Secrets and Lies.

This whole journey seems to be getting terribly modern.

For the past 11 days I have been perfectly happy using Shank’s Pony. And then boats came into the picture. And now…what’s the word…oh yes…locomotives.

Or not, as the case proved to be.

Let me set the context for today’s tale by telling you that one of Pastor Ernesto Bustio’s less spiritual pieces of advice a couple of nights ago was how to shave off some entirely unnecessary klicks off today’s (supposed) 42.4km journey from Santander to Santillana del Mar.

10 of the little devils to be precise – which is clearly not to be sniffed at when your knees feel like they belong to the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

Apparently, it’s still a relatively well-kept secret that the route dictated by the ‘Camino Oficial’ that you see denoted by the dotted line above is utterly unnecessary and ugly to boot. And having paid my dues walking through the ‘”industrial heart of the Basque country’” a few days back, I figured I was due a little light relief.

The only issue was the small question of legality.

Short-cutting the journey from Boo de Pielagos to Mogro that you see above involves walking along a section of live railway track: apparently this has always been a tacitly cool and dandy agreement between the Peregrino community and the Powers That Be, until one of the former strayed a little too close to an Express train from Santander last year and spoiled things for everyone (don’t worry, he was fine).

The upshot of which was that the Oficial bit of the Camino Oficial became distinctly more Oficial and our encouraging little yellow arrows became distinctly less encouraging:

Which basically means that the extra 10km are legally de riguer.

But hell, this is supposed to be an adventure, so a couple of walkers I hooked up with and I decided to follow Pastor Bustio’s advice.

So sue us. A  priest told us to do it.

All of which might not seem all that interesting until I tell you that there was also a train driver’s strike that day.

Which didn’t mean that there were no trains. It meant that, in true European striking style, the strikers had cut the power lines. Which were in the process of being repaired. Except that nobody knew how long that was likely to take or when the trains would start running properly again. Which added a little frisson of excitement to our decision. Let’s just say it was a bit like The Railway Children without Jenny Agutter’s petticoats.

As it turned out, our timing was pretty good, as we cleared the bridge to arrive at the next station, just in time to see a train in proper working order coming down the other side of the tracks:

But it turned out that we were not the only Rock ‘n’ Roll Pelegrinos; in fact, anyone that I have met over the last few days that has been good value made the same decision, except that those following us were unfortunate enough to have been rather less close to the next station than we were when that old Express train came hurtling through.

All of which seemed to call for a decent lunch:

And a chance for my knees to recover – as you can see, I’m taking no prisoners:

Deeply unattractive, I know.

But not quite as deeply unattractive as the next 16km in the searing mid-afternoon heat.

Which sometimes looked like this:

Less often like this:

And all too often like this:

And did I say it was hot?

But we all finally arrived in more or less one piece at the absurdly picture perfect medieval village of Santillana del Mar:Which is all terribly quaint until you discover that Santillana del Mar also has a dirty little secret.

It’s ‘The Town of The Three Lies’:

Let’s break it down:

Santi = Saint. There is no patron Saint of Santillana del Mar.

Llano = flat / smooth. Nonsense; it’s a huge bloody hike in a consistently upwards kind of direction to get here.

Del Mar = By the Sea. Only if you take a train from the coast (see what I did there?)

Santilliana del Mar, you’re a cheeky little fibber (and again).

And I’m afraid I won’t be finishing off this post with the usual Credencial shot because the owner of the hostel where I’m staying insists on keeping them until guests leave in the morning having paid their bill. Dodgy lot these Pelegrinos, clearly.

Hasta mañana

Filed under: On The Road

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