17th September 2018. The Basque country was now behind us, we avoided the duff, crashed into a closed basilica and collected nice bonus miles.
We took our time to let the German Mafia in front of us and didn’t let the early risers on this day bother us too much. So we enjoyed a nice morning mood with the first rays of light of the day right at the start. We wished the Argentinean Girl with Maradonna hairstyle smoking outside another Buen Camino and wandered again.
We passed a group including a young man in full hiking gear with a large backpack. He was wearing a complex-looking leg splint and looked a bit like a Robocop. As we passed him he was talking to others about how he might have to give up. I felt pretty sorry for him at that moment.
The previous evening we had discussed with Stijn to what extent he wanted to continue walking with us, because he could actually be faster because of his physical condition and his lighter luggage. It happened again and again that he had to wait for Vasek and me. He told us that he wanted to think about it and he was open for everything at the moment. But for today he had decided to stay with us after all.
The Camino greeted us immediately with a steep staircase to the beautiful panorama path, which led directly along the sea. This used to be a railroad track for a cargo railway that was used to transport minerals extracted from the sea. In some places this could still be seen from rusted machine parts of the disassembled cranes. But so it was a nicely laid out flat path, somehow a nice peace of cake in between.
In the beginning we were still on the path with some pilgrims from the hostel in Pobeña. Just like them we suddenly saw a ruin of a castello lying directly on the shore. It was closed, but we did Camino Limbo twice, squeezing through holes in the fence without putting our backpacks down.
Further on we headed for the border to Cantabria, from where a not so attractive oil refinery directly on the coast was waiting to be left to the right.
All in all, the Basque Country had offered us many beautiful views, the country was like its people a little rough but warm hearted. I had no regrets that we had already started our Camino in Irun and had not focused on the fact that we absolutely had no chance to reach Santiago de Compostella on the first part of the Camino. So we crossed the border to Cantabria with the great feeling of having crossed a whole province.
Right from the Basque-Cantabrian border the face of the Camino de la Costa changed. The landscape seemed a little bit more Mediterranean. This became clear immediately in the first village, when we walked through perennials with big tomatoes.
Stijn and I soon felt a deep desire for Café con Leche. At the end of a long ascent over the national road we saw a white shining house on the cliffs in front of us. I prophesied, against my better judgment, that there would be a bar. And right, it was the Bar Cavallo with the longed-for hot drink in a very exquisite quality. Stijn and Vasek weren’t satisfied with the other dishes, but I was only after the tasty brew.
Continuing in the direction of Mioño we missed the turnoff to the right, which presumably passed a not very nice tenement barracks, and entered the village. There we saw a funny painted bar.
The question of whether we should slurp a Duff beer in the hot morning sun was turned down by them. So they rather pulled out their smartphones and looked for a way back on the Camino, which we reached after a few hooks through small hollow ways.
Finally we saw Castro Urdiales lying in front of us and a slight hunger feeling crept up on us, which we wanted to fight in a restaurant at the beach. Due to the heat we shifted to various salads that still had to be freshly prepared in the kitchen. Therefore, they gave us some small blinking beep devices that we took outside to the terrace. Here we met well-known pilgrim faces, but we had never talked to the two gentlemen in their prime and only later it turned out that these were also two Australians. So Down-Under was more On-Top as far as Peregrinos throughput concerned.
After the very tasty meal we wanted to go to the basilica in Costa Urdiales, but it was closed, like many other churches before. So we could only walk around it and through the streets of the city we continued on the Camino westwards.
The streets of the city didn’t look as well-kept as in the cities of the Basque country, but in between we saw this jewel that invited us – unsuccessfully – to take a bath:
Vasek guided us with his smartphone along a path that was not the official one. We passed a typical Spanish cemetery. Fitting to this place you have time to think about life and death while walking on the Camino and it occurred to me that thoughts about death are thoughts about the life living before.
I think that in the last hour more people regret never having made the pilgrimage on the Way of St. James than to say, “Oh, if only I had worked more overtime.”
In between, we also reached a point where we could not go any further and which was probably also used by people from the area for romantic rendezvous. While we climbed up an embankment, the white fronds of the man- and woman-high grasses waved us goodbye with a soft rustle.
Shortly before Islares we reached a point with a legendary view under small crippled trees, which was perfect for a Snickers break. At least that’s what Vasek and Stijn thought. I couldn’t get much out of a fat and sugar bomb that could easily be formed by the heat of the sun and left it out in favour of my Belgian bottle from Spa, in which my Source hose was stuck.
Now it was not far to the hostel in Islares. We saw a nice house with view to the sea in front of us. But a note on a lamppost told us that the hostel was closed. The note wished us for the 2.9 km to the next hostel a “Buen Camino”. We did not shrug our shoulders for long and moved further west.
So we had two bonus miles to the campground in Playa Arenillas and the three of us were assigned a comfortable 4-person family tent. Before that we met a rather serious Korean with a pleasant low giggle proportion, whom we had already met in Pobeña. He came out of the bistro of the camping site and asked us to come in.
Our tent was actually one of the best accommodations on the whole Camino. We had a bunk bed and two single beds, so everybody could sleep on the lower level. Inside there was enough storage space, a table and chairs to relax in front of the tent. Additionally, there were almost endless showers and washing places on the site, both of which we used extensively. We could hang up the laundry on linen directly at the tent.
Before we went to the bistro for food and drink I, like Vasek, took care of my daily self-medication in the tent, through which now a slight vapour of Sterillium passed. It had something like the MASH series, except that we were here in Cantabria and not in Korea in a medical tent. But the dry cynical remarks during the operations would be of a similar nature.
The food, on the other hand, was a total bust. The patatas in the camping bar turned out to be sticky and still very uncrispy fries with supermarket ketchup. Apparently, also Thor, the nordic thunder god was angry about that, as strong thunderstorms came up while we were eating and drinking, afterwards we enjoyed the freshly washed air.
Compared to the food the wine was the better, afterwards we had a round of wine glasses filled with a mild Veterano-Brandy. So we were relatively painless state at the end of the evening as we swayed back to the tent.
By the way, the German Mafia was in the neighbouring tent. We managed successfully to ignore them.
Conclusion of the day: When a prophet goes to the mountain, a bar with Café con Leche can wait for him up there.