Camino Lebaniego Journal 2 : Magpies and Meadows
Created by Colleen Sims * 3 April 2023 * Updated 15 August 2023
This is a day of two halves; there’s a lot of road walking which isn’t so great but partway through the day the valley opens up and the views are just wonderful. The image below is one of my favourite from the Camino Lebaniego and offers a glimpse of the views you’ll have.
Camino Lebaniego : There and Back to Cades
Day 2: Cades to Lafuente (and back)
July 3 2020
You know how some days you wake up and nothing feels right? My morning tea didn’t taste as it should, the shower was a bit too cold, the heating too warm, the toaster didn’t work and things just weren’t quite as sunny as they should have been. This was my morning. Some folks would say that “I got out the wrong side of the bed” or perhaps “I was just plain grumpy”. The simple truth was that I was out of sorts and I didn’t know why.
This was day two of our there and back again Camino Lebaniego, after walking from San Vicente de la Barquera yesterday. COVID restrictions meant that we would walk an unconventional Camino de Santiago. Today we were starting at Cades.
We made picnics, packed our bags and made ready. We knew that there would be a long drive and that the road to Cades from our apartment was steep and bendy. Typical of my morning, as we reached the steep section, google announced that GPS signal was lost. However, there was only one road so we keep going. Up and up we drove, switching left and switching right and wishing and hoping that no other car or tractor would come from the other direction.
We passed an old lady bent over her stick, strolling up the hill, like she’d done this a million times. A few hundred metres further we saw a farmer trying to catch an escaped calf; we wondered if the old lady was his support team. We’ll never know as we carried on higher and higher until the road opened up into the most stunning valley.
We parked just outside of Cades. I saw a magpie and he dropped a feather, is that a bad omen? (I did say hello and wished him a good day). Just like yesterday, we started walking later than we had hoped. But we set off.
Leaving Cades you’re faced with a little bit of elevation, although the trail to Lafuente felt quite steady, not too steep, albeit a lot of tarmac walking. Just as yesterday, we agreed not to look back but to save those views for our return. You should try it; it’s really not as easy as it sounds.
Today was a glorious walk. We were in a valley and cliffs soared up around us and a babbling river below. This landscape is amazing and I have so many questions. What is the rock? How were these mountains formed? What is on the other side of our valley? Questions Questions Questions.
We stopped at a bus stop. It was lunchtime so we made the most of the bench. No sooner had we sat and opened our picnics than we were joined by a cat. And then another cat appeared. And then another. They meowed and meowed until we relented and shared our picnic with them.
Wild Flowers and Birds of Prey
Today started grey but it didn’t last. We walked under a blue sky and high above us we could see enormous birds of prey. We thought back to the walk from Irun to San Sebastian on the Norte with the Pyrenees Vultures circling overheard and we wondered if these were waiting for tired pilgrims; we decided not to dawdle!
Onwards we walked, and along the side of the road, accompanying us, was a glorious display of wildflowers and grasses. So many flowers. If you walk this route in early summer be prepared to take your time; literally stop and smell the roses.
I asked myself if my morning had been all wrong because I was grumpy or if I was grumpy because my morning had been all wrong. Gerry ignored me and decided to play music. One of my most favourite songs; Brothers in Arms by Dire Straights. The spell was broken.
Short Diversion to Quintanilla
We took the diversion to Quintanilla, it’s well marked, just cross the river bridge and keep walking. It’s a great diversion for two reasons, 1) you come off the ‘main’ road (which is really, really quiet) and 2) you walk between glorious meadows which you should see. Do take the extra kilometre, you won’t regret it!
We walked and listened to the music and played air guitars and just enjoyed the valley. And I kept taking photos of the wildflowers. There are fields and fields of wildflowers and meadows that are a riot of colour. With the mountains in the background, I half expected to see Heidi or Julie Andrews come running out to greet us. It’s glorious. It’s beautiful. It’s everything and more. The music worked. Today was just fabulous!
We stopped for a cold drink in Quintanilla. There is also a little shop in town. The owner was busy cleaning the seats and tables as we arrived and just as yesterday everyone wore a mask. COVID is never far from our thoughts but folks are taking precautions and that’s comforting.
Sobrelapena and Lafuente
Walking back towards the Camino and Sobrelapeña, you’ll have the chance to visit an old church on a hill. We had time so we wandered off in that direction. Sadly it was locked and there was no information, just a church on a hill surrounded by fields of wildflowers. It was worth the diversion just for the view.
Onwards and onwards and the sun rose and the afternoon grew warm. Just before you reach Lafuenta you’ll find another tiny church. Set in the valley amid these mountains, this simple little church is considered a national Cultural Asset in Spain and is home to examples of Romanesque art. I’m always amazed at the history associated with the Camino, so many traces remain from medieval times when pilgrims walked from home to Santiago de Compostela. The Church of Santa Juliana de Lafuente was closed but nonetheless, it’s worth taking some time to explore.
Lafuenta is such a pretty little medieval village. We will return here tomorrow to walk onward to Cicera but for today our walk had reached its end. There was nothing for it but to turn and walk back to the car.
Another Glorious Day on the Camino Lebaniego
There was more music, more idle chit-chat, more questions about war and peace and geology and we got to enjoy the new view, walking back through the valley. We always knew that the Camino Lebaniego would be a beautiful walk, we expected nice views but today exceeded everything. If you’re planning to walk this Camino… then you’re a lucky lucky hiker indeed!
Accommodation Options in Cades
If you are hiking the Camino Lebaniego from the coast you can break your first day in Serdio or Cades and could stay in these accommodation options. I would call in advance to ensure the albergue are open and reserve your bed.
Accommodation Options between Cades and Cicero
There is a Posada in Quintanilla if you wished to break your stage here but there is a 2 night minimum, so perhaps call in advance and see if they would offer you one night? Likewise there is an pilgrim alburgue in Lafuente, which is open year round, although I would call in advance to check for a bed; it is also open for hikers ( Los Pumares Pilgrims Hostel Tel : +34 651 624 128).
We found the arrows a little confusing in Lafuenta. I think in part to a kindly local who tried to direct us to the albergue and we lost the arrows and had to backtrack. But be aware as you enter the village just to be sure.
From Lafuente it’s not far to Cicero and we’ll be walking that route tomorrow! There are a few services and accommodation options in Cicero too.
We drove to the Picos, but we live in France so it’s easier for us. If you’re flying into Spain and wish to explore more of this fabulous region after your hike along the Camino Lebaniego, I thoroughly recommend you hire a car to make the very most of your trip.
Never leave home without travel and medical insurance. Accidents happen so make sure you have full travel insurance before leaving home.
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.
TrueTraveller : We have this policy now for an extended global trip and we are happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions
Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me. although we’ve not used them personally.