The lovely Dutch and American girls and I share a cabin last night. Just three of us in a little bird-box of a home, with a stable-door and a porch to dry our boots in.
We had wondered about staying another night, but this morning we decide independently to walk on by ourselves.
Breakfast is a generous meal again, with hot milky coffee, chocolate and bread and jam.
Ernesto and John say goodbye to everyone as they leave, and I ask him for a blessing. To which he replies in Spanish "The Camino is the blessing" but says he will bless me if I wish; but I don't see him again. Before setting off, I spend time in the chapel- it has a deep palpable peace and a begonia plant in a large terracotta bowl in the centre of the space.
So I set off alone, down the road to investigate another church which is closed of course. Ernesto in his pre-supper homily had spoken about 'quick-money' spoiling the area, especially the eucalyptus plantations and empty holiday flats in coastal resorts. I have seen both; in fact the beautiful oak woods of the Paes Basco have been totally replaced by mini-culture eucalyptus in Cantabria and I see more felling this morning. It's a very water-hungry fast growing species used mainly for paper production.
Ernesto had recommended walking the coastal path but I miss the turning and walk on rather bleak Tarmac roads for a while but eventually find my way onto the cliff-path. Stunning views. It's a grey warm-windy day and the sea is rough and steel-grey. The wild flowers and grasses are lovely. There are several beaches with surfers and a spectacular reef of flat rocks that runs parallel to the coast and the surf crashes over it. At one point I pass a rocky island which has a huge gull colony and I can hear the racket from the path.
At one point Ruth the Dutch woman passes me, but apart from that there are few walkers. I sit to rest near the town of Somo when a Spaniard stops to chat; he says he's never heard of the Camino and is amazed I'm walking to Santiago alone!
The path peters out and I then walk on sand-dunes, beaches and scramble over rocks to get to some steps up to the road. I meet a couple of older French pilgrims and we walk together through suburbia, to the ferry. The skies have cleared now and the huge beach looks very welcoming and is empty at this time of year.
I stop for a snack and catch the next ferry to Santander - the city looks forbidding from the boat. A long wall of modern blocks stretches along the coast, but it's a lovely windy crossing.
On landing, I walk straight to the Pilgrims Albergue as it has limited space. The French couple are in the queue ahead of me, but no Dutch and American women. It's very cramped but clean. The showers are so small that only three women can get into the room at the same time and there are strange plastic folding doors in the loos.
After checking in I go to look at the cathedral, cloister and crypt which 'wonder of wonders' is open. It seems to be the only older building in the city, which has had a couple of disasters including an exploding dynamite ship and a huge fire, which has destroyed its heritage. Santander is a rather grim city.
Then I go for a hair cut which is an interesting experience with no Spanish except iTranslator. It is undertaken with an electric razor and comb. The effect is vaguely similar but not the same; it's my pilgrim cut and has a vaguely penitential look! Anyway the hairdresser is delighted to have a pilgrim client with weird asymmetrical hair; he takes photos for his website and then kindly makes me a tomato with seaweed-flake sandwich that is flavoured with seawater from Ibiza! Very nice.
I eat supper with South African Jonathan in the local cafe: a prawn salad followed by a burger with egg and cheese. That should replace some calories.
Bed early. The bunks in my area all squeak and wheeze every time someone moves... Ear plugs to the rescue again. Doors locked and lights out at 10pm.