The Road to Santiago.

October 3, 2004

Photo while leaving alburgue.
Leaving albergue

Güermes to Santander

In spite of sleeping in such a nice place, I had a terrible night. What is worse than having a mosquito buzzing around your head? Having a mosquito stop buzzing around your head! Then you don’t know where it’s landed! To make matters worse, the bed was too short and I couldn’t get comfortable. I hate mosquitoes and after several attempts to slay them all, I decided to fall back on insect repellent, although I hate the smell of it and don’t like it on my skin. But I was desperate, so I jumped up to find my bottle of repellent in my back­pack. But I couldn’t remember where I’d put it, so I had to empty out about half my pack.

I was still tired when the alarm rang at 8:00 o’clock, but I felt compelled to get up (remember it’s just barely light at 8:00 a.m. in Spain) because Don Ernesto would be joining me. As I entered the library, I found that he had already made coffee.

As we sat and chatted, I asked him about the name of the albergue: Cagigal. He said it’s a type of tree found in the area. And that there used to a big one down in the valley under which pilgrims would find shelter. The house was built by his grandfather, but he himself built the albergue. It’s under a special trust for its continuation. Again, this is the spirit of el Camino.

After he took my photo for his collection, Don Ernesto wished me a buen camino and said the route to Somo, where I would get the ferry to Santander, was easy. As I walked down the path, my new four-legged friend galloped up to me. So, I stood a few minutes talking to him (a horse can’t talk of course. . .) and patting his soft forehead. I actually think he was sorry to see me go.

After a few miles, a carrilbici (bike track) appeared along side of the road. Don Ernesto was right — the way would be easy. At least it should have been. But I tired easily, and stopped at 10:30 for coffee, and again at 12:30 at a gas station for water. I felt really tired, so I tested my blood: 90. This was in spite of the fact that Don Ernesto’s breakfast consisted of British-style shortbread crackers (read cookies) and marmalade. Not wanting to go hypo in the hot sun, I bought an ice cream cone — something I don’t normally eat. (Note: three hours later my blood was 96 — low in spite of the sugar in the ice cream.)

I attribute the low blood sugar level to the stress of a bad night. It is a fact that many things affect glucose levels. Most people think that it’s a simple matter of watching what you eat or just simply taking more insulin. It’s not that simple! Once when I complained to my diabetes specialist about the unpredictability of controlling glucose, he said, “That’s diabetes for you.”

Thus, diabetes requires ongoing monitoring and ongoing adjustments. This is why I test three or four times a day (sometimes more when I’m hiking). This is also why I carry some type of candy or sugar in case I over adjust. However, I’m reluctant to use the candy because I could end up in an over/under cycle that can be harmful.

By the time I reached Somo, I was feeling much better. I made my way to the wharf and only had to wait about 15 minutes for the next boat to Santander. The passage across the large bay saved a couple days of travel, which is why most pilgrims throughout the centuries have generally used this mode of travel.

Photo of Santander.
"". The ride across the bay from Somo to Santander was relaxing and lasted about 15 minutes. The destination was right in the middle of the waterfront, in the center of town. (Note: Santander is the capital of the Autonomous Community of Cantabria. Spain is divided into 17 of these divisions. Within each larger division there are subdivisions called provinces. Santander is located along the north shore of a great bay closed by the narrow Magdalena headland and sandy Somo point. The extensive sand beaches makes it a favorite resort of the royalty and well-heeled.)

According to the guidebook, the albergue was about a block from the cathedral. Since that was easy to find, it didn’t take much time to find the albergue, but it was — closed. The sign said that it would open at 4:00, and it was only 3:00. I decided to have something to eat.

But it was Sunday and since I was in the downtown section, there weren’t a lot of restaurants open. After wandering around for a while, I found a small neighborhood restaurant with locals in it. I thought that it wasn’t too bad until I realized that pigeons were walking in and out of the front door. When one flew over my head, out the door, I got a little nervous about the food. But since I’m still alive to write this, it wasn’t too bad.

I went back to the albergue to find a young Austrian couple waiting at the door. It was 4:30 and still no hospitalero. Soon we were joined by an Irish woman and later a Spanish man. The sign said that if the albergue was locked, Dora, in the bar 50 feet down the hill ,would have the keys. But, the bar was (all together now) cerrado.

So I pulled out my cell phone and called the number of Bautista, the hospitalero. He said to go to the bar, but when I told him that it was closed, he said that he would come into town, but it would take about 45 minutes. I offered to stay with all the packs while the others went to look for their sources of food.

About 10 minutes later, Dora opened the bar then came up to let me in. She gave me the keys and told me to drop them off in the morning. I then carried all the packs up to the second-floor albergue. By the time Bautista came, I had already showered and changed.

He was a very nice man. He stamped my credencial, then gave me a tour of the albergue and the adjoining office which is the headquarters of los Amigos de Santiago, Cantabria Federacion. He also gave me a list of albergues for the rest of the trip and wished me a buen camino.
Photo of flowered balcony.
Flowered balcony
Previous. Next.