Camino del Norte Norte Cantábrico Gallega Ingles Spain

Day 2: Boo de Pielagos to Santillana del Mar

If it’s going to rain, it should rain on days like today, the next shortest stage, lots of industry and lots of road walking. That wasn’t the case – glorious sunshine all day.

After breakfast I took the train to Mogro, as did 10 or so other pilgrims. I did not realise that Santander has two separate stations next to each other, and went to the wrong one. At the ticket office they told me to go next door. I wasn’t sure what they meant but saw a copy of the first station. One station served Renfe and the other Feve.

After Boo de Pielagos, where I ended yesterday, there is a river to cross. The official route is a 5km round trip to the walking bridge. The daring, walk across a railway bridge; waiting for a train to pass and make a dash for it. The lazy take a train to the next station, Mogro, cutting todays stage by a kilometer or so. I belong to the lazy type.

The first 3-4 kms had great views of rolling countryside and the coast. I walked through Mogro to buy some bread, and caught up with a group of six friends walking together – English living in Spain or foreign living in England. Some would walk some days and then go home, others would join. The Picos de Europa mountains, clear in the distance, still had snow on the top.

One of the things that sometimes irritates me is the multiple signage showing the route. In the first picture there are two arrows and a sign – isn’t the sign enough. Below are some of the other signs I met today.

Then came 6-7kms of a dirt track and little (read nothing) to see – apart from the tubes running the length of the path.

In Requejada, halfway through the stage I took a break, after which the scenery just got worse, a busy road and massive industrial complex after Requejada.

Walking across the bridge over the River Saja, next to the industry complex, the scenery changed again, as I headed towards todays destination, Santillana del Mar. Road walking for the last 8kms, but with beautiful views of the rolling countryside. At one point taking a landscape picture with cows in the foreground, the farmer, who was collecting the cows for milking, said to me, yes it’s beautiful! There are lots of cows in the fields here, some sheep and pigs, and a few horses.

After a missed turning, I arrived at Santillana del Mar (which isn’t close to the sea). It is a medieval village with cobbled streets and buildings built 300-600 years ago. It is considered as Spanish National Heritage and attracts lots of tourists – but it wasn’t too busy today. I got lucky at the hostel,  the cleaning lady was still there and she let me into my room, where I dropped my stuff and showered.

I read that Jean-Paul Sartre described the village as ” the most beautiful village in Spain” and is also popularly known as “el pueblo de las tres mentiras” – “the village of three lies”. It is not holy “San”, it is not flat “llana” and it isn’t that close to the sea “del mar”.

Not far from Santillana one finds the Altamira caves with some of the worlds oldest cave paintings, 14.000 year old paintings of bison, deer, wild boar and horses. The painting are made using charcoal and coloured with ochre to colour the drawings. The entrance to the cave collapsed during the Ice Age and remained untouched until they were found in 1876.

The original cave is only open for very few visitors, who sign up and wait 5-10 years, but a replica has been built.

I walked the 2,5km up the hill to the museum housing the cave replica. I’d left my small change in the hotel, but expected to get some change when I paid the entrance. Turned out that at 65, I am considered an old age pensioner in Spain, so it was free! The exhibition was interesting and worth a visit. I hoped there was a bus waiting to go back to town, and there was! But I didn’t have any small change, and the driver couldn’t change a 50€ note, so he wouldn’t let me on, and I had to walk. Never leave without small change.

I wandered around the village, meeting some of the people I’d met during the day. I couldn’t decide on a place to eat, so picked a restaurant with a menu for 21€. There was plenty to choose from and I took Catalan soup with beans and different meat and then Iberian ham that was served with chips and 2 eggs. An odd combination. A cheese flan for dessert. A drink was included and I choose cider, which is locally produced. It was a small portion in a large glass. Later I ordered a full glass, but the waiter brought another small glass. I explained I would like the glass to be full. I expected him to take the new glass and fill it up, instead he came with a whole bottle.

21 kms and limited elevation (ca. 400m) plus 5km back and forth to the Altamira caves on what turned into a hot day walking. I have to remember to use more sun blocker – I’m already red after one day in the sun.

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