Camino del Norte

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Santander to Pendueles: 10th Sep

(The route on Strava)

17km into cycling around the world independently and I manage to team up with another cyclist! I met Alain from Brittany, cycling from Brittany to Santiago and onwards to Lisbon. We cycled together until a junction, where I managed to convince Alain to take the coastal route, which meant we could pass by Santillana del Mar, my little ode to Grandma. I have a guidebook that was my Grandma’s from 1957 and, although I visited last year, I was keen to drop in again to enjoy the well preserved Medieval town. I took a few photos with intention of making the comparisons to last years photos as well as the 1957 guide that was Grandma’s.

Alain from Brittany
Alain walking around Santillana del Mar

We also went via San Vicente de la Barquera, where last year Veronica (an Italian girl I met last year) and I had come across a traditional market and played draughts in the town square. Alain and I stopped in Comillas to take a photo of the albergue next to the church in which Veronica and I stayed last year, with the mysterious priest.

Alain and I later stopped for lunch on a park bench in Colombres the town just after the regional border between Cantabria and Asturias. We gathered together a feast between us with food we had and food we bought. It was a popular choice with the touring cyclists as we met two Mexican ladies and a French man also cycling to Pendueles. The Mexicans and French continued ahead. We followed shortly and ran into each other on and off throughout the last part of our journey. I was rolling ahead when a car drove past covered in writing and booming out something over loudspeakers. I pondered on the legality of such a thing when another went past, followed by several more. I started to realise what was going on when a few cars passed with lines of racing bikes on their roof and sponsorship plastered across the paintwork. A police motorbike slowed us down to a stop and I waited behind a few cars with Alain, the Mexican ladies and the two French men a few metres behind. The cycle race soared past at such a speed I could hardly decide on whether I wanted to watch or photograph before the peloton was heading off into the distance.

Bicycle race following one of the stages of the Vuelta

The Vuelta, the Spanish version of the Tour de France, was taking place 22nd August to the 13th September. A quick research after revealed that we had cycled along the route of Stage 15 (of 21), a 175.8km mountain cycle from Comillas to Sotres Cabrales. The Vuelta itself had happened here on 6th September, so I assume this was an organised amateur race that was following the Vuelta stages. We cheered and whooped, then continued our own little course to Pendueles.

Alain was soon to reach 1000km on his speedometer, so we were on the look out to stop and take a photo. The moment this arrived was confused with the other French man and the Mexicans taking a different route and the arrival of sixth touring cyclist. In the confusion of the moment, the others headed in a different direction, Alain’s speedometer froze at 999km and we had a new friend, Juan.

Having started in Comillas, Juan, a Spanish medic, was cycling to Santiago during a quick break before he launches back into his fifth year of medicine. With his ability to communicate in Spanish, he managed to find us a more interesting (and delightfully steep) route towards our destination.

Juan and Alain cycling along the Camino del Norte

After some time, I was chatting to Juan and he called Alain, ‘Papi’ a name which Alain had used to refer to himself on a few occasions. Juan looked slightly confused when I laughed and he asked if that was not his name. I confirmed that his name was, in fact, Alain. But it was too late, ‘Papi’ had settled in both our minds and Alain was to be called Papi from henceforth.

Juan was undecided as to whether he was going to continue to Llanes, a larger town with more amenities. We arrived at Pendueles, the planned arrival location for Alain and I. The first albergue was full, but this turned out to be a fantastic outcome as we trundled just 100m down this small road, under an archway to another albergue. Here, the price was a donation, which included the following: a comfy bed to sleep for the night, a warm shower, a communal dinner provided at 8pm, breakfast provided between 7 and 8am, our clothes washed and dried, wifi and overall a sense of community with all the pilgrims. There was a short altercation on arrival as Juan had not yet bought his Camino credentials (a necessity for many albergues) and Alain, having staying in Warm Showers prior to this, had not heard of the credentials until then. It seemed as though the proprietor was serious in rejecting us based on this, but finally he allowed us in. I was relieved, as I thought perhaps it would mean I would have to split from the team I had already grown fond of.

In the bedroom I set up my usual technology charging corner (the laptop, phone, GPS, lights, camera, action…) and connected phone and laptop to the internet. After a few WhatsApp interactions and updating a few photos on cyclingsomewhere it was dinnertime. I took sometime to warm to the proprietor after he had been so adamant that Juan and Alain could not stay. He provided a tasty lentil stew, bread and red wine, followed by a pasta salad (literally salad leaves and pasta). He was almost forgiven, then finalised his forgiveness by being rather witty and uniting the guests of the evening. We consisted of one English girl (me), one 68 year old French man (Alain), a 23 year old Spanish medic (Juan), two Mexican ladies, one whom lived in Switzerland, the other her sister visiting, a French man in his forties with the excellent aged bicycle, two Belarusian girls, a German guy and a retired English man living in Majorca who had been doing the Camino every year for many years. An excellent evening all round.

Dinner at the albergue in Pendueles

Pendueles to Deva: 11th September

(Route on Strava)

The morning in Pendueles I had time to admire the French man’s ancient 20kg bike. The highlight being the metal frame he used to stabilise the handle bars when he loaded the front with belongings.

20 kg very old bicycle

We were sated with coffee, toast and mini cakes provided by the proprietor of the albergue and ready to go. After several photos taken by the host, whom I had finally forgiven for his strict opening gambit, we were off!

Pendueles albergue
Cycling team leaving the Pendueles hostel

My newly found Spanish friends treated me to a tuna pastry with candles on top for my Birthday. Very touched!

I said farewell to Juan and our team of walking pilgrims and continued the way to Santiago

I arrived into Santiago to the square in front of the Cathedral. I stayed here for also two hours enjoying the pilgrims coming around the corner in groups, individuals, couples, on foot or on bicycle. The joy of arrival as well as the sense of long journeys complete fill the square.


2 thoughts on “Camino del Norte

  • Dad 16th September 2015 at 10:01 am Reply

    Hi Al. ‘Twas good to speak on your birthday. It sounded as if you were having a great time.
    Loads love from us all

    • cyclingsomewhere 16th September 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks Dad! 🙂

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