Day one on the Camino de San Salvador is a walk northward out of León, leaving the Camino Francés far behind as it heads for the Cantabrian mountains of Asturias. This day follows the path of the Río Bernesga, steadily gaining elevation throughout the day on its journey to La Robla.
"We may run, walk or stumble,... but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way." ~ Gloria Gaither
Here is our google map, created from our upload GPS tracks. I have placed accommodations and cafés on the map so you can plan your day. I have included alternative routes, in red, that are described farther below.
As you can see from the elevation profile of day one on the Camino San Salvador, it is essentially a long steady climb, with a few extra elevation bumps in the middle. The total elevation gain is 600 meters, with a loss of 468. It is a good warm-up for what is to come.
We did not feel the day was all that strenuous, however, if you are starting late, or wish to stop sooner, there is an albergue about two-thirds of the way through this stage at about 17 kilometers, in the town of Cabanillas.
There are two short, but significant climbs that will get your heart beating, as you can see.
In the early morning hours, we set off from our Hotel Quindós, towards the Plaza San Marcos and the pilgrims statue, shown below.
In late September, the sun only rises by 0800, and few people were in the streets. My husband Rich was very happy, after our breakfast of giant croissants and cups of café con leche. The Cafetería Peregrino is just across from the plaza. It is most conveniently located for the start of a pilgrim's journey!
Upon arriving at the pilgrims statue, above, walk eastward across the plaza, in front of the San Marcos church, against the French Way pilgrim traffic (ha ha) until you come to the first street, the Avenida los Peregrinos (Pilgrim's Avenue). Across the street you will see the first concrete waymark, below.
There should be yellow arrows directing you to turn left by the concrete waymark and onto the Avenida Los Peregrinos. Immediately walk by the entrance to the Parador de León hotel on your left.
In 270 meters come to the first large roundabout with an airplane in the center shown below. When you see the airplane you are ensured that you are heading in the right direction.
Prior to this roundabout with the airplane, there are not a lot of arrows or waymarks, so it is significant to find this place. After the roundabout, wooden signs appear and yellow arrows on the poles, with a big yellow "Oviedo" written on the pavement to reassure you.
Walk around the roundabout to the west and after crossing the street you can immediately see a stairway leading down to the river Bernesga, and a lovely alternative river path to walk along, instead of the street.
We chose to stay on the upper street walkway, which was pleasant enough, and actually a bit shorter than the riverwalk.
This riverwalk is now waymarked, although you can see the Avenida los Peregrinos almost at all times, at least initially, if you choose to walk here. You would only need to be astute to when the Camino leaves the Avenida Los Peregrinos, to turn right, or eastward on the Calle Unicef after about 2.0 kilometers.
Or, if you despise pavement and don't need a café before seven kilometers, you can choose to continue along this winding and less direct path for an additional 5 kilometers, for a total of about 7.5 kilometers joining the main route on the north side of the town of Carbajal de la Legua. This extended route will only add about 1/2 kilometer to your total. Check the map above to see the route in red.
Back on the pleasant Avenida los Peregrinos, it is important to note, on the northeast side of the airplane roundabout is a large supermarket called the Mercadona where you can supply your pack for the day, a necessary task, if you have not already done so, although it may not open until 9:00 a.m. See the map above for its location.
Here is a photo that depicts the proximity of the riverwalk to the Camino in the Avenida Los Peregrinos. You truly can see the two Caminos side-by-side at all times.
In one kilometer from the airplane, you come to the second roundabout and continue northward.
1.2 kilometers later, about 2.6 kilometers from the start at the pilgrim statue, you approach the third roundabout, where you leave the Avenida Los Peregrinos, and where the yellow arrows on the pavement direct you to the right and onto the Calle Unicef. This is a beautiful residential area with lots of new homes.
In only 350 meters on the Calle Unicef, come to a T-intersection and turn left onto the LE-5504, the highway, Carretera de Carbajal.
Within 1.1 kilometers, come to a large roundabout.
In another 1/2 kilometer, continuing on the Carretera, walking northward, you pick up a bike path, and at 4.4 kilometers for the day, pass by a huge sports complex on your left, the Olímpico de León. Shortly thereafter at 5.0 kilometers, pass by the sign letting you know you are leaving the city limits of León. There are now huge nets rising up on your left, containing the balls within the sports grounds.
