Camino del Norte: Day 8, Pobena to Islares

I think it is probably impossible to be gluten free in Spain. I always thought that the French were the ones big on breads and pastries, but after spending time in both countries I’m convinced that it is the Spanish. Every single meal consists of something with bread. In all honesty, I don’t think most families go a day without buying a baguette or two. Just my fun fact for the day.

Anyways, we had an interesting day today! We woke up early and got to catch the sunrise as we were hiking up to the top of some coastal cliffs. It was probably the most picturesque walk we’ve had this whole trip. I thought the whole Camino was going to be like today’s walk, but the ugly industrial days mixed with beautiful beach days make them a little bit more appreciated. There was lots of rolling hills with farmland right up to the edge of rock beaches with sheep, horses, and cows. All who probably had the best view out of anyone.

After the only big ascent and descent of the day we came to a hidden beach with a few people camping in vans right on the water. We decided it was a good spot to take a break for breakfast and watch the waves. There also happened to be a bench perfectly placed for us to watch the water and the dogs playing on the beach!

The town we were headed to wasn’t too far away, but it was absolutely beautiful looking down at it from atop the sea cliffs. We decided it was best to stay somewhere a little bit closer because it was cheap and had a lot of amenities. What I liked most as we started walking along the beach of Castro-Urdiales was that they had ornate benches and planters with intricate tile pictures all along the walkway. I also really liked that the distance was short to the albergue, it was on the beach, and we got a donut on the way.

Once we arrived to the Albergue, we noticed one guy there that we weren’t too fond of from the last Albergue because honestly, he was rude. But another thing that was off about him was that he was the first person at the accommodation, and he had not taken off his hiking shoes. I know this sounds judgmental and odd, but EVERY single pilgrim we have met has made it a point to take off their boots the moment they are done walking for the day. So that seemed weird and we toyed around with the idea that the guy probably buses around to each spot. But today, we were convinced. We were the first people out of the Albergue this morning, he was still fast asleep, snoring. He didn’t pass us on the path, and we were super quick today. Bottom line, this guy either runs along the highway to each spot (unlikely) OR he takes the bus to each spot! Okay, done ranting about him.

After we relaxed for a few hours in front of the Albergue, waiting for it to open, one of our friends from early on, Andrea, passed by and said she was headed to Islares. We told her we had already checked with the accommodation there and they were all full for the night, so we were staying in Castro-Urdiales. Andrea informed us that there is actually a campground in Islares that accepts pilgrims and has modified tent/yurt structures. Oh, and that it’s a beautiful walk, on the beach, and sets us up better for the next few days of walking. But, I had already taken off my shoes and we had already called it a day. Scott looked at me and asked if we should go on, obviously I was content with where we were at and said no, we should stay put.  Scott went to the store to get sunscreen and while he was gone, I stirred on the idea. I called the campsite and they had 16 beds available, so I decided it was worth it and told Scott once he got back. We quickly gathered up our stuff and headed 5 more miles to Islares.

I always move slow when we start walking again, so Scott and I decided because there were only a few beds ahead that he should go forward quickly to reserve them, and I’ll meet him there at my own pace. This was the first time since we had been on the Camino that we had not been around each other for any time longer than 5 minutes. So, for an hour and half, I didn’t see Scott! It was a weird thing not having a companion when we’ve been hiking all day, every day, for a week. I think people feel bad for you when you’re walking alone and are more kind. I got a lot more greetings while I was on my own which I thought was interesting.

The last part of the hike to Islares was all grass (yay for my feet) and ocean cliffs, blue sky, and hot sun. The weather has finally gotten warmer and will probably stay that way for the rest of our trip. It is nice, but not when you’re hiking the heat of the day trying to get to the next town so you have a bed! Luckily, Scott texted me when he arrived, just 15 minutes before me, and he secured a tent with three other lovely women we know.

Playa Arenillas Camping is one of the nicest campsites I’ve been to. The showers and bathrooms are newly remodeled, very spacious, great water pressure, and warm. These are the things I dream about now on the Camino, good water pressure. There’s a market, bar, restaurant, and it’s 100m from the beach. Everything you could want with a sea breeze and good people to share it with.

After we checked in, we changed and headed down to the beach. We walked down the rock stairs and straight into the water to “ice bath.” It is so bone-chillingly cold for the first 3 minutes, Scott basically had to hold me into the water, so I didn’t go running out. After that, everything goes numb and your aches and pains finally feel better. The sand was so soft, it felt like one of those microplush blankets on our feet.

Now we are resting in the sun outside our tent, thinking about getting Seafood Paella for dinner and then going to bed early. Yet again, we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow. But we are feeling happy and content!
Today’s Stats:
Number of km: 17.5km
Percent paved trail- unknown
Percent unpaved trail- unknown
Difficulty- Easy
Cities passed through- Onton, Miono, Castro-Urdiales
Albergue- Camping Playa Arenillas, has kitchen, restaurant/bar, microwave and fridge in tent, outdoor space, clothes lines, hot showers, washer and dryer, and wifi (1 euro/6hrs)

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