Camino del Norte Day 18: Santiallana del Mar to Comillas

A nice day of walking today, sunny and rural with some impressive churches. The Camino is not marked through Santillana, as is true of many towns and cities. Luckily, we have the track on our GPS, but it is frustrating when those reassuring yellow arrows disappear.

Just outside town the arrows reappeared as we passed a campground and walked out into the fields and hills. We re-emerged to coastal views just outside of Comillas, a popular beach town. This was a short day, and we arrived in Comillas quite early with several hours to wait before the 3pm albergue opening time. The Comillas albergue is housed in the historic jail and is surprisingly nice. Most of the beds are in the attic and are regular beds, not bunks. There are lockers and a small kitchen with microwaves.

The 20 beds of the albergue filled rather quickly, and several people had to be turned away to get rooms in hotels. We seem to be meeting more “turigrinos” (tourist pilgrim) along this stretch, with some people walking only 10km a day and mostly wanting a beach vacation. One women we met told us she just wanted a cheap beach vacation. She had neglected to pack a sleeping bag or any kind of sheet, but had room to bring high heeled shoes for the evening!

Not surprisingly, she left the Camino to just stay at a youth hostel on the beach. Some even came to Comillas by bus, so it seemed rather unfair that they got an albergue bed when later walkers were denied. We enjoyed exploring Comillas, which has a Gaudí building and a lot of interesting architecture. The beach was also a short walk away and we caught a nice sunset.

In line for the albergue, we met two young French guys. Tattooed and smoking, they didn’t look like typical Camino hikers. One of them was very friendly and spoke good English and Spanish. We later learned that he is a social worker, and walking the camino with the other guy as part of a program for troubled teens. We met some Belgian social workers on the Francés route last year doing the same thing. It’s neat to the see the Camino used in such a positive way and I can imagine that the walk inspires a sense of pride and accomplishment in these teens.