Day 8 Adventure Day

Wed Oct 5. Bilbao to Poverno, 8 hours. 23km.

Getting out of a b-i-g city onto the Yellow Arrowed routes tends to be an undertaking because one’s booked accommodation is usually off the marked path. Generally as one enters a big city, one veers off on a direct route to one’s lodging using a map app.

There are Camino Apps that gets one back. We use a guidebook that outlined 4 possible routes and choose the one that our hotel was closest to.

We departed our lodging at 7.40am and our route took us by the Guggenheim Museum. Catching the morning rays off the exterior was cool.

Guggenheim Museum

Our route takes us along the river on the opposite bank. We crossed over on a bridge. The sidewalk was very broad. We did stop at a cafe that was opened that was on an inner street that was within 200m of the sidewalk.

A baguette sandwich with cheese, ham and egg. Irresistible combination!

The walk along the sidewalk would be to Las Arenas, about 8.4 km away. We opted to tanned an Euro 0.45 per person water taxi to the other side of the river, the Portugalete area. Our guidebook mis-printed the fares on the Puente Colgante by one decimal point as Euro 5.00 when it was Euro 0.50. Besides passengers, latter has space for 4 vehicles.

That hanging white structure carries passengers and vehicles.
This sign lists all similar carrying structures across rivers!

As we disembarked from the water taxi and wandered around the nearby square, searching for the Yellow Arrows, a gentleman approached us and started talking with us in various languages, starting with Japanese. Turns out he had an interest in languages and even knew a few words in Bahasa! Including the personal pronoun “I” used only by Malay royalty.

When we asked for directions, he shared there were two routes, one over the mountain (which our guidebook mentioned) and a coastal route! Our adventures began when we opted for latter.

This route would be about 12km, all the way to Pobena. In the early stages, it was a very enjoyable walk. Broad sidewalks with nearby cafes and restaurants. But as we got further out, the signs were much fewer and far in between.

We had to start relying on our maps app but had to backtrack when latter guided us to walk on a major road that had no sidewalks. So, we backtracked to the last Yellow Arrow that led down an alternative route. And then there were no other arrows that we could spot.

There’s a nature within us that seeks Security/Control, Independence/Power & Happiness. Situations such as above may cause anxiety. In allowing ourselves to be surprised, we allow Divine Providence to show up.

After studying the maps app, I deduced that a possible route was nearer the coastline. As we walked towards it, we saw two ladies coming from the direction. So we asked them, first in the stock Spanish phrase that I had memorized on where is the El Camino Way. Fortunately one of them was able to speak English. The other was an out of town friend of hers who did not know English.

After discussing asking themselves and consulting their own phones, they offered to drive us 3km up to a point where Loli (who speaks English) could point out the route (that she thought would lead us to Pobeno). Turns out they were nurses (the friend’s name is Monica).

We called them our angels!

We gave Loli & Monica each this angel coin.

What turns mis-adventures into adventures is accepting that I don’t always have to be in control. It’s accepting that surprises turn out in all shapes and sizes.

Day 9 Taking the route less traveled

Thursday Oct 6. Pobena to Islares. 8 hrs 15 mins. 17km.

Today’s hike was one of the best, in terms of scenery as well as relative ease of terrain. We waited till 8am to leave our lodging Casa Rural Mugarri as it would be bright enough.

The start was a climb up about 120 steps according to the inn keeper. We prefer that to clambering over a mountain side trail that’s rocky and uneven. But once we reached the top, we had great views of the ocean and beach. The views got better as we walked along the coastline. This went on for more than an hour! There were no winds buffeting us, so it really was one of our most enjoyable walks.

Beach outside Pobena
The coastline walk from Pobena to Onton
Another dramatic view further up
Many walkers bring their dogs as evidenced by this water fountain for dogs!

Eventually we had to swing inland. And started walking alongside major roads. By checking Google Maps, I spotted two cafes that seemed to be open as we did not have any hot breakfast yet. We opted for the first one even though that was 100m out of the way as I had high confidence it would be open since there was a road sign pointing towards it and from the map, it was likely frequented by truckers. Voila, we had our hot breakfast at 10.20am. This decision proved correct because the second cafe did not appear to be open.

