The weather forecast for today was rain, rain, rain so we were thinking of taking a rest day. We slept so so well in the quiet, uncrowded albergue and didn’t wake up until 7am (that is sleeping in on the Camino!) We did some more work using the wifi, then saw that there were a lot of patches of blue in the sky amongst the threatening clouds, so we decided to go ahead and walk until the weather got bad.
The walk along Laredo’s 7-km beachfront was lovely. We continued to the very point of the town to take the ferry to Santoña. The “ferry” is just a little tugboat that comes up to the beach and lets down a ladder. The ride is only a few minutes, but the views of the bay and surrounding hills was mesmerizing.
We continued through Santoña and Berria beach, which had a great section of footpath through tight undergrowth, which gaves views of beaches and rugged hills. We continued across the sandy beach to Noja. From Noja, the trail cuts inland through a series of small villages on quiet country lanes. We arrived quite exhausted around 6pm to Guëmes, which has a rather famous albergue.
The albergue is huge, with room for up to 70 pilgrims (we were about 30 this night). It was built by Padre Ernesto and volunteers, and includes his historic family home. He is a priest who traveled the world on several sabbaticals and wanted to bring what he had learned back with him by creating a place of encounter. He originally intended the building to be used as a retreat center and place for workshops and discussions, as the modern Camino del Norte had not been revived yet. Now it is a place for pilgrim encounters. Padre Ernesto speaks to the group about his experiences with other cultures and invites pilgrims to consider the Camino their teacher and to look for the deeper meaning in the journey, not being distracted by the day-to-day challenges of where to sleep, what to eat, etc.
The albergue provided a wonderful dinner of soup, paella, wine and fruit, as well as breakfast. The albergue is supported entirely by private donations and volunteer labor (no organization funds its work).
Ironically, the man who yelled at me the other day was staying at this same albergue and was even translating Padre Ernesto’s words for the French-speaking pilgrims. He did say ‘good morning’ to me in the morning, so I hope I just caught him on an off day and the Camino is working its mysterious way as “teacher” to all of us.