I’ve arrived to Cantabria, and then some.
Saturday, June 20, has been my longest day on the Camino in terms of kilometres (there have been days that have seemed longer with a lot less kilometres). 38.4 of them. That’s 23 miles for the people from the United States reading this. I really didn’t mean for it to be so many, but I have reached a good “stopping point”, should I need to take an extended break and come back to the Camino later: Castro Urdiales (Castro).
It started out innocently enough. I arrived in Ortuella, had a café con leche as there were no pintxos de tortilla at the early hour of 9, and walked back to the fork in the Caminos to walk the one on the itinerary from Eroski. It was the bidegorri from hell (bidegorri is Euskera for bike path). It went on and on and on and on and on and on and had been going on since Sestao on the previous day. And it being a Saturday morning, a ton of people were out and about getting their morning exercise in as it was a beautiful day, about 25ºC (mid 70s F). I walked on.
The bar along the way that is said to give stamps for credenciales was closed this Saturday morning. Grrrr. Then I came to a fork in the road where one path went away from the bidegorri, and the other path didn’t. I opted for the one that didn’t as I did NOT want to deal with more bikes.
I later found myself in a neighbourhood where the señoras were nice enough to tell me which way to go when I was confused and there was no arrow. Vizcaya may have 500 arrows to get out of Termibus, but they seem to have no arrows at some confusing places. They said just go to the beach, so I did.
I’ve been to the beach in Muskiz, La Arena, before, and it’s quite nice. I wasn’t sure how far I was going to walk. I stopped for my pintxo de tortilla and a wifi check as I had to answer some important emails. It was 10 kilometres (6 miles, that one’s easy!) from Ortuella, and it had gone by fast. I wasn’t ready to end my day, and I wanted to arrive to Cantabria, which is very Spanish. So I continued past the bridge and up some stairs to some incredible views of Pobeñas. I wanted to take more picture, and the guy at the snack bar kept saying “El Camino por allí!” (The Camino goes that way). I was like “I know, I know!” Leave me alone to admire the beauty. I ran into some Spanish peregrinos who had been swimming in the beach, and I am mad I didn’t stop for a dip in the sea. I wonder how far they got.
I’m not sure at what point the Camino entered Cantabria, but I was planning on stopping in Ontón and catching either the 1:30 or 4:30 PM bus back to Bilbao. Alas, God was laughing at me for my plans. Oh how he was laughing. I was so impressed with the stretch between Pobeña and Ontón and planning on a menú del día en Ontón. Ontón had some beautiful ruins and a closed bar and some yellow arrows I mistakenly followed. Oh, just a little bit more to a bigger town with the bus stop and food!
By the time I realised my mistake of following the traditional Camino and not the shortcut, it was too late to go back, and already 2 PM, time for lunch. Had I looked at my guide, I would’ve read about the shortcut and arrived to Castro in a short 8 miles, making the day’s total of 27. The next village, Baltezana was having a festival, and it was a small town festival and I felt like an intruder (though I know if it were a typical Spanish festival, they would’ve welcomed me and gave me vino, but there’s that fobia social thing I have. As I have crossed into Cantabria, the typical Spanish stereotypes of being friendly and welcoming apply.)
So I continued on. Even here, I could’ve backtracked, but I still hadn’t broken out the guide. As I began to ascend La Helguera, I decided to see what villages were around I could take a bus on to Castro or back to Bilbao. This is when I read about the shortcut along N-634. (The shortcut does have the more impressive entrance to Castro, as I was on it during my last visit to Castro. However, the traditional Camino is beautiful. For those staying in Pobeñas, I recommend this Camino. For those wanting to do Portugalete-Castro, take N-634).
The vías verdes (old train tracks converted into walking paths) took me through some beautiful mountain scenery. Otañas looks quite nice too, although I only admired it from the path. I ran into some cows and some donkeys running away today.
I also found three four-leaf clovers in one place while resting a bit. I suppose I’m about to run into better luck.
In Santallún, I finally had a quick lunch, another pintxo de tortilla (my diet starts this week) and some M&Ms. I also finally got a stamp in the bar in the credenciales.
I debated about catching the next bus to Castro and coming back to this point the next day, but as there wasn’t another one for an hour, I went ahead and walked the last 5 km to Castro. Sámano has a nice church. I saw the sign that said Castro 2 KM and said “to hell with the arrows” as I was tired! It happened to be the Camino.
I arrived to Castro and a walk along the beach before catching the bus to Bilbao just as it went away. I’m not sure when I’ll continue with the Camino (hopefully soon) as now I’m getting to a point where I’m going to want to stay in albergues and such, or kill my bank account with buses from Laredo and Santander to Bilbao.
According to one guide, I’ve hit the 200 km mark. I’m not sure if I trust it or not. It seems I just hit the 100 km mark!