Saturday, August 4, 2012

Notes from the Road- Santoña and the Marismas

Laredo is a seaside town that consists almost entirely of a spit extending almost all the way across the estuary to Santoña. On one side is a very serviceable beach, much of the rest is grass-covered sand, and wherever possible there are houses for tourists. It has, as far as I know, no history, and the population trebles in the summer. In the winter those that are left just mooch about waiting for the sun to come out. Not somewhere you’d want to live.

It is, on the other hand, a very good place to start walking from (to leave, if you like). As you walk west you come immediately to the marismas, the expanse of the estuary, with shallow water, and highly fertile mud just below or just above the surface. If that doesn’t sound especially inviting (and it does smell a bit) the reason I like it is that it attracts a lot of birds.

Most people associate the marisma with shellfish, and there are indeed some very good mussels and clams produced there, as well as sardines, for which the bay is famous, but for the eye and the spirit the interest is provided by the birds.

We walked along and beside the mudflats for several miles, through the port of Colindres* and then through a eucalyptus forest where we got caught in a rainstorm. The road is wet at times. It doesn’t matter; you cover yourself and the rucksack as best you can and later you dry out again.

Then you join the road and walk across a series of bridges that cross the flats. The road is mostly bridge from then on, and you have a clear view of the whole estuary and the sea beyond. The greens and blues and greys rise and fall across the water and the nearby hills and the birds swim and fly lazily across your path. The pictures don’t really do it justice and I think the words don’t either.

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