Sometimes we can go on auto-pilot in Life and on the Camino. In the latter case, it’s following the tried and Yellow Arrowed marked route. And mostly that’s goodness. But our guidebook recommended that we veer off the conventional route into Onton as that would continue us walking next to the major road. Rather it recommended going off onto a dirt road about 500m from Onton. How is one supposed to know that one is 500m from a destination that is ahead without any road signs?

Well, we knew that we were looking for a dirt path to the right as we walked towards Onton. Well, Someone up above arranged for a jogger to suddenly appear on the road running towards us. He seemed to jump out from the right side of the road.

This is the dirt path referenced in the guidebook. Might have been clearer to include in the guidebook a reference to the directional arrow sign at a sharp corner for drivers!

This path led us to a beach. Where there was a grotto with the Virgin of Miono. We ascended shortly after that with a helpful Yellow Arrow painted on the road.

Fairly deserted beach; girl playing with her dog at water’s edge.
Sculpture of the Virgin of Miono
We were rewarded with views like this.
Solitary blue dot shows us. The continuous dots represent the ‘marked/official’ route.
These residents are very lucky to live here. As you can see from the crane, they were still building apartment blocks.
At Castro-Urdiales with the Iglesia de Santa Maris de La Asunción in the background. We are putting up the night in Islares, which is 7km further. But tomorrow is a Rest Day, and we will visit Castro-Urdiales.

We all need our own ‘routes less traveled.’ That’s part of the Joy of Life, to sometimes wander with a carefree disposition.

Day 10 Rest Day

Friday Oct 7. Islares. 0 km Camino walking.

Our second night stay in the same lodging. Not having to unpack every night, and pack every morning is a small luxury. It’s also one of the biggest attractions why people take cruises. We have met people who have taken double digit cruises as a preferred way of vacationing!

We woke up about 30 mins later than usual this mornig, i.e. 7am. Perhaps our bodies have been conditioned for an early wake up, that we cannot sleep in?

We decided to take a bus into Castro Urdiales as Islares is really a small sleepy town with not much. Google Maps is must-have app as it shows the directions to the transit point (i.e. bus stop in this case) plus the buses (schedules, bus #). Using Google Translate, I was able to confirm with a local lady who came a few minutes later, that this was the right bus stop to catch the bus to C-D. Again, she later confirm the bus must be running late, as the printed schedule on the bus stop showed an earlier schedule than Google Maps (fortunately, latter was correct, otherwise, we would have an hour’s wait).

When asked which is their favorite season of the year, almost everyone will have a response and reasons why. A similar question in the same vein is which time of the day is one’s favorite?

I know many catch the sun set, but not many catch the sun rise. But from a photographic perspective, the morning sun shines the best soft light on objects. See if you agree from the following pictures.

Side view of the Iglesia Santa Maria de la Asunción.
Back view highlighting the buttresses!
Playa de la Castro Urdiales. Swimming takes place in the adjacent Playa Brazomar.

We did walk in C-D; and Joon’s Fitbit buzzed that 10,000 step marker soon enough. We ended up with 14,000 steps (yesterday, we clocked in at 40,000 steps!).

We enjoyed being tourists for the morning – checking out the sights, taking pictures, having cafe con leche and cafe solo with pincos at a sidewalk table, people watching, popping into the various panaderia to wonder at the range of pastries, and taking advantage of the ‘menu del dia’ (menu of the day – which comes with 1st, 2nd courses, bread, dessert and water or table wine). One cultural difference is that the restaurants (in general) ask us to re-use our silverware from 1st course. Imagine the amount of water, soap and labor saved if America adopted this for non-5 star restaurants!

