Day 19 Being sanded down

Sun Oct 16. Colombres to Llanes. 7 hours. 25km.

The puzzle why we didn’t meet many Spanish pilgrims during our walk was solved this morning. Spanish pilgrims constitute the largest percentage of peregrines and peregrinos on any Camino route. The Camino route passes the front door of our accommodation (Valbanera). As we exited the door at 8.01am, four Spanish pilgrims passed and greeted us! Yes, we were missing them largely because they have started walking much earlier than us!

We did not use any Camino-specific App on our first two Caminos. On the Camino del Norte, I have two Camino Apps, though my primary one is the paid App from WisePilgrim. This is because of the number of alternative routes and paucity of Yellow Arrows relative to the other Caminos. The App played a major role in today’s walk. The turn off was painted on the road and had faded. In the early morning light it was hard to spot especially if one was walking fast.

Walking in the early mornings with temperatures in the low 60s F can become addictive. Especially in the countryside where there’s no traffic noise. There must be yet some undiscovered therapeutic effects from such simple activities.

This must surely uplift every soul.

Misty mornings that roll over the landscape lends a dreamlike quality to what’s being perceived. A dream state that one wishes to linger in. To savor with one’s senses. To quiet the mind, to slow that internal rhythm.

The Camino App alerted us that we needed to cross the road to the other side. As I looked across the road, I could not perceive a notable break in the hedges. My eyes looked down on the road, and I noticed the faded arrows to cross the road at this specific point. We did that and as we crossed, the gap was clear. We crossed a railway track and entered the moors like area that ran along the coastline. We were in for a treat beyond our expectations, with the mist, the overcast clouds and the morning sun.

As the path neared the road before swinging back to the coastline, we decided to walk on the road. For us, this was the optimal balance, experiencing the first (and likely better half) section of the moors area and making some distances on paved paths. Balance is something that one quickly gets an intuitive sense for one’s journey. Sometimes it’s trade-offs like what we just discussed, other times it’s walking and taking some form of transportation. Or not. The Rule of the Camino – It’s your Camino. And not someone’s expectations.

As we made good progress on the side of the road, I erroneously assumed that the Yellow Arrows into Pendueles was marked up by merchants. And a km into it, I decided to check the Camino App and realized the error. Fortunately, the App (with its satellite overlay) showed me how we could rejoin the Camino about another km ahead. A bit of adventure of our own creating!

Uphill sections are a standard feature. There’s one stage on the Camino Frances, known as the Meseta, that’s flat for kilometers and kilometers. Unlike some who didn’t like the monotonous flat scenery, it was one of my favorite sections as I felt myself getting into a contemplative mindset. There’s no such stage on the Camino del Norte.

We climbed uphill through a residential area, along inner roads. And when we hit you a major road, there was a pedestrian path that brought us to a view point where we could see Llanes in the distance (probably 8-10km).

The App showed two options – along the road and along the mountainside. There was no pedestrian path along this two lane winding road downhill. We opted for the safer route which skirted a golf course. There were a lot of ups and downs, which I attributed to the design of the golf course!

One cannot but initially some frustration in coming uphill, getting to the top of said incline, only to view a descent and subsequent ascent, especially if latter is as high or even higher as current summit. As I mentioned, due to adjacent golf course, they did not or could not cut a more consistent/continuous incline and descent. This is what I term, the “sanding down” by the Camino. We learn to use sandpaper to smoothen the rough spots in a surface, to smoothen said surface. In the same way, this series of ascents and descents can sand down one’s frustrations. To accept this as part of the experience, and not to let frustrations bubble up. I didn’t realize it at that point in time, but an encore sanding experience was in store.

That dreamlike misty experience
The sunrise was beginning to brighten up the sky.
As we came out unto the road. This is the spot that we had to cross to the other side in the gap of hedges!
The moors-like surroundings.
We were able to get close to the edge to take this picture.
We came upon a section where there are blow holes (bufones) where the ocean waves are funneled upwards into a spray. An illustration in red helps to explain.
You might spot some people near the blow hole.
A view of Llanes from the mountainside next to the golf course.

The descent into Llanes was a relief. So was the fact that our hotel Don Paco was next to the Camino route.

We checked in and discovered our bags were not there. After some back and forth, including via WhatsApp, we found that Correos had neglected to pick up our bags from last night’s hotel. This was a Sunday, and the Correos customer service representative initially wanted me to arrange a taxi to collect the bags and deliver, and they would reimburse me. After explaining I don’t speak Spanish and did not know a local taxi contact, Correos agreed to arrange with our current hotel, though I would have to pay and they will reimburse me.

Throughout this, I basically maintained my cool. Where the second round of sanding needed to be applied was waiting for the hotel taxi to collect and bring the bags. I was influenced by the previous day’s taxi ride in assuming the one way journey would take about 20-30 mins at most. When an hour came and passed, I began to get agitated. Waiting in the lobby likely compounded it, vs waiting in the room. I asked the hotel reception staff to call the taxi driver twice to assess whether he was on the way. The reception staff was in no doubt that I was not happy. And I voiced that I would complain to the hotel manager about the taxi driver. Latter arrived at that moment and I collected the bags and paid him. The sanding was completed when all my frustrations were released and I changed my mind about complaining. And realized it was a Sunday and the driver may be on overtime. The charges were very reasonable considering the two way journey and his time. The next morning, I messaged the hotel and complimented both reception staff and taxi driver.

I wonder if there’s more sanding ahead of me! But more importantly, I wonder if I can replace an instinct to complain, with one to compliment. That would be a great grace indeed.

Author: Ben & Joon

Residents in the great Pacific North West. Living life as it happens, learning our purpose and trail blazing our own paths. Namaste.

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