Sunday, 30 September 2012

Comillas to Unquera about 27km

Comillas to Unquera via San Vincent de la Barquera about 28km
Had pasta for a change last night with a salad to start with, so at least I got some vegetables. The pension was lovely and quiet last night so it was a good nights sleep and they did the washing as well! Off as normal and found an open cafe at about 1015 for breakfast. Has a lovely large cup of coffee with a egg and anchovy roll - yum yum. In all it was a quiet walk and did not even have the first dog bark at us until 0915, must be Sunday morning. The main parts of the walk were through meadows and grass lands with the occasional roar of the surf. The most notable sighting being a beautiful Pine Martin.  From a previous AdP we know that a few days ago we were the 6339 and 6340 pilgrims to walk to the AdP in Guemes which is significantly more than a few years ago but still much less than on the Frances route. The English represented less than 70 of that number and more Canadians had walked the route than Brits! Fortunately, last nights heavy rain had stopped by morning and we had another dry walk. It was 27 degrees when we stopped at about 1330 today. Another nice Hostel that cost 30€ for us both inc breakfast. Off to Po or Llanes tomorrow which will be between 24 and 26kms as we finally leave Cantabria and enter Asturias. 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Santillana to Comillas

Santillana del Mar to Comillas about 24km
A fairly poor nights sleep despite the lovely room. The church bells rang all night so on every half hour there was a single ding and on the hour they rang the number of the hour and just in case you missed it the first time they rang again 5 mins later!! In addition the flock of mosquitoes flying around my head added to the disturbance  all topped off by the chickens sounding off at
0500!! Still had a pleasant stroll today with plenty of leafy lanes and pastural scenes. Pity it was 1100 before the first cafe was found open.  Ordered two coffees and two bocadillos with Serrano ham, cheese and tomatoes. Got it all ok but the rolls were more like a whole French stick each. Still at least we have lunch. Found the AdP ok but again not open until 1600 so went looking for alternatives. Mike did not fancy the first one as it right over a bar so off we went and struck lucky as the next place was still only 30€ and it was quiet and had a washing machine. All settled in now at 1400 and about to go out to eat our rolls and find some wifi. Just started raining at about 1430 so very glad to be off the trail.  Off to Unquera tomorrow which should be about 28kms. 

Friday, 28 September 2012

St Cruz Bezana to Santillana de Mer

St Cruz de Bezana to Santillana del Mar about 28kms
Found a pizza place last night that was open before 2100 so two very happy people last night. To top it all mike had two portions of tiramisu so he should sleep well. Off out at 0730 with a fairly easy route to Boo where we hop onto a train for two minutes to cross the river. Evidently, the train company got so fed up with hikers walking over the bridge that they do not charge!  Trip over the bridge was short and simple but the lack of Camino arrows was a little disconcerting.  Really glad we had Google maps today as some of  route could be quite awkward to find. However, got here without any real incidents  except for one dog. We were walking along a quiet road and could see a dog on the side with the pavement. It looked like and over grown old Labrador. Mike crossed over to the other side but I said 'it's ok he is just an old softy'. Given that the majority of dogs here keep well away from people it seemed ok. However, when I got closer he jumped up at me barking and growling so I am back pedalling furiously whilst trying to get my hiking stock out!! Fortunately it seems he was more noise that anything but he clearly did not want me on his pavement. Walked through Polanco which seems like a town around a huge steel mill so we were glad to get past it. Thereafter, choose our own route and got off the busy road to a side track and stopped for a short picnic lunch and then walked the last few kms to S de M which is a beautiful medieval town. Regrettably, it is also very popular with tourists so there is a lot of the typical tat. Found the AdP which is at the rear of the museum of Jesus Otero ( don't know who he was yet), but as it was only 1315 and it did not open until 1600 we went looking for an alternative. Found a lovely little quaint pension with a twin room for 30€. It is a room that Christa would be very happy with. Interestingly, when we asked about a room the lady was very prompt to tell us that the AdP was just around the corner and was cheaper.  Had a little stroll around the village which is full of Spanish tourists. The place is very pretty and vey all looked after. Clearly a very well known and important place  that is also popular with the pilgrims as i saw quite a few on my stroll including a French man we met a few days back but he took the train from Santander - cheat! Off to Comillas tomorrow  which is about 25kms.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Guemes to St Cruz de Bezana via Santander