The rest of the afternoon was some logistics planning. Earlier in the morning, I had posted on a Camino Forum a question about an upcoming coastal route. These Camino Forums are a wonderful resource of real life experiences. I had already booked a hotel on an inland route, and I was trying to assess if we could do the longer coastal route, as it seemed there was no accommodation options. To cut a long story short, I got a response, was able to re-arrange all my bookings for that stretch without any cancellation fees! Timing is everything.

Getting back to our hotel in Islares was a bit of adventure. Google Maps indicated we needed two buses (I suspect it didn’t have the local bus line in their system). So, we opted to walk about a km to a spot that we knew for sure, the return bus will pass by. Before we got to that target spot, we came across a bus stop, and a bus pulled up. I asked the driver whether it was going to Islares, she responded in Spanish that I should be waiting for Line 2 bus. The doors closed before I could sign-language whether this was the right bus stop. Well, what happened next was amazing. As the bus pulled away, I could see an old lady seated behind the bus driver gesturing to me that we have to walk further up to a different bus stop to catch Line 2. As we walked further upwards, Joon looked backwards (why?) and caught sight of Line 2 bus coming up. I was further ahead, and when I heard her called out, I saw the bus and instinctively put out my hand. Mind you, we were not at the next bus stop yet. The bus pulled to a screeching stop to let us in. The driver confirmed it was going to Islares. Second wonder! Is this all luck?

Finally, a Rest Day will be incomplete without restoring our inner spiritual balance. We spent time in the morning in Iglesia Santa Maria de la Asuncion. Joon spotted this hidden inside a gated chapel.

Very inspiring for us.

Day 11 Inner reflections

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.

Surfers already in the ocean at 8.15am

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.

Laredo and its massive beach
An art sculpture at start of Laredo beach. I wonder if that empty space was strategically designed for posers.

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.

Catching the boat ferry from Laredo to Santano. It wasn’t far from our walk onto beach, so one can’t miss an approaching boat.
Selfie as we approach Santona in background.

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.

This is the monument that memorializes Columbus expedition and ship. There’s also a bust nearby of the cartographer for the expedition.

Santona reminds us of the journeys that await us!

Day 12 Giving Thanks

Sunday Oct 9. Santona to Guemes. Approx. 22km, 7 hours.

The weather forecast was supposedly mainly overcast with cloud cover, with perhaps 1 hour of sun. The forecast fooled us (and several others). We even over-heard a pilgrim much later in the day telling another group resting under a shady tree that she may have over tax herself. We resolved to carry an umbrella the next time regardless of the forecast (while caps, hats shade the head, it does trap the heat). We did a number of rest stops to cool down, and drank lots of water with electrolytes/energizing elements.

Getting out of our hotel at 8.18am onto the Camino route was easy given Santona is a small town. This was the first stage when we encountered more pilgrims than we had seen cumulatively the past 10 days! Perhaps they were always there in the bigger cities, but because they walk faster/earlier, we never encountered them.

The route out of town was a road parallel to the beach, but a couple of pilgrims ahead veered onto the beach. We stopped to check our Camino App, and when another pilgrim was passing, we asked about this beach route (Playa de Berria) that didn’t appear in the App. She said it was walking along the beach until it joined the route at the end of the beach. Ah, we just met pilgrims who love to walk on beaches! So, we did that for most of the way, before getting onto the road and joining the route proper.

Sun rise at Playa de Berria

The route was up a hill, about 220 feet above sea level. It wasn’t the height that was the challenge. It was that it was a sandy trail up the hill! So, climbing up loose sand (which seemed similar to the beach sand) on a hill slope was a new experience. And after that, there were rocky trails, which can be a challenge for those with short legs. The guidebook advises against this route on rainy days.

Sandy trail up Punta del Brusco
The village at Playa de Berria

The views going up were great, and as we rounded the top and started to descend, we caught sight of another beach (Playa de las Helgueras).

Next beach, Playa de las Heigueras

It was time for a coffee break and a bathroom stop. There was a cafe open at this second beach, where we caught up with Kim, we had crisscrossed multiple times. He’s the one with the pilgrim mindset mentioned on Day 11.

A very short but welcoming walk with trees
The open countryside, aromas included!

