Friday, 7 September 2012

Camino del Norte: Santander to Oviedo

Industrial area out of Santander
Before leaving Santander I wanted to go shopping - and ran into the usual problem. All shops were closed because of a local fiesta. The same had already happened in San Sebastian, Bilbao and now Santander. There seem to be a lot of fiestas in Spain... Hiking a whole day through ugly suburbs and industrial areas if another common problem on the Camino and of course hiking out of Santander was not much different. I am getting rather annoyed of this. To make things worse I had to follow the coastal motorway a lot of times which complicated camping. You do not want to camp next to a major highway and therefore I had to plan well ahead to end the day in an area that was forested or at least and away from the motorway. Not an easy task.

The motorway is not even finished yet and construction works are even disrupting the trail in places. It was heartbreaking to see that some of the few remaining unspoilt coastal are going to be destroyed by the motorway. Also generally speaking I get the impression that Spanish people are not very environmentally oriented. Urban sprawl is everywhere and there does not seem to be much planning behind it. New apartment buildings are erected along the coast line and there is nothing picturesque about them. Wild garbage dumps are everywhere. And the pilgrims are no better: every side trail is littered with toilet paper. "Pack it out" seems to be unheard of...

Horreo or storage space
Still camping was a bit better in this stretch a it was a bit more rural - if you can get away from the dreaded motorway. I made two more attempts with pilgrims' hostels. The first one was rather unintended. I was hiking through the little village of Serdio when I was spotted by the hospitalera. She immediately introduced herself and before I could say that I did not want to stay at the hostel I was dragged into the local bar, given a stamp into my credencial and asked for a donation of 5 Eur. As it was already late in the day and camping was allowed at the hostel I decided to stay there in my tent. It turned out to be a good decision as I met a Spanish pilgrim with whom I ended up discussing the fascination of pilgrimages till midnight.

Hostel in Serdio
My second stay in a pilgrims' hostel on the other hand turned me off them. It was a day when I either had to camp early or hike into the dark to find a campsite. Or stay at the hostel in Vega de Sariego. I decided to give the hostel a try. There were 3 rooms and as holiday season was already over I was hoping for a room for myself or with few other pilgrims. There was only a Danish couple in my room but the husband turned out to be a hardcore snorer. He was snoring so loudly that I decided I was better off sleeping on the roof terrace. What I had not realised was the fog. I slept much better on the terrace but I woke up with a soaking wet quilt due to the heavy fog. I decided that those hostels are not for me. If I ever use a hostel again I will camp there. Those dormitories are too much for me. The only positive experience had been to meet a Japanese pilgrim who was thoroughly impressed by my meagre knowledge of the Japanese language and my enthusiasm for his country.

Coastal motorway
Next day I hiked into Oviedo - another slog through suburbs and along major highways. I am getting tired of the Camino del Norte and hope that things will improve now on the Camino Primitivo. In Oviedo I treated myself with a real full rest day. Two nights in a single room will hopefully restore my good mood. And again I was lucky finding a cheap and quiet pension in the town centre where I am happily enjoying lying in my bed and not doing anything except eating in an AYCE buffet. I have two more weeks left on this trip and I must admit that I am getting a bit tired. The Camino del Norte has been the worst bit of hiking on this trip and had made it difficult to stay motivated.


Anonymous said...

Ich hatte mich von Anfang an gewundert, warum du ausgerechnet den Norte ausgesucht hast. Abwechselnd Gewerbe und Massentourismus - nicht sehr anregend.

Du hättest die Picos einbeziehen sollen. Das ist ein wahres Wanderer-Traumland.

Aber der Primitivo passt vielleicht besser. Ich bin gespannt.

Grüße Enja

Sometimes She Travels said...

So glad to read this. I walked 10.5 days on the Norte and couldn't believe the amount of asphalt, freeway noise, and slugs through suburbs and subdivision. Everyone else I met, however, had the talent of being able to overlook those things and enjoy the natural beauty anyway. Despairing, two days ago I caught a bus from Laredo to Oviedo where I went back and forth for two days about whether or not to do the Primitivo.

Just finished stage 2 of it and changed my ticket to go home early. I'm going to look now for your posts about the Primitivo. Thanks for sharing.