Day 6 : Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana
I felt so much better after a good sleep yesterday the afternoon. Gerry reckons that I had a touch of heat stroke from the previous day in the sun. He googled it as I slept. He said he had been a tad concerned when we were walking up the mountain because I’d gone pale and was sweating a great deal (apparently these are common symptoms of heat stroke) whereas normally I go red faced and not so sweaty (he’s such a charmer)! Thankfully I felt fine after a cool shower and a sleep and well enough to make us a lovely chicken dinner which shall be forever known as Cantabrian stew.
We decided to make today more of a meandering kind of day. We’ve had lots of early mornings and so today was a treat. The route from Tama to Ojeda is on the way to our apartment and we’ve driven it many times. We didn’t feel inclined to walk this section but we did want to visit Potes. We opted for a leisurely morning, then park the car in Potes and explore and then walk up the the Monastery.
We slept late and had two cups of tea in bed before getting up! It felt like a Sunday morning, reading the papers… although there is so much bad news I re-read my blog from the last few days and relived these beautiful mountains. I teased Gerry and said the only thing missing was bacon sandwiches and I thought he might cry as he considered that option! Why did you have to mention bacon sandwiches… he said… now I really want one. I appeased him with the promise of bacon for tea.
We made ready for the day, no picnic needed as we had an early lunch with the remains of last nights stew… which was still very tasty! Flasks were made, bags were packed and we were ready.
It was only a 15 minute drive today but as we drove into Potes we realised there would be a change of plan. Where we intended to park was overflowing and there was a queue of cars waiting to get in. It was market day in Potes and the streets were full. We’re trying very hard to avoid any contact with other people so we turned the car around. Instead drove back to our local supermarket and bought the bacon and other groceries to see us through for the rest of our week here. Then we returned and found a parking space on the other side of town away from the tourists.
It was a gentle walk up to the monastery. It’s obviously a popular attraction for tourists visiting Potes as the path was concrete, well maintained and with fencing and pedestrian crossings to ensure walkers and drivers stayed safe. It was a 200m elevation but it felt like a stroll after the last few days. We walked and we chatted. The monastery is the end of this camino. I asked Gerry if he was glad that we came. He said without doubt it was a good decision and I agree. Timing wise we wouldn’t come walking again in July; the weather is milder here in the north but the sun has still been very fierce. COVID-19 is forever present and we left our decision to come to the very last… but it’s been amazing and I am glad we came.
It’s not been a traditional camino. We’ve not walked every step. It’s been really difficult at times figuring out where to drive, where to park and how to plan the ‘there and back again‘ walk. We’ve missed the walking forward, moving from stage to stage. I’ve missed chocolate… we usually eat lots when we’re walking but we’re not walking enough this time to justify our camino treat! We’ve missed pilgrims. We’ve really kept ourselves to ourselves and avoided contact with anyone. A bit like our every day lives I guess… I miss hugging friends, the simply ease of meeting up for a coffee, walking around our local market, I miss my job and singing and performing and music, I miss the life that we had. We considered of all of this as we meandered up that hill. We’re due to retire soon. We had such plans to travel. Driving down to Spain is one thing but will long haul travel ever be the same? We have so many plans; will they just forever remain dreams and wishes?
We paused and looked back at the mountains. We could see where we walked yesterday. Wow! It’s so cool to be able to see the hills we climbed! I guess walking, as in life, allows us to look back and see how far we’ve come.
We meandered some more and before we knew it we arrived. As we crossed the road there was a marker at my feet; the same marker that we had seen in San Vicente a week ago. I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes welled and I really surprised myself at how emotional I felt upon reaching this end.
We wandered into the church and found the cross; purportedly to be made from the cross where Christ was crucified. It’s been held here in this little church for millennia and no doubt it will remain here for the same. The emotion I felt outside stirred again.
After our visit and back outside we walked on to the Mirador and Hermitage higher up. As soon as we walked away we noticed a bright yellow arrow. We’ve been following red arrows for days and here was a new marker. We’ve left the Camino Lebaniego and started on the Camino Vadiniense. We only have a few days to walk a small part of this camino but we’re still looking forward to the challenges ahead; not least Fuente De and the highest point on any camino! But that is for another day.
I talked about my feelings earlier. I don’t take lightly the chance that we’ve had to walk now in these difficult days. It’s been a different kind of pilgrimage but nonetheless special. We are so lucky to have made this journey. It’s a gift that we’ve been given. There is so much fear and sadness and so much loss in the world right now and yet amongst all of this we have found a beautiful trail in majestic countryside and we have been able to just come and walk.
I had my coffee and Gerry had his tea (that sounds like a song!) I don’t like flask tea but Gerry says it brings back childhood memories of seaside visits and picnics. So we sat and drank and soaked in the views and I hummed Will You in my head.
We wandered over to a Mirador sculpture and Gerry told me it was time to take notes… yesterday I’d suggest he progress from a 2 line rhyme so today he took me at my word!
Mirador. It’s a great place to see
You and me
At the Monastery
Gerry is my most favourite walking buddy… he makes me smile a lot.
That was it. Our Camino Lebaniego was over. We walked back to the car. Tomorrow we start a new path… just for a few days. But for today bacon sandwiches and hot tea were calling!