Since we are undertaking the Camino as a spiritual pilgrimage, one of our practices is reading the Daily Readings prior to our walk. That way, we can then discuss along the walk. Today’s Gospel reading was from Luke 17:11-19. I was struck by verse 18, when Jesus healed 10 lepers, but only one returned to thank Him. “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner”

This set the tone for my day, to thank God. And there were many reasons. We have the health, time and resources to do this Camino. There has been amazing healing in our family. There has been amazing spiritual awakening and gifts among family members.

This posture of gratefulness and the graces seemed to ripple into our Camino day. The temperatures reached 78F by 11am and then 80F by noon. Walking minutes is fine, but walking hours in this temperature can be a health risk, especially should the body over-heat. Thus, we were making multiple stops under shady areas. However, when we were really in need of a rest break, in a mixed stretch of homes and open countryside, where shade was largely non-existent, we spotted a small shady area at the front of a house driveway. The home owners had actually set up a bench under their over-hanging tree branches, with a Yellow Arrow painted, and the words, “Buen Camino.”

Blessings to the home owners who prepared this for pilgrims.
This shaded stop was so needed to cool down our bodies and allow us to have a sandwich break.

A second occasion was when we reached a crossroads. We had already seen Kim ahead of us and saw him climbing a consistent incline in the distance (of about 0.5km), without any shade at all. We decided to rest in the shadow of a home at this crossroads prior to making this climb. At that point, our conversation was such that it prompted me to use Google Maps to determine how far out lodging was. Maps showed that we could take the other road instead and bypass that other town that Kim was headed towards. It would shaved off probably 40 mins of walking, at the pace we were going. So, we’re opted for this. A handwritten sign confirmed that this route would led to our destination even though the Yellow Arrow was pointing to the route that Kim took. This road was also known as Camino de Santiago!

Sign confirming alternative led to our destination town

A third occasion presented itself when we were climbing this alternative road and nearer the top of the hill. We spotted a group of 4 pilgrims resting under a tree. Clearly, they were there for some time, and were planning to rest till the heat of the day had passed. That prompted us to likewise stop under a shady bush, rather than push on. Sometimes, seeing others do prudent things helps one consider the same.

Finally, when we reached our lodgings for the night, Posada Valle de Guemes, we spotted a bona fide (i.e. swimmable) pool. And our room has an AC that works.

We did swim in the pool, a great way to cool down the body!

Truly a day for Giving Thanks, most especially how God has blessed our Family.

Day 13 Balance

Mon Oct 10. Guemes to Santander. 15km + ferry ride. 5.5 hrs.

It’s jarring when one is getting used to the small villages and towns, to suddenly land in a big city like Santander. People moving around you, non-stop traffic on the roads, the cacophony of consumerism calling out from all the retail shops. Keeping one’s ‘balance’ is important as we walk; but I am getting ahead of myself.

Since we had a shorter walk today, we decided to have coffee plus some local cake at Posada Villa de Guemes before setting out. It was a change of pace, to be served in fine cups and enjoy the setting.

It was a grande size of cafe con leche. The cake is a local delicacy which we decided to have as another pilgrim was having it too!

Walking out of Guemes at 8.30am was along the 2 lane road. There wasn’t much traffic against us. The walk was pleasant, cool and refreshing. We passed mainly countryside, residential areas in Galizano before coming to the coastal route.

I was amazed that such prime land on the cliff edge was grazing land for the cows! The home was set further back from the cliff edge,

This route was very uplifting. The weather was overcast, which meant there wasn’t much direct sun. But that meant blue skies were also a rarity. The coastal route passed along beaches and cliffs.

Imagine having a beach to yourself!
Used a filter to highlight the colors of the sand and skies!
Selfie without the filter
Looking inland
The ocean views kept on taking our breath!

Why ‘balance’ as today’s theme? Look at the next picture and see what’s unusual.

Joon is ahead walking on the dirt path, which is about 15-20 feet from the edge of the cliff. We are about 170 feet above sea level. Consider the (brown) ground that we are coming up to.
Yup, that’s furrowed ground for crops. Earlier we saw remnants of maize kernels.

