Does a Real Pilgrim Take the Train?

Day 6: Santander to Mogro — Two nights ago at Guemes the hospitalero clearly warned us, “Don’t walk across the railroad bridge between Boo de Pielagos and Mogros.” He knew this was a huge temptation for pilgrims because there are only two alternatives: walk an extra 11 km to and from the nearest foot bridge across the Pas River or for 1.3€ take the train to cross the hundred yard wide channel.

A walking pilgrimage to Santiago is just that, a walking pilgrimage. For me this has meant that in 2000 km of pilgrimages I have never ridden in a bus or train or taxi to cover the marked pilgrim route. Every km has been walked — sometimes with pain but always with pride that I was never “cheating” by not taking some modern mode of travel. But somehow today felt different. Perhaps it was because of the recommendation of the hospitalero, or perhaps it was because my French guidebook also recommended it, or perhaps it was the quick and cheap Feve train service, or perhaps it was simply because I wanted a second night in the comfy Hotel Bahia in Santander. Whatever the reason, I decided to leave my over-developed pilgrim scruples behind and for the first time take the train for a brief portion of my pilgrimage. Forgive me, Santiago!

I awoke a little before Sebastian this morning and quietly read and wrote emails until he was awakened by his watch alarm at 7:30. After he showered we slowly headed to the bus station, stopping along the way to complete a very short wedding greeting video he’d promised a friend and then at a cafe for a last croissant together before he left. At the station we both felt very sad as he boarded the bus for Bilbao, the first leg of his trip back to Cologne. The knowledge that he’ll be in Seattle in late August was a partial comfort. Sebastian is a wonderful person and a good friend.

Back at the hotel after a shower and shave I double-checked train schedules and confirmed my plan for the day. I would return by train from Boo, then tomorrow i would take the train to Mogro on the other side of the river.

Knowing my walk would only be 14.4 km I left my backpack in the room and headed out the door with only a rain jacket and my French guidebook. I hoped to find a small bottle of water to carry but on Sundays in Spain almost everything is closed. As I headed along the pedestrian mall I managed to find an open newspaper kiosk and was able to buy a small water to carry with me.

The pedestrian mall opened onto a main arterial, which passed a barracks of the Guardia Civil then emptied into the streets and suburban industrial buildings of Penacastillo. At an intersection below its yellow stucco and stone church the camino turned right and played cat-and-mouse with the train tracks through small farms and trendy subdivisions until arriving first at Santa Cruz de Bezana and finally, Boo de Pielagos.

When I at first missed the path to the train station I wondered whether habit or Santiago or maybe Freud were telling me to walk the extra 11 km. But now it was already 3:00, my blisters were starting to complain, and the train back to the comforts of Santander was only a few minutes away.

Tomorrow I will complete the deed when I return by train, not to Boo, but across the river to Mogro. Santiago, I’m on my way — a little less of a purist this time — but I’m on my way.

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6 thoughts on “Does a Real Pilgrim Take the Train?

  1. I am encouraged by your beautiful header on your site. I have heard several comments on taking the bus outside of Burgos because of the 12 km of industrial road. I thought the same as you, it is a pilgrimage, not a vacation. Thank you for your thoughts and photos.
    My husband and I plan to walk the Camino de Santiago in mid-September. Buen Camino.

  2. Thank you for your information, I plan to begin my solo journey the end of August or first of September. I am hoping to find others to alk with.

  3. Thank you so much for blogging across Northern Spain. Will be on the Camino Frances September 3rd and looking forward to it!

    • Will be starting about the same time, Madrid on 29 August hope to be in St. Jean and ready to begin Frances on 1 September, safe travels

  4. Everyone has their own Camino. You are definitely NOT having the same Camino experience as those who walked during the Middle Ages. Who decides what your pilgrimage is like……you and you alone!

  5. I look forward to your posts and the detail you supply, Thanks.
    On the 1st night in Irun I told other pilgrims there was a short cut to the Camino path from the alberque,a very stern reply issued, we don’t cheat! I said neither do I just take shortcuts…but we did take the same train, and on it realised if we stayed on for 2 stops instead of 1 we could then take the longer walk on the beach later, so we did! We later met the “stern” pilgrim ahead of us one day ? she had started taking an “odd” bus…she reasoned that the Frances was a true pilgrimage but for various reasons she now felt on the Norte she could be easier on herself and have a few shorter days, the days after all were tending to be long kms. So we laughed and all agreed everyone has their own camino, and we met our lovely swiss caminoist on the train (he did like you, came out from Santander twice) and he walked with us the rest of the Camino.

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