Tony, Tim, Betsy & Ray's (not forgetting Geoff) 2014 Camino

GR65 (France), GR11 & Camino del Norte (Spain)


25.06.14 Wednesday Mogro to Santilla del Mar We were left completely to our own devices last night our rooms on a converted stable block and a courtyard. The staff took the night off! Up and off by just after 7 with only 20km to cover to get to the Caves of Altamira just outside S del M. Those with a working knowledge of human prehistory our the 70s band Steely Dan may recognise these as some of the finest paeleolithic cave paintings in Europe. Sadly too much interest started to dammage them and the originals are now sealed but an excellent museum and identical reproductoon onsite is well worth a visit. The walk to get there was nothing special mostly tarmac anfd a grit road alongside a pipeline probably gas from the port on the coast, 10km away even with the name. The 12thC Abbey and older remains of christian roman parts is also worth a visit though the thin marble windows are not as fine as those in Aragon. The campsite materialises on time and in town as well as many excellent Menu de Dias a shop for replacement pilgrims feet, well this is an old and important pilgrim town! 20 km little up and down.


24.06.14 Tuesday. Santander to Mogro. Geof is joining us tomorrow and flies today. We are organised in that we have 40plus km to the next campsite, and that is really too far for one day. We have booked by, Tony via internet a posada ( small country b&b) for tonight. We do not expect a great day, having most of Santander and its outskirts to traverse from the campsite by the lighthouse on the tip of the peninsular. The route once we have found a cafe open at 7.30, and negociated downtown Santander and found a few yellow arrows, flows smoothly. A second coffee, and a pastry for Betsy and we are through the industrial sector and on country lanes, crossing the small gauge coast railway whose drivers make a practice of cheerfully hooting at pilgrims as they pass. Our only other interedt the quality of the manhole covers with even the newest ones boldly imprinted with the coatof arms of Santander. The two UFOs in the sky are the heads of two third century martyrs associated with the city St Emeterio and St Celedonio ( we had never heard of them either). This railway provides a shortcut and a little entertainment for the day as its bridge cuts 5km off our route, no trains perturb our passage and just as we arrive in Mogro and Tim gets a text from Geof who is at the flight gate in the UK and has just learnt his flight is cancelled. To soon to say when he will join us but possibly not tomorrow. All in all a fairly benign stretch of tarmac and arrrival at 1230 for lunch in a nice bar restaurant followed by some small difficulty finding our lodging which eventually appears up a hill to one side of the small town. The humidity is rising and we are glad to stop for the day. 24.5 km and less than 400m up and down


23.06.14 Monday. Campsite near Bareyo to Santander. The only thing wrong with the campsite which saw great use on Sunday afternoon and everyone going home in the evening from the large field of static caravans and chalets was the lack of water in the toilet block in the morning we were not alone and s native soon had the camp team out on the yellow quad bike sorting it so Betsy at least had hot water before we left. An easy 9-10km down country lanes with the occssional school bus and a stop outside a nice little chapel sees us on the cliff path to Somo where another little passenger ferry (our third on this coast) takes ud over to the city of Santander. We start to walk in the direction of the the campsite hoping to see a tourist office but are soon in the metropolis of Santander. On our way through we get a fair 9 € three course lunch with vinho and press on to the campsite. This is by the park beach and lighthouse at the end of the peninsila on which Dantander stands and does not allow dogs and had a separate area for those without vehicles. An excellent site. The sea cliffs and little coves in the 5km streach of cliff plus the 4km beach are lovely, clean with clear blue water. Tim wants to go diving. But has to be content with a 4km paddle. An easy 28km with maybe 6km by boat across Santander harbour no real up and down but 700m logged on GPS