It’s very rare for prime land like this to be kept for agriculture. In many countries, it would not be surprising to see commercial or residential developments.

Balance. Man using the land for cultivation purposes rather than development.

Balance. Living in the Present and Preparing for the Future. The Future will come to us, Day by Day, until there is no more Day.

Enjoying each other’s presence and companionship.
The final stretch to the ferry point to Santander involved walking several km along the beach till one swings inland at some buildings in the distance.
A cafe for surfers had some great messages. Here is one of them.
Our ferry to Santander. Masks are still required on all public transportation.

Balance. We ended our day with a 6.30pm service at the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asunción de Santander.

Main cathedral
Lower level chapel

Day 14 Luck

Tue Oct 11. Santander. Rest Day.

Our accommodation in Santander, Alojamientos Caliber caters to Camino pilgrims. We booked a double room with attached bathroom, but they have a dormitory with 6 bunk beds. They have a full set up kitchen with electric range top, microwave, refrigerator, utensils, plateware, flatware, etc. And the included breakfast was probably one the best we had in such an accommodation setting – cereals, juice, toast, cheese, ham, yogurt, coffee/tea. Further, there’s a supermarket within 5 minutes. We luck out.

A great breakfast offering

It had rained overnight, and was drizzling when we finally got to breakfast at about 8am. First thing was that we felt lucky to have covered the coastal route yesterday. Second thing was that based on more rain, we felt lucky that this was a Rest Day. However, it seems that weather forecast in the USA are much more accurate. It didn’t rain the rest of the day, just overcast with intermediary bright sunshine.

Rest Days allow one to catch up on the necessary but mundane aspects of traveling. This includes doing the laundry in a laundromat (within minutes from Caliber), booking the next several nights of accommodation, ensuring bills back home are paid, etc!

Being a planner/organizer, it’s refreshing to let the mind ease into a ‘wandering’ mindset. To just explore the city without that list of must-cover/do. In that way, we let what will be, come about. And what is missed, is probably not needed for the rejuvenation of mind and spirit.

Let me define “luck” as something that happens by chance. Thus, as we wandered about the area near the historical section of the city, we stumbled across the Sacred Heart Church, which is a Jesuit church. It’s a lovely church where we spent some time in prayer.

The statue of Christ has four angels at the base. This one is blindfolded with the words “Fe”, which means ‘blind.’

Some other lucky instances – as we backtracked to find the restaurant with the menu del dia, we came across a hotel that had such a menu. Latter looked much more appealing than what we were backtracking to, and it was only Euro2 more per person (total was Euro 16 per person). We made a reservation, and probably had one of the best daily menu on the Camino. It was at Hotel Coliseum – The first course options were about 20% shy of an entree portion! Our second course order of grilled fish had two types of fish, salmon and cod! And the other second course order of fish in batter had like 6-7 small fish in batter. We aim to have a small dinner! We also had better (dry) weather than the weather forecast had indicated this morning!

I won’t bore you with the other sights of Santander that are well written up. Suffice to say, to truly rest, one must not have an agenda packed day!

Day 15 Generosity

Wed Oct 12. Santander to Soto de la Marina. 20km. 5.5 hrs (excluding rest stops).

Our two night stay at Alojamientos Cantiber was one of the great values in our Camino (with discount, Euro 46 per night). Their generous breakfast spread provided enough sustenance for a great start to our walk.

Generous spread – fruits, croissants, bread, cereals, cake, yogurt, ham, cheese, mozzarella, tomato slices, jams, juice, tea and coffee.

Raul, who had greeted us the first day, and is an attentive host, provided directions on getting the Bus Line #1 or #2 to Parque de Mesones, which is at the end of the beach and the start of the coastal path/route. This saved us about 2.5-3.0km walking through the city center.

