September 30, 2004
Ontón to El Pontarron de Gurmiez
I overslept and woke at 9:30 because I had miss-set my alarm clock. Actually it was a good night’s sleep — the mat was comfortable and there were no city noises.
|I stopped in Castro Urdiales for lunch. This is the first of the four premier seacoast vacation towns in Cantabria (the others are Laredo, Santander, and San Vicente de la Barquera). I had been here before and found the city enchanting with its beautiful beaches and active harbor. As with all these seacoast towns there is a nucleus of the old medieval city (protected from urban renewal by law) with an ever-increasing circumference of new construction. I would like to have stayed in Castro Urdiales for a night, but it was very expensive, so I didn’t.
About 5 p.m., I stopped in a bar at Islares for a rest and a café con leche. Since it was obvious that I was a pilgrim, the proprietor said I still had a long way to go to reach the albergue at Colindres. I told her that I was going to stay at the albergue in El Pontarron de Gurmiez, the next village. She said that there was no albergue there. So I decided not to tarry very long. I had to find a shelter for tonight.
My Internet notes had said otherwise, but I was still a little nervous. I would be too tired to go much further. If the notes were wrong about El Pontarron de Gurmiez, they might be wrong about Liendo, the next town.
When I got to El Pontarron, I pulled out my notes and followed the directions: go to the bar and ask for Susana. Well, Susana did have the keys to an albergue. She gave them to me along with instructions in very rapid Spanish. Segundo casa alli — donde esta los correos (Second house over there — where the post office is). The albergue was on the first floor of a two-family house on the other side of the post office. The bar proprietor, back in Islares, was wrong. (Ya never know.)
I went to what I thought was the right place, but there were two dogs on a leash within 20 feet of the door. They were barking and defending their territory with ferocity typical of Spanish dogs. I decided that this couldn’t be the right place so I went to the other side. There was a car in front of the door that I had to squeeze by, which I did. But the key didn’t work. Just at that moment, I heard a woman above me ask if she could help me. I asked her, “Albergue?”
She directed me to the right place, which was indeed where the dogs were. The albergue was a big room with six double bunk beds and an adjacent bathroom and shower. Actually, except for the barking of the dogs, it was pretty good. After I cleaned up, I took a nap until dinner time. All along the route to the restaurant and back again, there were dogs barking as I passed. I think the entire town knew when I returned to bed tonight.