22.06.14 Sunday Domingo. Laredo to Bareos. A pleasant day that has gone to plan, well almost. The most efficient of the routes forwardto Santader is to the end ot the peninsular or sand and hotels that is the northern extension to Laredo and catch the little passenger ferry over to Santona and along the coast first road and then over a steep headland to the long excellent beach leading to Noja. It is anice day and Sunday the beach has a great nber of people enjoying it but since it is about 4km long it cannot be crowded, a majority are in the end near the town and much fewer in the larger part over the small stream flowing across the sand. The only hitch was the ferry did not start until 9am not 8as we had optimisticslly hoped. We see occasional black kites and coffee and beer are available at stated intervals. After getting bread in Santona and some sandwich filling we are organised for a Sunday walk in Spain. After lunch in the shade by a restored hermitsge we press on the last 5 km to the campsite. An unexpected bar gets us a beer it would be stupid tp refuse in Ros Tavern witha lot of diving memorabilia and some noyices in English. We do not inquire after Ros but hurry on to Los Molinas campsite which is open and has a pool for Ray. Three thirty in a campsite after a Geoffrey has our luck changed? 24km less than 500m up and down on a dat with temps only in the low twenties


21.06.14 Saturday Castro-Urdiales to Laredo. The pool was great. The temperature dropped at 2000 when the thunderstorm started, very welcome rain even by us. It had another half hour at 2am and then the occluded front that had been sitting along the north spain coast drifted off. Today started cool but very humid with cloud and low mist, and took till ten to start to warm up. By 3pm we are on a full campsite in Laredo hopefully it will quiet dlown tonight but it is Saturday. We got given a bottle of wine by the campsite.. ? Why? But will help sleep. More Griphon vultures today spiralling up from the limestone mountains above us. At one point we follow the yellow arrows to a place near Liendo where a sizeable stream disappears below ground, it may well emerge again under the sea. Tomorrow a ride on another little ferry to cut off 15km. A good day if mostly on tarmac 26.5km less than 900m up a down. Some impressive bits of limestone

Anyone fancy a snack?

How about a plate of calluses?! Spotted on a menu in Bilbao, opinions differ as to whether the correct translation is any more appetizing (tripe).


20.06.14 Friday. Portugalete to Castro Urdiales. After the pleasant day yesterday today promises to be hot and of uncertain length. The only blessing is it appears fairly flat. Oh Yeah do I hear! We scoot out of Portugalete on a well defined and marked foot and cycle path that turns into a huge foot and cycle bridge over the extensive motorway interchange just outside. This then becomes a well used and level way on the old coastal railway track. Full marks to the designer for that bridge linking town to walking route. Sometimes planners get it right. We trot along happily to the beach at La Arena where there is a campsite but we are not stopping. Just as well it is defunct. After a footbridge over a small river in which the tide is rapidly coming in, we climb up about 50 m to the remains of a railway that served the mine workings now mostly defunct along the coast. This is now a useful cliff top walk way and we meet a group of school children walking along it and wonder how much paperwork was needed by their teacher beforehand. Such a trip would prove virtually impossible in the UK now. We can see Castro-Urdiales around the coast and the motorway that snakes around the bay takes a leap over the valley in which nestles the little village of Onton, Ray expects some Onton cordial but no natives are visible as it approaches siesta time. We descend it is only about 80 m back up to regain the cliff road or an alternate 10km around in the hills away from the coast. No choice. The sun is out and the ascent steep up the old main road. Tim calls it a 10 second hill (sweat is dripping from his nose faster than a drop every 10 seconds. We get there and start to descend the hairpin bends on the other side. Is it a mirage? Is it closed? There appears to be a bar on the cliff top just below us. There are cars parked.... Tony is waving it is OPEN. Two beers and some food later we feel human again and meet with equanimity the none existence of the first camp site, it had morphed into multiple blocks of holiday flats. The situation almost on the beach too good for someone to resist. We find the tourst office, shut for siesta, and carry on past the Templar castle the statues of two nude boys diving off rocks in a land locked but tidal cove and up the hill in the midday sun again, to the second campsite...... ... Glory be it exists, it is open , it has a swimming pool. Nirvana has been reached. 28km an undetermined amount of up and down not exceeding 1000m but probably much less.