This coastal route from Santander to Boos de Pielagos is not the “official” Camino route, which is inland. It’s also much longer, 31.7km vs the 13.7km on the inland route. Thus, we decided to spend a night at Soto de la Marina, which is about 20km from Santander. This coastal route is not “Yellow Arrowed” though one does find sporadic yellow arrows at cross roads. However, because others have recorded and uploaded/shared their trek, I downloaded the GPX files and used Wikiloc App on my phone as the directional guidance. I only realized as we were about 5km from Soto de la Marina that leaving the Internet on was rapidly draining my phone battery. One can use the Wikiloc without Internet as it’s GPS signals only. Live and Learn.

Post edit: It wasn’t the Internet that was draining my battery but recording my own trek on Wikiloc!

This coastal route was recorded by an individual and uploaded as GPX files.
One can find others who have done the same.

We reached Parque de Mesones about 8.20am. The weather forecast was overcast with 40% chance of rain about 1-2pm (it was dry throughout our walk!). We climbed a flight of steps that brought us to a paved walkway, that was about 50 feet above sea level. The elevation for the beginning walk was in this range to about 100 feet. This allows one to be ‘closer’ to the action (‘waves’).

In the early part of the walk, we got to a promontory, which allowed us to look back at the beach and part of the city. The rock formations were striking, with white waves crashing upon them. The sun had yet to break through the heavy cloud cover.

The promontory.

There were a handful of walkers and runners, but we pretty much had the path to ourselves. This walkway will pass the lighthouse, Faro de Cabo Mayor.

The operational lighthouse, Faro de Cabo Mayor
Surfers are probably waking up earlier
than Camino walkers!
As we walked, we noticed some fencing above us. We correctly deducted that there was a golf course. We can now see this is a Par 4 hole that we just walked around!
Approaching the lighthouse
Faro de Cabo Mayor
Stone sculpture in courtyard of lighthouse
Close up

The walk for the first 5km or so was on paved walkways. It gradually turned into dirt paths and stony/muddy paths. We were fortunate that it did not rain today. The views continued to be breath taking and we opted to stop at multiple points and soak in the experience.

The clouds put on a show
The coastline

As we walked, we noticed some men walking amongst the bushes and undergrowth. They were seeking or hunting for something as they wore gloves and were carrying plastic bags. We saw men also raking and trucking dried seaweed off the beaches.

The Generosity of Mother Nature, in giving us a no-charge therapeutic environment.

A couple and their two dogs
walking onto the beach.
The Simple Pleasures in Life.

Day 16 Contentment is a Gift or Grace

Thursday Oct 13. Soto de Mayor to Santillana Del Mar. 6.5 hours. Estimated 20km walking as we took a train between Boo and Barreda.

We decided to have a simple breakfast of coffee and pastry s as we checked out. That was wise as that was the only coffee for the day as there were no other cafes along the remainder of the coastal route!

Fortunately we did not need to backtrack the way we entered Soto de Mayor but was able to join up further the coastal route. The joining was at the Playa de San Juan de La Canal. We reached the Playa at 8.37am as the sun was rising. Within 10 minutes after that, the sun was hidden by the thick overcast clouds!

Sun rise as we reached the playa.
Thick overcast clouds will eventually hide the sun

For the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon, we didn’t see Mr. Sun again. It made for a cool walk along the coast. The climb wasn’t terribly difficult, likely within 200-250 feet.

One thing that stood out during today’s walk was the rock formations in the sea that remained as the Ice Age retreated millions of years ago. The oldest formation was estimated to be 135 millions years old!

The numbered text tells the respective age of these formations in the ocean.
The oldest is to the far left.
If you tilt and keep the far horizon in a horizontal frame, you can see the line of rock formations. It took us a couple of years walking to get past most of the formations!
If you zoom in, you will spot a figure in black with their dog!
Unusual line of formations. The inner sheltered areas could be great swimming for kids!
We did see a number of fishermen up among the rocks! We are probably about 80-100 feet above the ocean.
At this stretch, we just saw multiple long waves cresting across amidst the length of the beach!

