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Camino Liebana/Albergue in Potes/First stage of the Vad

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances & Finisterre (2012); Ruta del Ebro (Tortosa to Sastago) (2014); Camino del Norte (Santander - Serdio) (2014); Camino Liebana & Camino Vadiniense (2014); Camino San Salvador (2015); Camino Olvidado (Sodupe - Reinosa) (2015); Camino del Norte (Irun - Deba & Serdio - Llanes) (2015)
After 'extricating' myself from the Ruta del Ebro last Friday due to the heat - it's hard to walk across such arid territory in temperatures of 35 degrees - I took a bus from Quinto to Zaragoza then another bus to Santander from where I set out on the Norte with the intention of doing the Liebana and the Vadiense.

The Camino Liebana was a stunning walk, even if a lot of it was on asphalt; the roads were little used. It's very well signposted - once you get used to the red arrow - and I had no problems. I started from Serdio: good albergue, great little bar in the village (La Gloria) run by a very friendly and generous woman. In retrospect I would have liked to have stayed at the albergue in Lafuente but instead I opted for the hotel/posada in Quintanilla (30 Euros with breakfast - good value). That meant that the second stage was a little longer than I'd have liked. There are two good climbs: the first up to the Collado de Hoz; the second, much steeper and interminable, up to Arcedon, with a steep descent to Liebana. The trail becomes a little vague at the top but if you head for the pylons you should be okay. The descent is a bit of a killer!

After only two kilometres alongside the road in the gorge (traffic not too bad, drivers gave me space) the lovely red arrows directed me away and onto a very pleasant riverside trail. I kept expecting to return to the road but the path took me all the way to Potes so no more having to dice with death on the main highway.

I've read that the albergue in Potes was custom built in 2009 for the Jubilee year. Sadly, parts of it are already beginning to show evidence of wear and tear; was it a good idea to build a subterranean albergue? There are eight dormitories each with six beds; there were only three of us in residence on Thursday. Still, at 5 euros it remains very good value.

It appears there's a steady trickle of pilgrims on the Liebana, though apart from two others in the Potes albergue I didn't see another souls.

After completing the Liebana at the Monastery (arrived as the first tour bus was pulling up and joined the guided tour, managed to see - and feel - the true cross; the very friendly, helpful staff in the shop let me leave my backpack there) I continued onto the Vadiense. Now that was stage and a half! After descending to the road the yellow arrows took me on a rollercoaster ride; up and down, up and down. It took me right up to Redo and Mogrovejo.

I was expecting a relatively gentle stroll up to Espinama and after the exertions of the previous day I really didn't enjoy what is a beautiful walk. I'm staying in the Hostal Nevandi (30 euro with breakfast; very friendly, good value); as rain is forecast and my legs are stiff I'm taking a rest day. I'd intended to continue along the Vad to Mansilla but time is running out; have to finish Thursday so may take the Ruta de la Reconquista to Covadonga instead.

Back next year for more!

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