In the Winds of Change We Always Find Our Direction
DAY 14: Sand Storms, Sea Spray and the Sanctuary of Santa Cruz de Bezana
I smiled in delight as my family and I waded into the crystal cold lapping waters that surrounded the buzzing city of Santander. I loved surprises and the stunning beach that had magically appeared from around the Camino de Santiago’s sandy bend was a perfect one. We had dropped our backpacks onto the bench-like rocks and raced into the waves without a second thought. Though I really ought to have thought twice before tossing myself head first into the water and only then discovering the real hypothermic nature of Santander’s salty sea.
With the panting of Peregrinos behind us, all clamouring for a bed at tonight’s Albergue, we knew we couldn’t afford to stay too long and so, tying our still-wet bathing suits onto our packs, we headed out of our safe alcove and into the unknown. When we had arrived on the beach an almostdead calm was over the bay. Now that we had started walking, out of nowhere, 40km to 50km winds had whipped up an almost raging sandstorm that cut at our legs like jagged razors. Worse than this, was the fact that we still had to walk nearly 3kms into what now was a blistering sandstorm. With our heavy backpacks on, we felt as if we had a delivery of a batch of bricks for builders. We no longer had the graceful rhythm of antelopes, instead we loped along like the cousins of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and taking every step was a concentrated effort. The sharp stinging of the sand now felt like lethal stabs from a swarm of angry wasps. All of us were now starting to feel the annoyance factor rise in our minds. What a massive contrast this was to the relaxing swim we had taken not thirty minutes earlier.
Finally, with our bodies stung numb by the sand, we won the battle of the beach and climbed up the faded blue stairs that led to the ferry port, battered but not beaten.
The droning horn of Santander’s Ferry boat announcing its arrival coincided with me swallowing the final few spoonfuls of Vanilla ice-cream I had in my paper cup. Once aboard the forest green vessel, we sat down on the front foremost seats, giddy with excitement and the knowledge that we had snagged what seemed like the best places to sit on the entire boat. Unfortunately, just as the boat pulled away from the port, the Captain’s aide warned us that if we choose to sit there we would be soaked to the skin by the sea spray. Taking his advice we moved down the aisle to the stern bench, which held an equally good view. We crossed the emerald and indigo passage of water to step out onto the pavement of a beautiful city, accentuated by its stylish urban sprawl.
Our next stop turned out to be a bit of a surprise. Dad had looked up and found the only Indian Restaurant within 80km and we were headed there for a special treat. We had a feeling that this would be the last Indian restaurant on our route until Santiago de Compostela. We were all fatigued and extremely in need of a good Indian meal. We enjoyed a delightful change from the Pilgrim Menus we had been eating for the past 2 weeks, which most often than not consisted of Ensalada Mixta and some soppy pasta dish with a cheap tomato sauce. Being vegetarian in this land of carnivores, we hadn’t gotten much diversity and our bodies were craving something very different. After our meal and a quick stop to a supermarket to pick up some breakfast and on the road snack essentials, we continued onwards out of the concrete jungle and into the lush green suburban district that surrounded Santander, the beginning of the province of Cantabria.
It was 3 hours later, just as the sun was setting behind the distant horizon, when we pulled aside the sweeping black door of The Albergue de Santa Cruz de Bezana and stepped inside what appeared to be an ordinary cozy home. The familiar Pilgrims of our group were sitting on the large U formation couch in the large living room and they all seemed to stop what they were doing and stare as we walked in. The awkward silent looks that spoke louder than words saying “What are you doing here?” was broken when a woman with a delightfully upbeat and kind aura stepped into the cozy room and introduced herself as the humble Hospitalier. Our host gently explained the bad news. The beds were all filled up. I could feel the tears pricking my eyelids and I struggled to control my emotions after such a long and arduous day. This wonderful lady saw that we were all on the brink of exhaustion and quickly followed up her previous statement with a completely uplifting phrase that caused our spirits to soar once again. “Ahh yes, the beds may be full, but The Albergue is not! Come now, relax, shower and eat and we will find you a place to sleep!”
With our hosts / Hospitaliers – Husband & Wife Team – of Santa Cruz de Bezana’s Albergue
I smiled as Lalika and I sat on the sinking beige and maroon couch playing a game of chess, now vacant of all the other pilgrims who were in the kitchen eating their dinner. Meanwhile, the four of us were treated to a teatime that England would be proud of. Cookies, Croissants, Muffins and Wafers streamed out of a large wooden box the Hospitalier had provided us with, which we sampled while we sipped scalding hot mint tea, a delicious gift after our cold showers. We were to sleep in the living room, all of us together, with 4 other people. It would be a comfortable and cozy fit. The day ended as Lalika picked up his ebony black pawn, setting it down as the other pilgrims headed off to bed. He declared “Checkmate!”
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