Once we turned in from the coast line, we walked through a forest on nice cushioned dirt paths! The trees have great shade. We exited the forest to Boo de Pielagos. From there we took a train to Barreda. The rest of the walk was along roads and through residential areas, small towns, countryside before reaching Santillana.

This home owner put a metal sign on their fence. Sometimes when we walk fast, we do not see the well wishes that are posted for us. In Life, that may also happen!

Day 17 Carpe Diem

Friday Oct 14. Santillana Del Mar to Comillas. 7 hours (including lunch stop 40 mins); 22.5km.

Yesterday late afternoon, after checking in at 3.10pm, we freshen up and rested as it was siesta time and things are closed. We made our way to the Colegiata de Santa Juliana to visit before it closes at 6pm. After the visit, as we wandered around the ‘medieval’ part of Santillana Del Mar, we were totally exhausted. There was no way we could wait till 8pm for restaurants to offer the dinner menu.

Fortunately, we found a smaller establishment that offered entree meals at this hour that was minutes from our hotel. So, we are heartily (I had a stewed half chicken). We quickly realized the issue. Because we were walking coastal routes, without stopping for a proper lunch, we had exhausted our body’s store. A change in strategy was needed!

This morning, we decided to have a proper breakfast at the same establishment that we had dinner. We shared a tuna empanada (Euro 5). I had a cup of hot chocolate which totally floored me. In USA, this would be made from cocoa powder with water or milk. I had real chocolate!

This is the non stop machine that serves hot chocolate! There’s a mechanism that continues going around to stop the chocolate from congealing.

As we started our walk at 8.30am, one of the first signs we saw in Santillana was this. It became a guiding light for the day.

To ‘Seize the Day.’

This message came at the right time. I was wrestling with mental fatigue. It came about from the daily exertions, dealing with getting meals before kitchens open at 8pm, and planning ahead (accommodations, unique situations, alternative routing, etc.) Thus, this “Carpe Diem” sign had a significance for me beyond the literal meaning. And that was very much needed. In Life, fatigue can easily degenerate into something worse. A Carpe Diem moment with loved ones might just be the tonic!

The walk in the mooring was very refreshing. In the main, the walk was on country roads with little to no traffic at times. As one looks around at the diffused lighting., the soft pastel colors does reveal how the old masters were influenced in their paintings.

The overcast morning made for a cool walk
The morning slowly brighten up. Two pilgrims who passed us are already in the distance.
The distant mountains just added that extra to this setting.
My sunglasses had highlighted the those tall white weeds. Capturing the sun was unexpected.
From the shadows on the road, it may seem these trees did not help much with the heat. To the contrary, it did somehow cool our walking.
The moon in lower center of sky.

As we reached Cobreces, there was two route options. We decided based on the perceived length of the routes, to take the shorter route. The two routes would reconnect further along. We forgot to note that the shorter route would take us past a Playa (beach). We learnt that means a descent and subsequent ascent!

As we approached the Playa, there was a restaurant with a patio overlooking the beach. Keeping to the theme of the day, we seized the opportunity to stop for lunch. Again, fortune was with us as the lunch menu was only available at 1pm, which would have required a wait of 30 minutes. But the cook agreed to take our orders at 12.30pm. Luck favors those who ask!

Carpe Diem!

After lunch, we climb uphill and walked on some roads that passed residential homes. The temperatures were also climbing with us, Pat the forecast of 71F to 73F. It was taking some effort especially with an uphill ascent on hot asphalt roads. We spotted an ermitage at the top of a 4-way intersection. We planned to rest a bit in the shadow of said structure.

Imagine our joy when said ermitage was opened. It was cool inside, there was a desk with av stamp and book. Like others before us, we wrote our grateful thanks.
Stained glass in ermitage

Having rested and prayed, we soldiered on to our lodging.

A view of Comillas’ seaside section. We stayed in the central core.

Postscript – We met Mary from outside Brisbane, Australia at a cafe. We walked and chatted with her a bit. Yesterday we met a Spaniard named Josea (Joseph in English)!

To seize the day is a mind set, an attitude and most importantly, a grateful heart.