19.06.14 Thursday Bilbao to Portugalete. We have a few good tapas in a bar just down the street from Pension Mardones where we found rooms for the night. The centre of Bilbao was quiet and when we got up early to walk down the estuary we found three police cars close to the open cafe at 0700. Presumably getting breakfast too. A less than average day is planned down to the final port at the end of the river where there is a transporter bridge! Still in use. Today bars are like buses you wait for one and three come along, coffe a second breakfast for some and beer are all easily available and we soon pass the Guggenheim and its flower dog. Moving on down river there are multiple bridges over bits of river, there is a lot of new development in the town - Ray who stayed in the old quarter 20 years ago is amazed at the change and development. There is little if any partial building that has stalled as we have seen in other areas two years ago. About 11:30 we get to Portugalete the bridge is visible from some way off and below the main church of the town (dedicated we are pleased to see to St Roque) we find the tourist office who stop us from going further by finding us a good little pension and giving us a map of the highlights of the town. Settled there with washing handed over to the elderly lady running the place we go for lunch. Ray and Tim bravely try pigs trotters which were very good and Betsy eats fish in record time without bone problems. On the ever present television the coronation of Felipe today is continuously covered, studiously ignored by the whole Basque population eating lunch with us. Fed we go to cross on the transporter bridge and find that for 7 euros each we can go to the top suspension of this the first bridge of its kind opened in 1893. And get a free ride back! This is too good to miss and gives great views up and down stream. A week after its openning the Infanta (crown princess) visited and crossed over seven times. Obviously she was as impressed as we are even though the stationary steam engine has now been replaced by state of the art electronically controlled electric motors. Transporter bridges were a late 19th C solution to a problem (tall ships and bridges) that rapidly ceased to exist with improved road transport and there are only two still functioning in the UK one in Warrington and one in Newport. A great triumph by Alberto de Palacio and the design calculations checked by Gustav Eiffel the greatest bridge and structural engineer of his day. We then go back up the street escalators ( it is 28 degC ) to our pension. Alas they are the wrong set of escalators! Eventually Ray who has the map with the rooms marked on it gets us back home for a well earned rest. A grand day out and totally different to our charging across the hills and dales of the Basque country. An easy 17km and little up snd dow eccept on escalators


18.06.14 Wednesda Guernika to Bilbao. On the way back from seeing Guenika we stop at the Bar Norte just down the street from the hostel. There is nothing naughty about this bar but we each manage a huge salad and then to bed. We are out at first light and go out of town but very soon head upwards and not for the last time today. The views over the hills are good with snatches of sunlight illuminating fields and mist in the valleys. A lot of up and down later we get a coffee in a little bar in a small village just opening at 1045 to catch the first pilgrims from Guernica. There is an unusual cross in the village, having crucified Christ on one side and Mary with baby on the other. We press on and get to our main destination by 1215, an excellent lunch and we agree to press on. The next day would be a long 30km through Bilbao, we have all been to the Guggenhiem gallery and do not need a repeat so a day with a shorter slog through a city would be great. The snag is another significant hill but there is not much to do in Aretxalde or Artega the two small towns on this side of the ridge separating us from Bibao. There is no alternative a slog up the hill in the afternoon sun must be good for our souls if not our bodies. We arrive on Mont Avril hot and sweaty and surge down hill into Bilbao. The alburgue we know is halfway up the other bank of the Nervion Abaia ( this seems to be the name of the river), so we look for a pension and eventally find one though Betsy and the owner had mutual difficulty in understanding each other. Mich relief after 33.5km and 1200m ascent and descent

Guernika suplemental.

Guernica supplemental. We have just done Guernica. Though a day here could easily be used. The Picasso copy of his famous painting is so so. I was more impressed by one of the pre drawings in the Walsall Garman Ryan collection. Must go to Madrid. The Basque Palient buildings are very impressive and the history of the Oak Tree and the first bombing of civilians the even more so. The stainef glass roof in the paliment buildings is mavellous. Tomorrow we go to the edge of Bilbao, possibly a less salubrious part of the Basque territories. Three days after that we leave Navarre and the Basques to continue westwards.