the horizon…apart from this twonk getting in the way (honestly, some people will do anything to hog the limelight)…
But after a while I started to wonder whether I was still going the right way; those little yellow arrows start to become quite addictive after a few days, and I was clearly going cold turkey when I spotted this one pointing towards the nearest Albergue, and headed straight for it…
…like a lamb to the slaughter. I won’t bore you with the next three hours of B-roads, but suffice to say I discovered later on that I could have cut my journey considerably (by about two hours) if I’d just carried on down the beach.
What I will say that is that ‘hard-going’ is an accurate, albeit ironic, term to describe a situation where your progress is slowed by your walking poles getting stuck in tarmac that has been melted by the midday sun:
But eventually I discovered some more rural respite for my knees. I love the fact that this is a spray-painted sign to Santiago, which is still some 300 miles away:
And then not too far to that night’s Albergue at Guemes. Which was a little bit special:
I’ve never been one for too much communal action (would’ve been a rubbish swinger), but even the most hardened solipsist would have been hard pushed not to enjoy the hospitality of Pastor Ernesto Bustio, who regaled 50 odd walkers with the story of his Albergue:
Very briefly, it turns out that this was originally his family home which he, his parents and his four sisters had to leave when he was aged 7 years old or so, to escape the deprivations of the Spanish Civil War.
Having promised himself he would return to the homestead one day, he spent a bit of the Sixties studying to be a priest, and another bit travelling in a Land Rover throughout Europe, The Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
He then came back and devoted his time to creating the kind of refuge that he felt that walkers of the Camino deserved.
From the first Pelegrino that came his way in 1967, there are now around 2,300 that spend the night in the Albergue each year. And of the 13 nationalities represented in the Albergue last night, I came in last, with an unremarkable ‘un point’. I never thought the phrase ‘now I know what Englebert Humperdink feels like’ would pass my lips, but that’s The Camino for you, clearly.
And so onto Santander.
I woke to a morning mist that was a welcome relief to yesterday’s heat…
Which soon turned into a downpour in the midst of which I spotted this raggedy bunch of fellow walkers…
About half the length that I expected it to be, in fact. The guide books say that the leg is around 15km, but I’ve long since stopped looking at the details – so it was a rather nice surprise to find out that half of that was covered by boat…
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that the only guide book I’ve been using is one translated from Spanish via Google, which told me that I would experience moments of ‘peace and calm’ in the middle of a giant industrial estate slap bang in the Basque country.
Given that the same guide book told me that tonight’s Albergue was ‘grim’, I decided to play another hotel trump card and came up with this:
Not much of a view, I’ll grant you, but for 30 Euros, you could do a whole lot worse…
And so goodnight (finally) to Guemes and to Santander: