I slept really deeply last night but had a number of very vivid nightmares which I can’t say I’ve had for a long time. Maybe it was the canned meatballs I ate for dinner last night. I hunted down a bar with wifi tonight and sat next to a group of 7 older men playing cards who were obviously poking fun at one another because there was a lot of scowling followed by laughter going on. Here’s the video I took of the Albergue in Islares last night…
I was on the road by 8am this morning as I wasn’t exactly sure how long this stage was going to be, and I wanted to get a head start on the rain. The forecast said the rain would begin at 10am which would give me a pleasant two hours of walking along the coast and 200m up to the Chapel of San Mames. Almost on cue, just after 10 the rain hit.
I was confused by distances today as I walked 4km to El Pontarron and then saw a sign that said 24km to Laredo which was only meant to be 17 according to my notes. I had plenty of time regardless so I stopped for a coffee in a cute bar in Guriezo where the woman miraculously spoke English. I had so many things I wanted to talk about but she was busy with other things, hence my starvation of conversation continues.
The trail was grossly muddy in sections and for the first time I was actually praying for more road walking. I think my feet and legs have really got used to the hard surfaces which is a blessing because the vast majority of walking since Bilbao has been on large and small roads. I took off all my layers except my t-shirt to go up the 200m climb in my rain jacket, but by the top the rain was hammering down, and once the wind picked up it was bitterly cold. Unfortunately I didn’t have ANY cover for another hour to even put an extra layer on as it would have got drenched had I stopped. Thoughts of the PCT in Washington came flooding back and I could only be thankful that a town with a cosy warm bar was only hours away, rather than days!
Eventually I reached the outskirts of Liendo where I took shelter in an open garage where I found a man chopping wood. I was going to see if he minded me putting on a few extra layers but he jumped in and told me there was an Albergue 1km up the road. I moved at a pace halfway between power walking and jogging and reached the town centre with the kind of cosy warm bar I’d been dreaming about. I tried to dry off a little but still entered dripping wet with all eyes at the bar staring at me. I pointed at the hot chocolate packets and ordered tortilla de patatas even though I’m officially sick of it now.
When I left the bar it was still raining but I put on my long shirt and vest and felt a lot better during the stretch to Laredo. The trail took a detour to a small town called Tarrueza which I think a car on the national route stopped to tell me to avoid, but I was already down the hill when they whistled at me. I wasn’t sure if they were trying to warn me of danger but like the theory of most hikers, backtracking is always the last option.
The trail also took a long windy way into Laredo, but the views were beautiful and there was a monument for the Camino right at the top of the hill. On the way down the hill I passed a sign for a restaurant called Cantabria with a Camino symbol on it. I thought they might have a Peregrino special, but when I arrived I found it was quite a fancy establishment. It was too late to make a quick exit as everyone’s attention was on the hiker with a dripping wet pack still attached to her back. I was shown to a table complete with white table cloth and cotton napkin and ordered the mushroom crepes and some kind of incredibly tasty fish which has changed my idea of Spanish cuisine completely.
I drank a bottle of still water from a wine glass and ended the meal with the best coffee I’ve had yet. I thought I would feel completely lethargic, but I actually bounced out of the restaurant ready to tackle the last 5km to Colindres. I decided to go this route rather than worry about the ferry to Santona which was a great choice as I later discovered the ferry wasn’t running which would have been devastating. Instead I walked in the thunder and lighting for another hour, a little concerned my aluminium hiking poles might act as conductors, so I kept them as low to the ground as possible. When I reached the Albergue the door was locked but I had the number to call in my notes. The woman didn’t speak English but I managed to take down another phone number which she read out in Spanish to call. The second number was for the local police who also didn’t speak English. Somehow I managed to communicate that I was at the front door to the Albergue and about a minute later a police car showed up to escort me to the bar which had the key. It felt incredibly odd being driven in a cop car to a random bar to pay 5 euros for a key and get another stamp in my passport. They then drove me back again and wished me well. Gracias Carlos and the other guy whose name I couldn’t pronounce.
It’s a bit weird being the only person in these Albergues which have beds for at least 18 people and must be bustling in summer. Even stranger is that this one has two doors which are locked and I think one must be the toilet. I’ve tried the key 100 times with no luck. I went to a pub close by to use the bathroom but I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do if I have to go in the middle of the night. You don’t even want to know the creative options which have been floating through my head!