Winter is coming...

  Driven on by the cold and rain we've powered across the North coast in a bid to get south and into Portugal as soon as possible. First stop was beautiful Santillana del Mar, a small village just West of Santander, notable for the nearby cave of Altamira with its stunning prehistoric art. The village itself is beautiful, if somewhat touristy, but we arrived on a weekday afternoon in the rain and had it much to ourselves. The caves are no longer open to visitors to protect the precious art from damage but there is a fantastic museum with a replica of the paintings and excellent guided tours. 

Walking through Santillana del Mar

Walking through Santillana del Mar

A sculpture of the bison that once dominated the area and are depicted in the cave paintings

A sculpture of the bison that once dominated the area and are depicted in the cave paintings

Museum of Materials, Santillana del Mar

Museum of Materials, Santillana del Mar

Ancient buildings in the village

Ancient buildings in the village

The 20,000-year-old Altamira paintings

The 20,000-year-old Altamira paintings

Traditional local male costume

Traditional local male costume

Traditional women's costume

Traditional women's costume

Santillana del Mar

Santillana del Mar

  We stayed overnight in Santillana and then pushed on west to San Vicente de la Barquera. The landscape looks like something out of a storybook; rolling green hills, snow-capped mountains, river and sea. In a rare moment of sunshine we stopped on the bridge to cook up a lunch surrounded by breathtaking views. This has to be one of the joys of taking your home with you as you travel, the ability to stop anywhere and take it all in.

Our kitchen for the day

Our kitchen for the day

What a view...

What a view...

The cook/copilot gets to work

The cook/copilot gets to work

The pilot has a rest, driving Sam is hard work!

The pilot has a rest, driving Sam is hard work!

Yum!

Yum!

 Close to Llanes we came acros a ruined monastery that was once a major stopover point for pilgrims enroute to Santiago de Compostela. We wandered through the beautiful abandoned buildings, watched only by a pair of stocky ponies. The church has been partially restored and was locked with a new wooden door but the rest of the buildings lay slowly rotting in the damp Asturian climate. You could trace the former life of these buildings in the mint, thyme and figs that grew everywhere. I've always been fascinated by ruins, the feeling that you can still sense the emotional traces of the all the people that built them, lived there, stayed there create an air of mystery and sadness which is so compelling. I want to know their stories, hear the voices that once filled these walls.

The ruined church of the Monasterio de San Antolin de Bedon

The ruined church of the Monasterio de San Antolin de Bedon

The new church door

The new church door

Ponies watch us as we explore the ruins as cars speed past on the motorway above

Ponies watch us as we explore the ruins as cars speed past on the motorway above

The ruined monastery buildings

The ruined monastery buildings

An ancient chestnut tree in the grounds

An ancient chestnut tree in the grounds

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Nature takes over

Nature takes over

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The scallop shell symbol can be found all along the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

The scallop shell symbol can be found all along the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

Sam at the Playa de San Antolin near Llanes

Sam at the Playa de San Antolin near Llanes

That afternoon we drove to Rodiles, a beautiful beach at the mouth of the Villaviciosa river and stumbled upon a handful of other campers, who beckoned us in to the car park. That night we shared food, compared vehicles and stories with a couple from Germany, a Spaniard named Alberto and an Australian, Dane, who was on a three month surf trip through Spain. It rained, and rained and rained. The van feels so cosy on those nights, when we hunker down with some good food and talk until we fall asleep. Mostly we discuss where this all headed and what we plan to do next. In the morning we wrapped up warm, bid farewell to our new friends and headed West.

Our camp for the night in a Eucalyptus forest

Our camp for the night in a Eucalyptus forest

New friends

New friends

Checking out the surf in the morning

Checking out the surf in the morning

Wrapped up warm

Wrapped up warm

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Sam packed up and ready to hit the road

Sam packed up and ready to hit the road

  It's so cold here now in the north and it's hit us hard after our trip down south. We both have colds and I've been making fresh ginger root tea to keep us healthy as we battle the elements. We're even sleeping with thermals, socks and wooly hats on now! It's now two months in to our trip, and Sam, despite the recent trip to a mechanic, is still having some issues. We have many miles and another country to hit before our December deadline, when we fly home from Lisbon to spend Christmas with family and friends. We're tired and sometimes, much as it might be hard to understand from the outside, it gets tiring travelling day in day out. Most of all we're both craving some sunshine. So after our delay in the Basque Country we've covered the beautiful north coast of Spain quicker than planned. We're powering towards A Coruna to get some mechanical help and then hopefully on to the Costa da Morte, renowned for being a shipwreck blackspot and for the rugged beauty of its coastline and villages, before we drop down into Portugal. Asturias and Galicia have some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen, but Sam needs some TLC if we're going to make it to Lisbon. Wish us luck!

The traditional store houses are still in use throughout the north

The traditional store houses are still in use throughout the north

Air-plants in pretty Lastres

Air-plants in pretty Lastres

Our camp for the night sheltered under a magnificent tree in Pontedeume

Our camp for the night sheltered under a magnificent tree in Pontedeume

The bridge in Pontedeume

The bridge in Pontedeume