Guemes to St Cruz de Bezana
Well spent an hour being talked at in Spanish at last nights meeting in the AdP but at least we got some info about today's route and more importantly about a place to stay on the way. By the book this section is more than 50kms long with no info about accommodation along the way. However, we heard last that the Cafeteria Nimon in St CdB had beds. So using my trusty friend google maps each for the place and saved it in my phone for later. After the meeting there was a communal dinner which made a distinct change from the standard fare although  vegetables were still mostly missing if you don't count potatoes. Spent most of the first part of the. Other listening to the frogs chorus snored by mike and a Spanish chap in perfect disharmony until I kicked mikes foot.  Up and had  breakfast which started at 0730. Don't really see the point of hanging around for some dry bread and overly sweet marmalade washed down with a bowl of 'fighting' coffee. Still it stopped mike wanting to halt at every  bar!  Walk was fairly simple to Somo with a very  boring flat straight bit on a cycle track next to a highway for a few kilometres.  Waited 30 mins for the short ferry trip over to Santander and then had the boring flog through the city. The last 10 km gradually got better until we missed a marker somewhere and ended up next to a very large motorway. Had to find a bridge over and then after a detour of a out 3km got back on track. Very glad at this point to have the cafe in maps as it would have been very hard to locate otherwise.  Still in a good room with two single beds that once again look more like a double - at least mike should get a good nights sleep again! Plan to go out and get a few bits from the supermarket later but this time will bring them back to the room before we go out for dinner! 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

At Guemes

34kms walked today but at least most of it was flat. Some good tracks on the way and some spectacular beaches with a stiff climb in between. Again lots of very new empty houses - you can see where all the Germans' euros have gone! Walked to this place as we were told it was the best on the whole Camino and it is certainly very good and very clean. We were met with a glass of water and some fresh figs - wonderful.  Done the dhobying and now waiting for the big get together at 1930. 

Miono to Liendo and off towards Guemes

Miono to Liendo
I think mike is getting familiar with my reluctance to hang around and wait for breakfast in the mornings. However, we had a healthy breakfast of water and a nectarine on the trail after we left the pension and stopped for the inevitable egg and potato combination (this time in a small roll with cheese and ham) in the first town after about 4 km  Last nights Pension was a lovely place even though the two single beds were placed right next to each other like a double! However,  Mike said he had the best nights sleep since the start of the Camino and he thought that was because 'someone was next to him' ! Then in the shower he asked if I was 'turned on yet' - I assumed he was asking if I had turned the shower on- I hope it was!! Pretty good stroll along the coast today with a total journey of about 24km. We missed a sign (or it did not exist) near the start so stayed next to the road for a while but we soon got back on the Camino. Stopped at Liendo today (25 Sep) which is a three horse town although two of them have left!  However, the AdP is good and clean. Also it has a AWM which is very useful to have every week or sonas washing our clothes in cold water in a wash basin is probable just adequate. When we got to the AdP it was closed which is fairly normal until about 1500, however, a notice in Spanish seemed to imply that we should go to the local bar. We duly did and the barman just gave us the key. Interestingly , the notices in English and French both said something totally different about where to get the key. Had a lovely slap up lunch in the single bar that we had seen so far of olives and peanuts. He obviously was not expecting a rush. We have now been told that in the plaza nearby there is a better bar with real food for tonight and a library with wifi.
 Have been utilising the tech (iPhone) a bit better now as well. As long as I use 'maps' to look at the next days walking area when I have wifi then even without mobile data I can still see the maps on the phone and use gps to track our position. Very useful to locate the AdP and hotels. Another benefit of the time on the trail is now there is a noticeable difference between the colour of the white lines on the roads and mikes legs. Photo to prove this will be posted ASAP when I have a PC to connect my camera to the web.  Two very smelly hikers (boy and girl) have just walked into the AdP so I have just opened all the windows. Glad we stopped here today as about an hour after we arrived the heavens opened and it is pouring down. With a bit of luck it will stop before tomorrow. If all goes well tomorrow we have a longish day of about 34kms to Guemes where we are told is the best AdP of the whole Camino.

