Santo Toribio Pilgrimage: Part 2
Marly tells us the story of her Santo Toribio Pilgrimage. She did it without guides, Internet or any prior research in 2006. Our Camino Lebaniego was created using the best parts of her experience and adding new amazing paths. Of course we take care of you so that can fully enjoy your Camino and its beauty but without going through any of the difficult moments that she went through.
The Camino Lebaniego is a breathtaking pilgrimage route to venerate the Cross of Lignum Crucis, said to contain the largest remaining piece of the original cross of Christ. On this journey we explore Cantabria. Quite a paradise for nature lovers, the route starts at the Cantabrian coast and goes through ancient forests until it crosses the majestic Picos de Europa National Park. Holy Jubilee Year 2017! It means that if you complete this Camino, you will have the opportunity to receive a Plenary Indulgence from the church.
Third Stage: Abanilla to Cicera
Leaving from the Rio Nansa Bridge we passed by the towns of Bielva, Cades, and Quintanilla where we ate an expensive meal that was not so good. We passed through Lafuente – Burió and Collado de Hoz until reaching our destination: Cicera.
By this point we were entering the mountain valleys, beautiful yes, but of course, more difficult. We didn’t see any other pilgrims, just one or two cars that passed by on the highway. To be honest, we were very lonely. Most of the markers that we found were just informational, showing the two options to continue the Camino, and honestly during those stages we were never sure if we were on the right path.
In Cicera we reached Molino de Cicera, a spectacular rural inn, in the middle of the Picos de Europa Mountains. A place as beautiful as its owner: Asun, a lovely lady who was very nice and very knowledgeable about the Camino. She was our savior as she was the first person who talked to us and told us about the Camino based on her own experience. Of course she was so knowledgeable that from the moment we met her, her phone was always ringing!! We called her a lot: for us she was like the Michelin guide hahaha.
Apart from being a magnificent tour guide, Asun took us to the Santa Catalina Overlook; you can’t miss this amazing place from which you can see the peaks of the Picos de Europa. She also took us to a beautiful waterfall located in Hermida where we were able to bathe in water that was approximately 60 degrees – very relaxing.
Fourth stage: Cicera to Potes
Following Asun’s advice, on this stage we took only one backpack for the three of us with only the most important things because this was a very difficult stage with lots of mountain trails. The other two bags were sent to Potes with the town’s baker! – haha! Again you can see that we were very adventurous.
We left Cicera very early and we walked towards Lebeña. This particular trail had some difficult areas with many ups and downs but with truly outstanding landscapes. The farther we got into the route, the lonelier we felt, there was nobody around us and it was absolutely quiet. The trail started getting more and more difficult and we weren’t even sure if we were on the right path. We called Asun every 30 minutes and she kept telling us that we needed to look for “a house with a tree”- I couldn’t imagine a house in such a lonely place.
It was very foggy, so much so that we couldn’t even see each other. We definitely felt nervous although not desperate… until we saw the cows and bulls. We called Asun feeling scared and she told us “be careful because these animals may be dangerous”. Oh my god, I couldn’t believe that Asun was saying this to me at such a scary moment. Additionally, at that moment we lost our phone signal so we couldn’t finish the conversation and she wasn’t able to tell us about the correct Camino path.
Thank God the fog started to clear, but only after spending about two hours lost in an unknown place full of grass and plants that looked like Christmas trees. Finally we saw a marker showing that the town of Lebeña was 3.5 kms or one and a half hours away from where we were. It also said that the mountainous trail was difficult.
We continued up the hill until we reached Lebeña. We saw a lady there and we were incredibly happy to see her. We ran to ask her the correct route to Potes. Right outside of the town we saw a marker with an arrow towards Santo Toribio de Liébana, it was only 24 kilometers away!! You cannot imagine how incredible it felt, finally we saw someone and something pointing towards our final destination.
But unfortunately we got confused somehow and we didn’t take the right path. For about 20 minutes we walked along the worst possible route. You can’t imagine how dangerous it was as we were walking by the Desfiladero de la Herminda: very close to a precipice, we were no longer walking, we sat down and proceeded to slide down the rock face on our backs.
I have a flaw, or maybe a virtue: when I am very nervous I start laughing a lot. My friend was furious with me because she didn’t think this situation was funny at all, even more so when I asked her if we had life insurance – hahaha. She really wanted to kill me.
We carried the bag by dragging it and trying not to look down to see the highway. We walked this way for about 20 minutes when a woman yelled from her house, “Are you crazy? You can’t walk that way!”
We finally reached the highway leading to the town of Castro Cillorigo, we continued along the highway, passing through Tama where we met Chucho, the owner of Bar Casa Felipe, a place where they took wonderful care of us (well, imagine how we looked after going through all that!).
We passed by the town of Ojedo before reaching Potes at around 7:45 pm feeling completely exhausted. The biggest surprise was to find lots of Pilgrims in Potes, well, to be honest, not that many but to me they seemed like a ton of pilgrims because there were hardly any up until that point.
Seeing those pilgrims, I doubted my own physical abilities as I thought they all had done the same trail and yet they were looking very relaxed. We looked as if we had gone through hell and back! But of course, once we asked, none of those pilgrims had done the same Santo Toribio Pilgrimage as us. It wasn’t even a possibility for any of them, they were astonished that we had done it and we felt like heroes – hahaha!
Fifth stage: Potes to Santo Toribio de Liebana. Final destination
Only 3 kilometers away from Potes you can find Santo Toribio de Liebana, it is considered to be the oldest monastery in Spain and its services have never been interrupted. The Pilgrim’s Mass was very beautiful with lovely and very emotional music. We received our well-deserved plenary indulgence.
Our Santo Toribio Pilgrimage finished there. While I am telling this story, I am reliving it knowing that I will definitely be going back. I was incredibly impressed with the beauty of Cantabria. In spite of all the adventures we had because we weren’t prepared, the majestic Picos de Europa were very exciting. I felt very privileged and for me it was a spectacular experience.
Cantabria is wonderful.
Ligia Muci Ramos.