Saturday, Oct 8. Islares to Santona. 7 hours; approx. 25km.
Sun rise today was 8.12am. The weather forecast yesterday evening showed rain overnight in several of the towns that we were going to pass through today, and said rain was over by 5-6 am. It took me 10 days to implement this tactic in my Weather App; ‘better late than never’ since we had dry weather after the first two days of rain & wind.
We left Hotel Arnillas at 8.00am. Within minutes we were skirting the beach. To our surprise, we spotted some people in the sea, and quickly deduced they were surfers. Another group of people who monitor the earth’s rhythms (i.e. ocean tides) closely. There was a pedestrian walkway that made it safe during this stretch, but the sidewalk eventually ran out on the N-634.
One thing about the Camino del Norte is there are quite a number of options for various stretches. We opted for a ‘highway variant’ which would be 4.7km shorter, and bypass a mountain climb. Though the highway does go up hill, but at a more manageable gradient.
Fortunately, for the most part, this arterial road was less busy than the major freeways, until we neared Laredo, a major city. There was more traffic heading into Laredo (and thus coming from behind us), than traffic heading to us. For the most part, we walked against the traffic.
There was a short bypass through a forested area that the planners had designed for walkers, that took us away from the N-634 before re-joining the N-634. I assumed this must be because of the narrowness, road curves and/or steepness of gradient. It allowed us to at least have some greenery and walk on dirt paths.
Our guidebook lists 32 stages for the Camino del Norte. What happens when one faces a stretch or chosen route which does not have wonderful scenery and walking experiences?
I found today an ideal time to reflect more within. Perhaps on various life situations or the trajectory of my spiritual life. Perhaps to converse more with one’s traveling companion. I contemplated prayers. When there’s no external stimuli, but just walking, it can be an opportunity for great interior reflection.
When we caught our first view of Laredo, coming off the N-634, we were struck by the size and length of the beach. We later learnt that it stretched for close to 5km! The sidewalks were not as broad as Costa Urdiales but Laredo’s had many metal art sculptures. There were also more benches to sit on facing the beach.
We walked all the way to the end of the beach to catch the boat ferry to Santona. It costs Euro 2 per person for the 600m crossing.
We had bought provisions to have a simple lunch of cheese, ham and membrillo on a multi-grained baguette. This was our pilgrim lunch experience in Laredo. There was a busker nearby and his music provided a soothing background.
We bumped into a fellow pilgrim who had stayed in the dormitory at Markina-Xemein 5 nights ago when we returned to our Hotel Arnillas in Islares yesterday afternoon. He was checking out the price there, and was walking to another lodging. Here’s the gist of our conversation.
- Us: Oh, it’s you again.
- Him: Oh, are you staying here?
- Us: Yes.
- Him: They are asking Euro 35 for a single. I feel guilty to spend so much as a Pilgrim.
Hmm…what a wonderful mindset to have on this Camino! If one is here only for sensory delights, it defeats the purpose of walking (and for many, carrying your backpack all the way).
A factoid about Santona. Christopher Columbus’ ship Santa Maria was built here.
Santona reminds us of the journeys that await us!