Camino del Norte Day 16: Walk like a peregrino

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Just us peregrinos, making our way to Comillas

October 16, 2015

Santillana del Mar to Comillas, 12 miles

Other than the Spanish, Germans comprise the largest percentage of people hiking the Camino, and as we’ve hiked with some of them, we have come to realize that the German Camino guidebook is way better than the American one.  The maps are more detailed, the information about the trail’s course is more thorough, and it includes shortcuts.  It’s good to have Germans as hiking partners.

It’s so thorough that it even includes side notes about the cultural features of each region we hike through.  Today, we found out about Panchita the Pig.

We were walking next to a farmhouse and saw a homely black pig rooting happily in the garden.  Suddenly Heidi exclaimed, “Oh!  I read about this pig in the guidebook!”  Turns out this was the one and only Panchita the Pig.  She has offspring all over Spain, and in order to adopt one of her children, the owner must promise never to eat it.  These are obviously very sacred pigs.

Have a look for yourself.  You can see how special she is:

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(Note: I Googled Panchita but couldn’t find more about what makes her so special, and since I don’t read German or have a German guidebook, I guess we’ll never know).

It was our last day with Heidi and Ann.  They were heading back to Santander tomorrow so they could catch a flight home.  Heidi and I were struggling with foot and leg pain, and we encouraged one another to put one foot in front of the other to get to Comillas.  The four of us talked amiably about random things, which helped distract from the discomforts of the walk.  Ann and Dale seemed never to tire and naturally fell in the lead. Both girls taught Dale and I German words, including Schöner Tag, which translates to “it’s a nice day,” and the days of the week (of which I remember three: Sontag, Montag, and Freitag). It was such a pleasant way to hike 12 miles.

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The Church of St. Peter ad Vincula in the town of Cóbreces
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Church of San Martin, in the town of San Martin de Cingüenza
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An unusual design (Don Quixote?) above the church door

The albergue in Comillas was established in a beautiful old building that was once a prison but now had a warm, cozy atmosphere.  Here we met multiple people from Ireland, including a lovely older couple, a woman hiking the Camino del Norte alone, and Jim from Galway.  And then there was Vann, a twenty-something man from North Carolina who had just graduated from UNC and was biking the Camino while trying to figure out what to do next with his life.

We had dinner that evening with Heidi, Ann, Jim and Vann; a long and lively conversation ensued over several plates of expensive raciones.  We discussed everything from the economic troubles in Spain to American and German politics.   Jim, a mathematics instructor,  was passionate about every topic we discussed.  Vann, a bright-eyed, handsome young man, was incredibly optimistic and had ideas for how to fix all of Spain’s problems, basically boiling it down to “they all need to work together.”  (Ah.  Isn’t that true for us all.)    

When we returned to the albergue for the evening, we all shared a bottle of sidra, Spain’s version of hard cider, which is much dryer than the hard cider you get in America.  We toasted to Ann and Heidi and our fun hike together and agreed that we are very good travel companions and will definitely travel together again sometime in the future.

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Ann, me, Dale, Heidi, and Jim

Each day on the trail has gotten better and better because of the people we’ve met and the meaningful interactions we’ve had with them.  What as joy it is to be hiking the Camino del Norte.