Liendo towards Guemes
Had one of the few menu de Pelegrenos last night which made a great change from the racciones choices of various mixtures of egg and potato. At the bar we saw a local order a 'special' drink so we thought we would try it.  After sampling it and a lot of confusing discussion it turned out to be their version of grappa with honey in it. Also bought some food for a snack on the way this morning but left the bag in the bar! Fortunately, the rain has stopped and it seems to be a clear sky which is good as we probably have a long walk today. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Portugalete to Miono in Calabria

Portugalete to Miono
At about 1600 on sun afternoon we heard a band strike up and thought we were probably in for a noisy night. Went down to look at there is a bandstand with about 100 locals dancing in the square! Fabulous to see - just another part of the European socialising that we seem so poor at. Here the streetwalker full of families talking, playing and eating. I know it is not just because the weather is better as I would see the same groups out in Belgium! Took the option of more racciones for dinner as we did not want to wait until 2200! Off at around 0730 and in Portugalete they have really thought of the pilgrims as there is an automatic pavement escalator going from the low level of the town next to the river to the top of town, which must be a climb of at least 100m! As we have already climbed this once I will not feel that i am cheating. Unfortunately , we took a wrong turn at the beginning and missed the escalators. good stroll today and we got back to the coast. Planned to stop at El Haya but did not see the hotel so walked another 5km until we found a little pension to stay at. Stopped on the way at about 1030 as mike had complained since we left Portugalete that we did not stop at any of the bakeries their. Miono is a fairly small place with a good sized beach. Few bars or places to eat but I am sure we will find something. Should be off to El Pontarron tomorrow via Castro UrdialesI. Having walked the Francis last year i have found the Norte more demanding - both in terms of climbs and finding accommodation. Have found the tourist info places invaluable and in fact the one in Deba was very helpful. They gave us a good map guide and an up to date accommodation guide. Many of the albergue de perigrinos are closed after mid sept so we have used pensions instead. The way has been mostly marked well although some towns and cities can be challenging. Especially, when they choose not to us a yellow arrow but a more upmarket shell on the ground or a posh silver sign. Clearly, there are also a number of alternative routes on the Norte which can be hard to find and awkward to choose between. It is a pity that there is not yet a comprehensive guide that inc all of the options and the albergues. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Bilbao to Portugalete

Has our meal quite late for us last  night.  The barman said that food would be served from 2100 but we forgot to compensate for 'Spanish timing' which like in Italy means sometime after the time I told you!! Cook wandered in at 2130 looking a bit ruffled so we decided just to have a selection of light bites (with a very  fine rioja) and get off to bed. Left at 0730 with a steep climb followed by a drop and another steep climb, but at last we got to the top and the next 45 kms is mostly flat with just one small 250 m lump in the way. Stopped at Portugalete after 20km but unfortunately the AdP was closed. Found the tourist info place and they directed us to a little two star hotel for 30€ for the room for two. It is a little quaint and old fashioned but all the required bits are there. Portugalete is famous for its suspension bridge that two carriages hang from to take people across the river. Photos will be posted later. The first part of today's hike was good being over hills and through trees. However, the middle section was dreadful being either through shopping malls or along awful alleys and extremely smelly rivers and drains. Still, all done for the day and now I am sat near the river where there are a whole string of bars and restaurants having a little drink and eating a few racciones - these are snacks slightly larger than tapas.  I have a piece of tortilla, a small stuffed pepper and what appears to be a squashed egg with a strip of dried ham - yum yum. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sat 22 Sep - Resting in Bilbao!

