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Day 19, Camillas, Sometimes you get lucky

Each evening, one of my tasks is planning the route over the next day in particular, and the next couple of days in general.

I'm currently booking the next 2 days hotels ahead, as the weather forecast seems pretty stable and it makes me feel I'm making progress. Also, by having 2 days booked, if the next evening I don't have internet access, it's not a crisis. I'm generally trying to have around 80km to cycle each day and less than 1000m of elevation on this coast. There's a few places I know from the voyage on Lancastrian, which I either pass through or stay overnight, otherwise my overnights are chosen at random as being the right distance away.

Today's route is a bit different. I've got around 20km from the hotel to Somo, where I'm hoping to catch a small ferry boat to take me across the estuary to Santander. Can't be sure it will take an ebike until I get there. Backup will be an extra 20km cycle around the estuary to Santander. From Santander I've got about 55km to Camillas, just picked at random. So 75km if the ferry works and 95km if it doesn't.

Posada La Rivera De Escalante, I think Posada is Spanish for guesthouse, was fantastic. I so loved it on arrival I washed some of my cycling kit in the shower. What the room didn't have - the only thing, was a hairdryer, and I now know that is essential to getting your washing dry for the next morning. So damp clothing this morning is a new experience. I can see anything involving cotton is a problem. When I get back home must check out full polywhatever kit. I imagine it will dry a lot quicker

Lots of cyclists out this morning, I guess because it's Saturday. Some groups as many as 15 plus riders, presumably clubs. All just out for a ride on race bikes in full lycra. There's no traffic on the roads, just the cyclists, I think I've chanced to find a really popular area for it. I usually give them a wave. I either get back some kind of grunt, I don't know if it's some Spanish word I don't recognise, or just releasing gas from last night's excess, bur quite often now I a get a proper wave and "camino" shouted back. I hadn't really thought of myself as doing the camino, but now I think about it I am planning to pass through Santiago Compostela, so I suppose I am. In fact the camino is just one course of a full 3 course menu.

I'm constantly up and down hills, but after around 15km, crest a hill, and the most stunning panorama comes in to view. I can see ahead to Santander in the distance with hills all around it. Blimey they look steep. I'm aware of the ferry times so need to press on.

Get to Somo with about 10 mins to wait for a ferry. Already a camino walker there waiting with a huge rucksack and another soon joins him. That's good. Might need a hand lifting 3 tons of bike on to the ferry. Ferry arrives and I get on with a bit of a wobble. Blimey, everyone's wearing a face mask. It hadn't occurred to me there must still be a rule in spain that they are worn on public transport. I have to improvise with an arm warmer. Feel a bit of a prat. I'm sat right on the front of the boat in full wind blast, covering my face. The ferry ride takes getting on for 30 minutes and it's great to be on the water. The view is stunning. I'm effectively just in shorts and a teashirt, in the wind, on the water, in the morning, in mid October and I'm warm enough. Can you do that in Poole?

Disembark on Santander quay front, another wobble but avoid dropping the bike overboard. What does happen if you drop a big lithium battery in the sea? Decide given the time and occasion a mid morning coffee stop is appropriate. Find a suitable cafe in the middle of the promenade and ask the waiter guy for my cafe im basso, grande. He's mumbling on in Spanish, I think along the lines of how big is big. I gesture arms wide open, you know like when you catch a fish. I'm told to go and sit down and wait. The biggest coffee ever finally arrives. He's used what here would be a beer glass. Good man!

The promenade at Santander is attractive, but once you get a few minutes from there it's just another uninspiring city, with lots of concrete, industrialisation and general unpleasantness. It took a long time to get into the countryside, but when I did, the views got better and better.

Cantabria is stunning.

There are lots of motorbikes on the road, some in big groups, but otherwise there is literally no traffic.

I crest a hill, and get my first sight of the Picos mountains. They're majestic in hazy sun. There's an immediate sense that whatever your size of thighs and even with red hyperdrive, they're going to spit you out.

50km in, I'm looking for a lunch stop. I've always got in my mind a place with a terrace in the sun, other people sat there clearly eating food, reinforced concrete girder to rest the bike against. Not seeing anything like it. Decided had to stop at one point anyway for a pee and a drink and saw what looked like a suitable road sign. Leant the bike against it and the sign gave way, literally, just fell over. Fortunately I grabbed the bike before it went past the point of no return. See, I said it was heavy!

Starting to think I might not find anywhere open when I come upon a place. At first it looks closed, but the front door is open so I walk inside. It's immediately intimidating when you know everyone inside is local and they're looking at you as if to say, who invited you in? I don't know how to say are you serving food, so just wave my hands as though I'm shoveling food in to my mouth.

The lady behind the bar smiles and says "Si". Great, could be a marriage proposal coming.

Cafe lady has obviously been on a sales course, because I just nod to everything she proposes. Amazing meal of salad, meat, egg and chips, bread, beer. I was going to stop there, but I then nod to postre, some chocolate thing which is mucho buen (and is) with coffee to finish. I'm in a sozzled, happy state. Still 20km to go, but I'm fully fueled and a large part of the battery capacity still remaining.

Another 10km and I see ahead on the hillside two cathedrals, in the middle of nowhere. Totally spectacular. They're both very different architecture, colour and big. The place is called Cobreces. It's only the size of a village and it has two cathedrals.

I finally arrive in Camillas. I just picked it at random as it was about the right distance. I keep using these words spectacular, amazing etc, but it really is. It's some sort of historic masterpiece. There's a monastery looking ancient building the size of Buckingham Palace on the top of the hill, which is now a University. A Palace a bit lower down. An ancient village town square, a beautiful beach, quaint fishing harbour and 4 star hotel that I'm staying in for 50 euros a night. And it's all within about 15 minutes walk end to end. The whole thing is truly unbelievable. I'm sat now in this mega swanky room - and yes, it does have a hairdryer. I'm thinking the breakfast buffet tomorrow is going to be impressive.

As I notice the total so far distance racking up, I've been wondering when I consider myself half way. If you look on google maps, it shouldn't have taken so many km's to get here. I think that's the result of the meandering of the vendee velo, velodyssee tracks and nav cockups. I think psychologically for me the half way point is half way along this north spanish coast, as its the toughest. And roughly speaking that's coming up in the next day or so. Tonight I booked Gijon for two days away and that will be a milestone.

Distance today 75km

Total so far 1583km


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