Our two weeks of walking along the Camino del Norte through the rugged rural landscape of Cantabria and Asturias is now at an end. This trail is said to be one of the most challenging of all the Camino routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela. But our days along The Way have been filled with a patchwork of colour, magnificent scenery and encounters with friendly locals and pilgrims from many corners of the world. Commencing in picture perfect Santillana del Mar our journey took us via shady forest tracks and country byways between the snow capped Picos de Europa and the azure blue waters of the Bay of Biscay.
Each day brought new surprises along this well trodden pilgrim pathway! An aged, well-tendered fig tree that had borne fruit for many generations; a hand built stone casa adorned with fragrant climbing roses; and ever more picturesque coastal vistas, to name but a few. A welcome short cut through lush pastures offered chance encounters of a different kind! And to be very honest, some days we had to navigate quite carefully to avoid slipping in the mud!
Our tour group members firmly agree that it is just impossible to name the ‘top 5’ highlights! Nevertheless this would surely include: Following the yellow arrows along the esplanade of the pretty Roman border town of Ribadesella; exploring the attractive street-scapes and fishing quarters of small habour towns such as Cudillero and Luarca; and simply enjoying the rich agricultural heritage and the warm hospitality and cuisine offered by our guesthouse/hotel hosts. Most certainly, the advantage of being part of the Camino experience without having to carry a heavy backpack has been something for which we have been extremely grateful – on a daily basis!
And, as if this was not feast enough, our journey was capped off with a few days walking through the remote Finisterre peninsula. Our path took us over a magnificent medieval bridge in Ponte Maceira, reputed to be one of the best-preserved hamlets in Galicia. Leaving the small town of Negreira we passed a most moving contemporary sculpture of a Galician man leaving his family in search of employment in another land. Sadly this is still the reality for many Galician youth today.
Carried now on weary legs we reached our penultimate destination – the small fishing village of Finisterre with its rich historical past and famous lighthouse built at ‘the end of the earth’. And finally, the culmination of our journey, Santiago de Compostela, where we mingled with people from all over the world in the shadow of the ancient Cathedral.