From Coastal Beauty To Inland Plains – Llanes & Hospital De Órbigo, Spain
Pre-Post Note/ We are back to the Spain mini-trip that dad and I completed last month. A few more installments to go on this one before we take off on our next adventure (planning is already in the works….)
Dad and I awake to a beautiful day bathed in gorgeous, clear sunshine. It’s been a while since we had such nice weather and it makes all the aches and pains of the last few days seem a little further away. We both sense the change and we’re eager to go. It already feels like today is going to be a really good travel day.
We Start By Stocking Up At The Nearest Mercadona
We start the trip by making a stop at the local Mercadona.
Mercardona’s are a big grocery chain store in Spain and they always have space to park a motorhome, so they’re our “go to” when we need to stock up along the way. Plus their produce is always good and alcohol prices are spectacular. Can you say EUR 1-2 for a regular bottle of wine, or EUR 11 for a nice bottle of gin? Prices like this are standard fare in Spain and I have to admit it definitely adds to my enjoyment of traveling here. Inexpensive gas and groceries, friendly peeps and plenty of varied scenery to enjoy it all. What’s not to love?
This particular Mercadona is only ~1km off the main highway with super easy access. We park outside and within about 20 mins we’ve packed the cart with food and re-loaded our extensive LMB wine and gin stash for the grand total of only ~EUR 50 or so. Sorted!
Then We Cruise Along The Coast
From the Mercado we travel casually along the main highway of AP-8 (no tolls on this section of the coast) for about an hour before we hit our first scheduled stop of the day, a free motorhome parking area near the coastal city of Llanes. My plan to stop here was kinda last minute, guided by a passing comment I saw on one of the many motorhome touring groups I participate in on Facebook. I think it said something like “nice stop by a nice little town”.
OK, might be nice then?
Well the comment turned out to be a wonderfully understated British description. In my opinion this place was frikkin’ spectacular!!
We Stop At An Unexpected Gem
Our first impression of the place was admittedly not the best. The Motorhome Area in Llanes is nothing more than a large concrete parking lot, with a sectioned-off area for motorhomes (EUR 3, behind a paid barrier) on the left and a free section beside it on the right. It’s pretty drab and nothing much to write home about, but from Google it looks like there might be a nice trail just nearby along the coast into town, so we decide to give it a go.
We park in the free section and walk casually towards the ocean. We find an access, hike to the top of a little hill and are literally stopped dead in our tracks as we both gasp in unison.
Check out that view!!!!!
This part of the coast has huge, ragged cliffs that plunge into the ocean, spilling hundreds of feet into the water against the backdrop of mountain peaks (the famous Picos de Europa) just South of here. The coastal walking trail from Llanes runs along the very edge of these cliffs and it’s a large, green area with wide-open space and gob-smacking views in every direction.
I let Polly off leash to explore while dad and I soak in the panorama. The whole trail into town is only around 1.8 km, but it takes us almost 40 mins to walk simply because we’re stopping, gawking and taking pictures every few minutes.
Man, this place is gorgeous!
Llanes itself is equally charming. Tight-packed buildings with a small port, lovely churches & chapels (Iglesia de Santa María de La Magadalena, Iglesia de Santa
It’s a fishing town that’s decidedly Spanish with touches of architecture that show the long history of all the various wars and conflicts (Spanish Civil War, Independance War) that have been fought along its shores. Plus it’s got some wonderful beaches and coves as well as some modern art along the breakwater (Los Cubos de Memoria or The Cubes of Memory).
We know nothing of all this as we walk into town, having not really expected much (and thus not really researched the place). So we simply wander around snapping shots of some of the more ornate buildings, stopping for a nice coffee and visiting a few of the churches. We end up missing several of the main attractions (in particular the cove and the breakwater cubes), but we’d only planned a few hours here as we had a rather important DATE to make in the afternoon. So it ends up being a shorter stop than it really merits. Nonetheless the town surprised us both, in a very good way. Paul and I are going to have to come back here and explore a bit more next time we pass through this area of the coast.
Make note if you’re traveling this way yourselves!
We Split Away From The Coast To Go Inland
After our return to LMB we head back to the main highway A-8 for about another 50 km or so before splitting off inland on A-64. This lonely overland route turns out to be another pleasant little surprise.
