Camino Lebaniego Journal 1 : The Bus Stop

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 15 August 2023 | ,

We had planned to walk the Camino Lebaniego in May 2020; of course this date came and went. Then we thought perhaps June but again this came and went.

However, Spain announced that the border would open on the 1st of July. That was enough. It was time to go walk.

Colleen and Gerry starting the Camino Lebaniego after COVID lockdowns

Camino Lebaniego After Lockdown

Day One : San Vicente de la Barquera to Muñorrodero (and back)

July 2 2020

So how has life been for you during these difficult, difficult days? I am well. My loved ones are well and thankfully our life in South West France changed very little over recent months. Of course, we were restricted by COVID lockdowns but we considered ourselves fortunate that our lives rolled on as normal. There were no concerts, no music and so many group walks were cancelled. But there are always new plans to be made.

Nonetheless, even with open borders, it would be foolhardy of us not to recognise that COVID-19 presents risks. To avoid adding to these risks we have rented an apartment not far from Potes. We’re driving from home with a car full of bedding and food. We’ve had our vaccine and we’ve tested negative. We can’t walk stage to stage but we can walk ‘there and back again‘ to our car. We have just under two weeks and we’re just happy to be back on the Camino.

View from La Maza Bridge of Cantabria the picos in cloud

Camino Lebaniego Starts in San Vincente de la Barquera

Like all good pilgrims, we set our alarm for an early start, with breakfast at 7:00 am. There is a certain comfort in our Camino routine; taping our toes, checking our packs, sorting water. Because this isn’t a normal Camino we also have a few extras; picnic, flask, wipes, masks and hand gel.

We set off before 8:00 but we hadn’t considered how much time it would take to drive to the coast. It’s a beautiful drive but the speed limit is 40km with lots of bends and turns and curves. It was 9:30 am before we reached San Vicente. We’ll need to consider this when planning our walks.

the view of San Vicente de la Barquera from the Camino Lebaniego

Back on the Camino : I Love Northern Spain!

We arrived! There are yellow arrows! Oh I love the Northern Coast of Spain. I could honestly quite happily just keep walking the Norte and we quickly decided that we’ll walk it again when we have time.

We parked at the end of the 16th-century Puente de la Maza, donned our face masks and set off across the bridge, following the arrows. I took photos of each one; I squealed with delight. We were back. We really were walking the Camino and as we walked into town we even heard our first Buen Camino. It may be July but the sky was grey and the morning was cool; but the forecasted rain never came.

We decided to forego our visit to the castle due to our late start; we’ll be back in a week so we can explore then. Certainly, if you plan to walk the Camino Lebaniego then allow an extra day in San Vicente de la Barquera; it’s a wonderful little town.

Up and up we walked, the arrows turned to the red of the Lebaniego arrow, and we walked out of the town and into open countryside. We wanted to look back but we had agreed before we started that we would save those views for our return walk back to the car; so on we walked looking ahead at the mountains.

A farmer called us over and he asked if we were going to Santiago. He actually said a great deal more to us but I didn’t understand; I really need to learn more Spanish! He pointed to the distant hills and told us that this was Serdio. We’d seen that on our map so we smiled and thanked him. He wished us Buen Camino and I felt a certain comfort in his kindness. We had been unsure about coming to Spain, I asked my Spanish friends if it was too soon. I even contacted a few Albergue and asked if they felt it was too soon. Everyone told us to come and this farmer wasn’t fearful of pilgrims. He opened his gate and invited us into his garden and we were welcomed.

Yellow Camino arrows and Red Camino Lebaniego arrows

Buen Camino and Music

Onwards we walked. Up and down, more Buenos from passing cyclists and dog walkers. Over the motorway bridge and into small villages and rural Spanish splendour. It was time for music. I found Home by The Foo Fighters but Gerry decided on Witchita Lineman by Glen Campbell. It worked and suited our mood. I simply adore walking in Spain and it felt so good to be back.