360 meters later, enter the city limits of the next town of Carbajal de la Legua.
The Camino de San Salvador continues to walk northward through the urban area of Carbajal de la Legua for the next 3.0 kilometers, along the LE-5504. The road becomes more narrow as it heads north through town. You will encounter many old adobe homes along this never-ending stretch through town.
At about 6.7 kilometers, we passed by the Café Central that was open at 9:20 in the morning near the center of the urban area that may be your only opportunity until La Seca, about 12 kilometers down the road.
There is also the La Fuente Café Bar just by the Café Central that was closed when we walked by.
At about 7.1 kilometers, the longer river route joins those of us who have stayed on the main route, from the west.
In 7.75 kilometers, the homes cease and the road becomes dirt. I have good news and bad news! The pavement finally ends for about the next nine kilometers, however, here is where the first significant hill climb begins.
At 9.5 kilometers we crested the first hill. We met up with two Spanish pilgrims who had already logged 1000 kilometers, starting on the coast east of Madrid, and were walking for 38 days! They were planning to continue on the San Salvador to Oviedo, then on to Santiago via the Primitivo. What an industrious journey!
As we descended from the top of the hill, the Camino stayed to the left, shown below. There are plenty of waymarks to guide you, where the side roads turn off.
At 11 kilometers, you come to the bottom of the hill, round a bend and cross a small stream, running low in September.
The pilgrimage traveler is following a nice, wide roadway, that is open and could be quite hot in the summertime.
After taking the large bend, the Way heads up the next small hill where the nice wide road becomes more of a goat path, with lots of mountain bike tracks and into a wonderful holly forest. This forest is dense and shady.
At 11.3 kilometers, you pass by a beautiful old holly tree, with a chair and a shrine to a man named "Cesar." You can have a rest here if you need it.
The Camino de San Salvador is mostly upsy-downsy through here on day one. The holly forest is oh-so-lovely and moss-covered, with the occasional yellow arrows painted on them.
At 11.75 kilometers, the trail goes steeply up and to the right. You get glimpses of interspersing views of the verdant Bernesga river valley to your left, denoted by the ribbon of green trees.
Then the forest opens as the trail descends once more, shown below, and the Way ahead becomes clear ~ up the next hill!
First walk by a sign for a fountain, a few meters off Camino to your left, called the Fuente de Villalbura. In a few more meters, walk by the ruins of Villalbura.
At almost 13 kilometers, you cross a muddy wash and turn right and up the hill.
The short steep climb becomes apparent once you start up. Below is a photo of the steep climb ahead, where the view opens up. There is yet another shrine to a deceased person, halfway up this hill. (not shown)
While it appears that you must climb to the tippy top, the Way turns off the left, before this is so.
However, the climb continues, after the turn shown above.
At 13.48 kilometers, you come to another top with a nice cluster of trees to stop in the shade and rest if needed. Still ahead are visible power lines, and the pilgrimage traveler must keep climbing on day one of the Camino de San Salvador.
At 13.6 kilometers, turn left to go down hill. You don't have to go all the way to the top that you can see ahead. Just when you think you are not at the top, a Camino sign directs you to go down to the left, and descend on steep, loose and gravelly stuff.
At about 13.8 kilometers, you will see a very steep hill descent ahead, on a goat track after the initial descent. This fortunately, is not the way, but you turn to the right. This goat trail turned out to be a mountain biking thrill-ride shortcut!
The actual foot trail comes into view ahead, shown below.
At about 15.6 kilometers, you finally come to the power line directly overhead, and then the road turns sharply to the left and starts to descend. As the road flattens out, you can feel that you are approaching a town. I was grateful because I was hurting a bit, was quite hungry and ready for a break on day one of the Camino de San Salvador.
The steep descent heads westward towards the next town of Cabanillas, then it bends to the north and suddenly you come out into town, shown in the photo below.
You have come 16.5 kilometers, when you reach the Camino Real and a row of houses, shown here.