A very pleasant day spent in Bilbao. Eventually , found the bus into the centre and went to the Guggenheim museum which was fabulous - both on the inside and out. The best part by far had to be the david hockney exhibition. I has wanted to see it in london but  ever got to it so a real stroke of luck to dind it here. His work os stunning and thee is a copious amount of it. In addition the work he did with an IPad is especially good.  Had a quick snack and mike picked up a few more compeeds for his blisters and then he went back to the adp to give his feet a rest. I stayed in town for a look around. Went to the art museum which was also very good the took a stroll around the city.  A striking place that is extremely different in places. Again there is a huge amount of stainless steel around both in the constructions as well as gates and barriers.  Someone is Spain is making a lot of money.  The waterfront area around the Guggenheim is full of modern architecture. In fact the modern part is almost as impressive as Frankfurt. When you walk to the old town it's like going back to the 16th century. Narrow streets and high buildings. However, they are mostly very well maintained and the area was thrumming with people.  The city also has very good transport inc buses, trams and an underground.  Caught local  bus back to the adp and saw a few pilgrims cheating by using the public transport. This albergue is really more of a youth hostel and I think there is and AdP further up the hill where we go tomorrow. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Photo links and link to Mike Smith´s alternative view!

You should be able to see all the Camino Norte photos Here Some are just of the place names so I know where they are!

You can find Mike´s alternative view of the trip in his blog here  The alternative view

Fri 21 Sep - Bilbao

Lovely dinner last night with the local version of Russian salad to start with followed by pork with peppers and yogurt to finish. Only 5 of us in the AdP which was very clean and in a great location in the middle of nowhere. Out at 0745 after breakfast of fresh bread and marmalade. Good hike into Bilbao through woods and fields until the inevitable scruffy city outskirts. First AdP looked very poor so we  carried on through the city. Has to find a cafe with wifi to google the next AdP and even with google maps we took a wrong turning. 1530 by the time we got to the AdP  but once there we got two single rooms with bathrooms for 15.70€ inc a picnic breakfast as we leave before the normal one starts at 0800.  Looks like there are PCs with wifi here so I should be able to sort out the photos tonight. There is dinner here as well so I doubt we will go out to eat as we would have to walk a out 1 km back into the city to find a place!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

19/20 Sep and the sun comes out

Wed 19 Sep  A good evening in Deba with our first proper pilgrims menu. We had a lovely veggy stew to start with and then peppers stuffed with seafood. Pud was slightly strange as it appeared to be cold runny custard with a biscuit in it!  However, at 10€ inc water and wine it can't be too bad. Got off at 0645 and stopped at the bakers for a coffee and bun as well as some fresh bread for lunch. Plan was then to walk to Markina which was about 24 kms. A little wet at the start but it dried up by about midday. Much as I try not to compare this walk with my Camino Frances last year I must say that so far this is a tougher walk. Far more ups and downs and we went from 0 to 400m back to 200 then up to 450 and back to 100 and finally to 350 m for then end of the day. On the way mike showed a strange fascination for slugs feeling the need to point out every one. We got to Markina at about 1430 and the AdP was closed until 1500 so we walked on to a private pension but never found it!  At this point we decided to walk an extra 6 km to the next AdP in the book at Bolinar. Got there to be told that the AdP was actually another 2  km further on and that proved to be all up hill. Finally arrived at about 1600 having completed about 31 km in the day. However, this AdP is lovely and there is a promise of good food tonight. Off to Gernika tomorrow. No wifi here so this will not be posted tonight and the photos will also have to wait. One of the disadvantages of the damp weather is that it makes it difficult to dry our clothes fully so last night I slept in my socks to make sure they were dry for the morning. 
Last nights meal was good and not so good. The good was the tuna salad, then peppers then fish with a sweet cake for pus. The not so good was the local special of tripe in tomato sauce! One of the very few things I hate to eat is tripe. However, given the bill for two inc wine, beer, cheese and olives was 30€ it was well worth it. A great AdP last night with just the two of us in a room for four. Off at 0730 with our still wet washing on our bags. A good 19 km walk to Gernika and now at 1300 we have just finished lunch and are about ready to walk the last 8 km for today to the next AdP. This extra bit today will help reduce the books 32km route for tomorrow to Bilbao. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