It’s a lovely, low-traffic road that sneaks up high into the mountains through a multitude of tunnels (I think we counted around 8 km in total of tunnels!), past beautiful Alpine Lakes, into lush pine forests and then through the other side to a dry red earth, outer worldly landscape.
This is the dry side of Spain and I feel it right away in my nose. The landscape reminds me of parts of Utah, a desolate and arrid place, layered deep in fine red sand with a heat that burns you during the day and then plunges you to almost freezing at night. It’s a desert landscape, at least the Spanish version of it, and I recognize and love it immediately.
We Arrive For Our DATE In Hospital De Órbigo
As much as I’d have liked to linger in the higher alpine lakes of A-64 we push on towards our destination to the day, the small town (~1,031 inhabitants) of Hospital De Órbigo.
It’s a teeny little place pretty much in the middle of nowhere and it’s really not a spot I would have chosen to visit except for the small, but rather important distinction that it’s on the Camino De Santiago and Paul and his dad are going to be there…..TODAY!
THIS was the date we’d been planning for ever since dad and I left France.
It had been tricky to nail down, mostly because Paul and his dad had been walking the Camino at their own pace, which would vary depending on the day and how they were feeling. Plus we needed somewhere we could park LMB, and by the time our schedules synced up the boyz just happened to be on one of the most desolate parts of the trail (The Meseta…..a looong, flat, dry, sparsely-inhabited section in the middle) where parking is few and far between.
Today was the day we finally managed to make it all come together, but unfortunately the Universe deemed that the timing still wasn’t quite right.
Sadly The Boyz Are Not Well….
The Camino is a challenging walk, but walking is just one small part of it.
Shortly before our scheduled meet-up Paul and his dad had become seriously sick. They’d caught the infamous “Camino Flu”, a sickness that spreads like wildfire through the communal dorms where peregrinos (pilgrims) spend most of their nights on the trail. It’s apparently common enough that regular Camino hikers know about it, and plan to stay in private rooms as much as possible specifically to avoid it.
Our boyz had only just figured out that little trick, but unfortunately too late to avoid the sickness. So they’d succumbed and had been hacking, coughing and basically just feeling really awful. The flu combined with daily grinds of 5-7 hours of hard walking had really taken it’s toll, so by the time we saw them they were pretty much at their very worst**.
** The boyz were actually so sick they ended up going to the doctor a few days after we met and received much-needed medical attention. Despite the set-back they persevered and finished the Camino a few weeks later. Such troopers!!!
So Our Visit Was A Short One
All this meant our much-anticipated date turned out to be a rather short affair.
We parked LMB in the one and only campground in town (Camping Municipal Don Suero De Quiñones) in the early afternoon, facing her sideways so we could ensure some shade in our “sitting area” to relax out of the already-very-hot sun. The camp was a nice enough little place, mostly full of permanent set-ups (tons of local families) with just a few empty grass slots for passer-bys like ourselves. Good enough for a few days and reasonably priced at EUR 16/night, but not really a spot I’d chose to spend a longer stay.
Paul and his dad walked over shortly after we arrived.
We were all ecstatic to see each other (Polly went nuts!), but the poor boyz were so sick that they were only able to last a few hours before having to go back and sleep. We sent them off with Theraflu before settling down to a gin & tonic and a simple dinner in the shade.
Oh well, what can you do?
The next morning we met up again briefly for a walk around town, exploring the old medieval bridge and walking through the quiet cobblestone streets before a quick hug and goodbye. It would have been a longer stay, but none of us really wanted the others to get sick, and the boyz needed all the rest they could get before moving on.
We Had An Amazing Day Nonetheless
In the end it turned out to be an amazing day, despite the not-so-romantic date at the end.
We enjoyed tons of much-needed sunshine, snagged a fabulous coastal stop, had a beautiful drive over the mountains and managed a meet-up with my honey (always a good day, even when we feel poorly) and his dad.
This would also mark the Western-most point of our mini-trip to Spain. From here dad and I would be backtracking along the French Route of the Camino De Santiago, taking the inland route home and basically driving the trail Paul and his dad had just walked in exact reverse. And the Universe would be with us this time! In fact this section of the trip would end up being our favorite, and the absolute highlight of it all was coming next…..