Up and up some more, walking ever further from the coast. It’s really difficult to not turn and look behind, I’m usually impatient but it’s a treat for later. Instead, we found a bench and decided it was time for tea. I adore Spanish coffee, if you’ve not tried it then order yourself a cafe con leche on your next visit! We’re trying to be self-sufficient, we had flasks of hot tea; it felt awfully extravagant sitting under the tree, watching cows, walking the Camino, sipping hot tea and eating a few peanuts and sharing a banana. Did I say already how happy I felt?

Finally, the road levelled and we started to go down. Normally this would bring certain comfort but we know that we’re going to be walking back up here on our return. However, this route is glorious. The distant views majestic. My thoughts wander back to last year, walking from Ribadesella to Oviedo and onwards to the Camino Primitivo. The countryside feels familiar, although the Austurias doesn’t have the Picos de Europe on the skyline!

We continue on through more little villages until we reach Serdio; we’re almost at the point where the Lebaniego and the Norte path splits. Pilgrims here have the choice of continuing on the Norte or taking our route on the Lebaniego.

Green fields of Cantabria from the Camino Lebaniego

Cafe Con Leche is the Best Coffee!

We stopped for a drink in the bar in the centre of town (they also offer accommodation). It felt decadent in these COVID days. Gerry had his first cafe con leche in a long time but I opted for a cola. Everyone is wearing a mask and there was a notice on the table to say it had been disinfected. I have wipes and gel and a reusable straw from home; I ask myself if I’m being overzealous but remind myself that it’s best to be safe.

We people-watch. A toddler is playing in the square, two older ladies chatting, a cyclist stops for a quick beer and several other pilgrims walk on. There is a lot of life behind the masks. It’s odd not to see smiles but it’s also amazing how much you can see in a stranger’s eyes. We feel welcome.

We pack up. We dispose of all things disposable, and leave our glasses on the bar. We pay sin contact with our card; hand gel, wipes, masks. It is becoming routine. We walk on. We wanted to reach the split in the road and walk a little on the Nansa River trail, but it was time to go back.

during covid times we only stopped for drinks outside along the camino de lebaniego

The Road Splits at Muñorrodero

It was easy to retrace our steps and I was so pleased that we’d kept the views for the return walk. You should try this! The trail looks very different from this direction. More pilgrims walked by. More Buen Caminos. We walked and realised that we were hungry; in all the excitement we’d forgotten to eat!

We looked around for a suitable picnic bench and spotted a bus stop. Perfect says Gerry. I am taken back to our bench-gate incident last year and agreed that a bus stop with a seat is a good thing. We sat and munched on our picnic and had another cup of tea. Gerry declared that a bus stop is the perfect place for a picnic or a pause when you’re camino-ing. He pondered for a moment and declared:

be it cold or hot
you can’t go wrong with a bus stop

Gotta love his wise words!

We reached downhill, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as we thought it would be. We climbed to the top and were rewarded with more amazing views. And still the weather held.

Down and down we walked to the water. The tide was in and the boats, that this morning lay like toys on the sand, were now bobbing around on the sea.

It was a glorious walk, we walked just shy of 18kms which, given our late start, wasn’t bad. We know that this isn’t a conventional Camino but these are not conventional days. We’re not sure which section we’ll walk tomorrow, but we are sure that we’ll be following arrows!

following the arrows on the camino lebaniego

Accommodation in San Vicente de la Barquera

San Vicente de la Barquera is a delightful little town. We didn’t have time today to explore but we did go back. If you are planning to walk the Camino Lebaniego then I’d recommend that you stay in town for a night, visit the ancient church and the castle, walk across the Puente de la Maza and across on the other side of the harbour on the harbour walls.

Enjoy a fish supper in one of the many restaurants and soak up the fabulous views and ambience of this little-known Cantabrian gem.

Accommodation at the Stage End at Cades

If you’re starting in San Vicente and walking the stage to Cades then you’ll have the choice of albergue and hotel. If you’re walking from the Camino del Norte and would prefer to stay at Serdio, the bar we stopped at (Hosteria El Corralucu below) also has rooms. We enjoyed our little break here and it’s the kind of place that we would opt to stay in when walking the Camino.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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