Camino del Norte: Day 9, Islares to Santona

We thought that yesterday was the most beautiful day of hiking, but today had that beat! As usual, we woke up very early in order to get ahead of everyone else. Last night we finally got a good night’s sleep without it being a sauna in the room or having someone snoring. We were set up to have a wonderful day. Plus, there was only one real challenging part of the hike according to our guidebook, but even then, it was totally manageable.

The first part of our hike was a mission to get to a gas station because I had accidentally lost our water bottle last night and we weren’t able to get one until somewhere was open this morning. I think I got a little too excited last night when our paella was finished that I left the cafe without the bottle. Anyways, we stopped in Liendo to get water and then sat on a bench from across the gas station to eat breakfast. We facetimed my family for a bit and then continued to what looked like our first ascent.

On the way we saw three dogs who came up to us, blocking the path until we pet them. Then just a few meters up we saw two beautiful horses cleaning each other’s manes. But then we got to the best part. It is hard to describe the landscape with enough grandeur to do it justice, but I’ll try. We hiked through tall grass surrounded by two large sea cliffs, that from one side were green and lush, and the other jagged granite chunks all the way down to the ocean, peaking out of the waves to give the water some texture. The hills were rolling behind the sheer drop-offs into the water. The shrubs and grass had all types of wildflowers (my personal favorites wherever we go). Once we were at the top of the mountain, we were able to look down into the city of Laredo and then across the water Santona, and what looked like a large island in the distance.

We made such great time, we quickly walked the descent down and headed right into the historical part of the city of Laredo. It was beautiful. Cobblestone roads, large wooden doors lining the streets, and flower boxes in all the apartment windows above. We decided to grab an early lunch with a combination of things from the grocery store and bakery, the most delicious being a meat empanadilla. After we gathered up all the fixings for lunch, we walked a few 100 meters to the beach and sat on a bench to people watch and eat our food.

In order to get to Santona from Laredo, you have to take a ferry. To get to that ferry you have to walk 2km of beach front. Our guidebook and the arrows marking the camino told us to follow the boardwalk and along the edges of the beach, but the most direct and comfortable thing would be to kick off our shoes and walk through the water all the way to the ferry. And so, we did.

We walked what seemed like endless beach, with a whole lot of stares because we were the only people with big backpacks, hiking poles, and fully clothes walking in the water. It is also Saturday, so it seemed that everyone was getting their workout walk for the day.
Once we got to the ferry stop, we waited a few minutes and then this boat blasting music pulled up and threw out a jimmy-rigged ramp to get us on the boat. It had the official Camino emblem on it, so we knew it was the right thing to do, though it seemed odd. Once we were on the boat the man who collected money tried to sell us anchovies in a jar. It was really strange, but I think this area is known for anchovies because I’ve seen like ten signs so far advertising them, and even an anchovy bar.

After we got across the bay, we made our way through the town center. Everyone was out drinking and eating, enjoying their Saturday. The environment was so jovial we caught ourselves smiling and wanting to join in, but our feet were tired, and we needed to check into the Albergue first. The Bilbaina Albergue in Santona is a privately-operated establishment but caters well to pilgrims. Everything you could want is here, and the location is right in the center of the city. A little side note, throughout the day we heard what sounded like a gunshot every 30 minutes or so. Apparently, the town fires off a cannon on certain days several times a day and has a military parade with singing and marching on Saturdays. It seemed odd, but very entertaining.

Anyways, after check-in we got changed and headed to the beach. It was high tide so there wasn’t much beach left. We quickly “ice bathed” our legs and feet and then headed back to grab some grocery for dinner. Oh and of course we stopped at the local bakery and tried something that had no name, but we thought we try it. An amazing chocolaty/croissant/bread thing! We made quesadillas and pasta for dinner and then headed outside because we could hear music in the town square.

Unfortunately, we were too late for the music, but then I spotted it. A small shed of a building with little old ladies all patiently waiting and flirting with the man inside. I got a closer look and then it all made sense to me. I too should be flirting with this man. Because he is the CHURRO MAN! We watched him twirl up and fry fresh churros and then sprinkle them with sugar. I had to have some. So, we caved and broke the budget a bit for the day for churros, and it was so worth it.

Now with tummy’s full, and another big day of sunshine and lots of walking we are off to bed!
Today’s Stats:
Number of km: 22.9km
Percent paved trail- unknown
Percent unpaved trail- unknown

Difficulty- Easy

Cities passed through- El Pontarron, Rioseco, La Magdalena, Liendo, Laredo
Albergue- Bilbaina Albergue, microwave, fridge, hot plate, blankets, pillows, common space, outdoor space, clothes lines, hot showers, washer and dryer, breakfast included, and wifi

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