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We got up early (as always) looking forward to the breakfast we had paid extra for only to find the hosts trying to upsell us. Instant coffee was included, but “machine coffee” was another €1 or 2. Fortified on 2-3 cups of instant coffee, we headed up hill. Our friend Leo passed us in a bit of a hurry. He wanted to get a swim in at one of the beaches, so he was off like a shot. Soon after a sketchy couple with a dog crossed our path. They looked like they had robbed a second-hand store and the dog looked a bit disappointed in the humans it had been stuck with. They seemed to be carrying everything in random bags.
We met Leo again at a bakery and chatted until the weird couple showed up and their dog tried to start a fight with another dog. It was a good excuse to get moving. We took the slightly longer route that hugged some crumbling cliffs. It was a beautiful walk that necessitated dodging mountain bikers, and also completely unthinkable in the US’s litigious society.
We made it to a beach that we needed to walk along for a mile or two to reach the third ferry on the Del Norte. It was a huge beach and would have been a joy had it not been miles into a long walk and heavy packs on our backs. Along the path, I saw what appeared to be a naked guy, so I looked away; Laura didn’t see him until she saw more of him than most people would want to see. Note: Naked guys prefer sunbathing on trails. We made the ferry, but hung out and had pizza before crossing. Leo joined us fresh from another swim.
The next morning, we did a short and not so scenic walk through Santander to Boo de Pielages. We decided to go short due to the nature of the next leg. We had to take a train 1 stop, but logistics were vague in the books, so we thought we would hedge our bets and spend a bit of time figuring it out. We met a great group. A real UN of people that ate a community meal on a tablecloth with the world map printed on it. Our New Zealand friend quickly found out that while Fiji and the Faroe Islands made the cut, New Zealand didn’t. I think the world would be a sadder and less Hobbity place without New Zealand. The next morning, the entire albergue emptied as we tried to figure out how to pay for our train ride. Now let me explain the train. For hundreds of years a ferry carried pilgrims across the river. Then the train was built and the ferry system died. Pilgrims then would walk the 100 meters or so across the river on the train tracks…until people got hurt/died. The police and deaths put a stop to walking the tracks, so now the official route calls for 1 stop on a train.
The station had no machines to buy tickets and no employees to buy them from, so 20 confused pilgrims climbed on the train and hoped to pay on or after the train. Only an annoyed conductor on the train greeted us on the train. He said nothing and we found out that the station we needed to get off on was also closed. Another loss of income for Spain.
We got off the train and quickly spread out over the various confused arrows and other markings on the trail(s). We walked with the Kiwi, Clive. We swapped life stories and walked.
In Santillana del Mar, we stayed in an albergue that was half curiosity shop, half albergue. The owner was a nice guy but super quirky. Once he learned that our home town was Loveland, it was over. All sorts of random phrases and words were shouted at us and jovial laughter with “Loveland” mixed in liberally. Santilana del Mar is a fun town that is part renaissance festival, part museum, and tourist trap. It is famous for a cave painting of a bison.
We slipped out of Santillana del Mar an hour or so before dawn to avoid the heat and get to the destination in time for lunch. Camillas was a resort town, but mostly closed for winter. We were happy to leave as food was a hassle to find. From Comillas we headed to Unquera learning Spanish and teaching English to a guy from Madrid. The next morning we planned for a 30+ kilometer walk along the cliffs and coast to Llanes. The walk there was long and once we left the beach, we took the wrong path. Instead of needing to backtrack 1-2 kilometers, we ended up at our albergue’s doorstep, but having climbed and lost 300 meters of elevation. Here we met Josepha and Anglica. Josepha is from (and spoke) Spanish and German. Angelica is from northern Italy and spoke English, Spanish, German, and Italian. Over dinner and the bonus bottle of wine that Josepha contributed, we had a hoot. From there we had a long hot walk to Ribadesella. Google maps did the Google thing and tried to convince us to walk through 2 meter high blackberry bushes. We arrived hangry, tired, and more than a little sore, but just in time to get lunch before the restaurants closed till 8 PM. The hotel/hostel we stayed in had a friendly dachshund mix that hung out with us while we drank wine and ate dinner.