18 Sep 2012 and it rains!

A good meal in Getaria although a little expensive. However, we did choose a fish restaurant next to the sea and had fresh grilled sardines to start and turbot as the main course. All very good and complemented by the local white wine. Off at 0730 with a little rain in the air that gradually became more persistent. It turned into 'lazy rain' which is the type that once it gets to you cannot be bothered to go any further so it just lays all over you. Stopped a couple of times for foot maintenance, inc once where the local cider was on sale by the footpath. Ended the day at Deba after only 17 kms. Stopped in part owing the the persistent drizzle but also because the only other option appeared to be to walk another 24kms to the next AdP at Markina which is tomorrows destination. Went to the tourist info office in Deba to get the key to the local AdP and paid 5€ each for the night. All very basic but functional, just the type of place that Ian who walked with me last year loved!  The lady in the tourist office was extremely helpful and have us a copious amount of local info as well as a guide book for Camino Norte as well as a very good accommodation list. There are also a few places with Menu de Pelegrenos available in town so tonight is my walking companion's (Mike Smith) first experience of the real Camino spirit. Hopefully, it will be a little dryer tomorrow but if not so be it. Have our cheese and meat for tomorrow's walk as there appears to be no where on the way to stop and the local bakers opens at 0645. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Added exta for 17 Sep

A short addition to today's comments. While laying on the bed reading waiting for the Spanish to serve food after 8 pm we suddenly heard the sound of running water.  I thought mikes stomach was being noisy but it was his drinking water sac evacuating all over the floor! It's amazing how far 1.5 ltrs goes!!

17 Sep with about 70kms done.

Got away at 0730 this morning after a quick breakfast of microwaved coffee and a stale biscuit. Path went immediately up to an elevation of about 300 m and then stayed mainly on the ridge for the next ten k amongst trees and open farmland until we dropped down to Orio for a quick snack and some foot maintenance. The. We went up hill again towards our expected destination of Zarautz, but we got to the east side of town by midday so carried on to the centre. This place has a huge sandy beach that is very popular with the local surfers and a lovely looking 9 hole golf course. It was still a little early so we headed off to the next place called Getaria.  Got there just after 1330 when most places including the tourist info office was closed!  Tried a couple of places for rooms. It they were either full of closed! Then found a posh 'Relais' hotel for 88 euros a night for the room, but they told us of another place close by. So eventually stopped in a little two star pension for 50€ that gave us a nice two bedded room with a private bathroom - lovely.  It is now 3 pm and all ablutions are done so I will take a stroll around what looks to be a pretty little village. It looks like the local special is fresh sardines so that will do me for tonight. No telephone service here so no calls or texts today. Off towards Deba tomorrow but as that is now only a out 18 Kms away we will probably walk on if all is ok. My feet are aching  but otherwise seem ok given that we have walked about 70 Kms in 3 days. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sun 16 Sep

Got away a little later than standard owing in part to the poor nights sleep because it was so hot. However, had a quick breakfast and left at 0830.  A good days walk thereafter ending in San Sebastian at about 3pm. The walk was primarily along good woodland tracks with some pretty hefty climbs.  Stopped about 4 Kms before the end for a lovely lunch of calamari and prawns. I think we walked about 28 Kms today which was a bit further than planned because last nights AdP was a further away  from the start and today's is at the far end of town. Feet and legs are fine although we probably walked a bit too fast for so early in the hike. I think we are both too stubborn to say slow down.  The start of this Camino certainly seems more demanding than the Camino Frances. Still, all settle now for tonight with a planned earlier start tomorrow. Also, tomorrow's walk should be relatively short and we have the next AdP booked.  Temp ranged from about 12 to 25 regs today and is expected to get warmer still - good job mike has a fleece with him (I think his 'mum' made him bring it). 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Sat 15 Sep - We are off!

Pretty good start with easyjet doing what it was paid for. Got to Biarritz on time but as I expected there was. No bus service to Bidart. So jumped into a taxi which dropped us off at Bidart about 15 mins later. Good walk today of about 27 kms in total. Most of it was along the coast once we found the correct path! Cloudy to start with, which was a blessing as full sun would have been too much for the first day. That said it reached 25 degs and was clear  blue sky by the end of the day. Only a pity the French do not clean up their dog mess as the aroma along the path was a little high in places. Found the ferry ok but it took a bit of wandering to find the AdP. However, all settled in now with washing done and about to go and find some food. The link to the photos is where you should see an album titled Camino Norte for all the new photos.  Buon Camino!!!