Camino del Norte

Day 12: Castro Uridales to Laredo

On our way out of Castro, we passed the Albergue rumored to have bed bugs. We couldn’t tell if it was deserted because of the infestation or if we were that late in beginning our morning. We continued into the rural countryside when I found a familiar face—the man from the Albergue in Ontón who asked about my reason for walking and wished me godspeed before we continued on to Castro. I learned his name is Cyrus and we spent the first hour of the day picking up our conversation where we left off in Ontón.

I was looking forward to this day the most because it meant an extended journey along the sea before wrapping into the mountains. There was more road walking than I preferred, but I knew the kind of landscape we would reach at the end of the day. It was 30km to Laredo, but the stretch leading to Islares and beyond was some of the most rugged and visually stunning coastlines.

On one stretch of highway, I meet a woman named Jeanne who happens to be from San Francisco. She’s a petite thing with a huge personality that exudes joy from the deepest parts of her being. We talk about my time living in the Bay area, our health leading to the Camino, our relationships, and our motivations for walking. She was such a treasure to find, I made sure to exchange contact information so we had a chance to meet again along the Norte.

Basile and I decided to take a shortcut that would follow the highway instead of the trail which meant parting ways with Jeanne. The weather was turning for the worse and shaving off a few kilometers meant less damage to my feet. When the rain hit us, we bundled in our ponchos, kept our heads down, and plowed through as much of the road as we could.

Suddenly the energy changed and the direction turned again to the coast. The road gave way to a trail and we find ourselves climbing higher walking through endless green hills. That’s when we caught glimpse of the sea and the first clear sky of the day. A woman caught up to us who I recognized immediately—Marília from one of my first days along the Norte. I had been playing tag with her, missing each other by a day at the monastery, but here we were now, climbing the same trail towards the final stretch to Laredo. These are the Camino magic moments you can’t accurately put into words. The alignment just happens. You learn to trust the ebbs and flows because everything arrives as it is meant to.

The coastline was staggering with inaccessible beaches below. I decided to climb higher while Basile went to explore some trails along the cliffs and a few abandoned structures. I could see his yellow poncho dotting the greenery. I love watching him in his element, so curious about the world around him. This was also something I loved about walking together. We would go our own directions and explore at our own pace before finding our way back to each other. When he finally caught up, he told me above the sea birds and the cliffside and how easy it would be to spend time here.  

One of my favorite things is to ask Basile to meditate with me when we reach a point in the day I want to remember in my bones. This was one of those moments. We each found a seat on the side of the trail and settled into meditation. Immediately, I was transported to another place in the world. The pagoda above Inle Lake in Myanmar where we had our first meditation together.

I opened my eyes before he did and allowed myself to get swept away in the seascape. There were birds circling above us and the sound of the waves were carried by the wind. I vowed to always choose the coastal route should time and opportunity allow. As afraid as I was to face the sea, this was the beginning of the healing I needed.

The rest of the trail was slippery from the rain and mostly unmarked. There were sporadic arrows and signage, but none clear enough to let us know if we were actually walking the right trail. We tried to keep our footing and avoid falling into the spiked bushes growing on both sides of the thin pathway. We had to be mindful in our movements, but this was the part of the Camino I was hoping to see more of. Cliff sides, seascapes, lush greenery, and not a care in the world to arrive.

We found an abandoned house being reclaimed by nature. As we began to explore the stone ruins, we caught our first glimpse of Laredo. The coastline was endless and the city sprawling. It was spectacular in every sense.

The descent to Laredo was a steep one, winding through the hillside until we reached a slick, cobblestone path. I could feel the impact deeper in my knees and my pack started to dig into the bones of my shoulders. Realizing how late it was in the day, we picked up our pace afraid we may miss a bed in the Albergue.

This time it was a monastery operated by nuns. I’ve had a weird relationship with churches in the past, but for some reason I was drawn to them here. I don’t know if it is the history of the thousands of Pilgrims who have walked this route before us or the opportunity to sleep in spaces we are otherwise not allowed to enter. There’s something sacred about it, though I can’t exactly express what it is. 

We had to wait a bit before someone let us in to the Albergue, but when we finally did, I found Marília there. A reminder that you always arrive with the people you are meant to. 

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