After walking by the church of Santiago and the Capillo del Santo Cristo, shown above, at 16.8 kilometers, you come to a nice shady plaza with a fountain and picnic tables.
There is no café in town, but there is an albergue 120 meters to the right of the plaza It is the municipal Albergue de Peregrinos de Cabanillas, with only four places, Tel. +34 625 426 659. You must call ahead if you plan to stay here and bring your own food.
We stopped at this inviting plaza and had a picnic in the shade, and refreshed our water supply on our day one of the Camino San Salvador.
Then it was back on the Camino. After the plaza in Cabanillas, the Way takes a hard right turn northward after town, picking up a rocky and stony path that is well-marked. Here you continue to follow the river and you can hear it and see it. It's quite nice.
At 18.2 km there is a station with a notebook where you can leave your thoughts and sign in. We did not want to disturb the two pilgrims there, so we kept walking through on day one of our Camino de San Salvador.
And then it's onward through the forest towards the next town of La Seca de Alba.
At about 18.9 kilometers, you come to the information board by the bridge, that leads you across the river and into the town and a sign for the bar. If you decide to go here, the bar in La Seca is about 400 meters off-Camino.
The Way climbs after the bridge in La Seca, on a very loose gravel trail, shown below. This was harder to negotiate than I expected.
At not quite 20 kilometers, pass by a shrine that says "The Savior is Born."
You have entered nice and shady walking along the river, on paths.
The nice forested path abruptly ends at this intersection, below, which the pilgrimage traveler crosses over, to join the Calle Real towards the next town of Cascantes de Alba.
From this point forward, the final five kilometers of the day will be on asphalt, unless you take a longer diversion, described below.
Only about 200 meters later, at about 20.7 kilometers, you enter into Cascantes.
In the center of town, you walk by the backside of the church, below. It was closed when we walked by.
Just beyond the church is the city fountain with three big spouts, shown below. It is not safe to drink, as the sign declares.
Just beyond the fountain is the inviting Bar Arrancadera, shown below. It was a lovely day to sit outside and enjoy a reviving cup of café con leche and a bocadillo. We almost never pass up an opportunity for a cup of java!
For one kilometer after Cascantes you get to walk on a single-lane, paved road, which is very quiet.
Then we came to this decision point, below, painted boldly on the pavement in yellow on the asphalt.
The path via Llanos, has less asphalt, is a full kilometer more and avoids walking through the center of Carbajal. But it also walks through industrial and power station areas on the west side of town that are not beautiful, ending at the albergue on the north side of town. So don’t believe that this longer route has no asphalt at all, and is on beautiful paths. It is initially, but it definitely still goes through industrial and urban areas as well.
Plus, in order to see the historic Ermita de Celada, you must walk on the asphalt, the shorter five kilometers.
For us, the shorter way to see the Ermita was a no-brainer. In about one kilometer, the quiet paved road joins the LE-4514, as you pass the welcome to the municipality of La Robla sign, at approximately 22.8 kilometers into the day, shown below. My left knee was starting to bother me.
This is a very busy road. A casual path along the side of the shoulder has been created by pilgrims, but the cars are moving along the highway very fast, so be careful through here!
In the distance you will be able to see large smokestacks and a quarry ahead. Soon you approach a giant white building on your left. This is an important landmark, the Endaki Tecnocast S.L, a chemical molding plant.
This is where the Camino de San Salvador takes a side path to the left, leaving the highway, but running parallel to it, just before the end of the never-ending white building. While you could continue on the road, it is imperative you find this path if you wish to see the historic, Romanesque pilgrim's church, the Ermita de Celada.
This church is essentially right under the smokestacks of the power plant. If you missed the path, keep looking to your left, just before the big bend in the road before entering town. I located the Ermita on my Google map above, so you are sure to know where it is, so you won't miss it. It is at approximately 24.2 kilometers.
Sadly, we missed the path and totally walked right by it, as I was expecting signs directing the pilgrimage traveler to it! I didn't even realize we had missed the side, parallel path.
I guess the Ermita is never open now, but you can see it from the outside, and place your hand in the pilgrim hand print impression there.
Continue walking on the side path as you pass the power plant grid.
Where the path comes out from the Ermita de Celada to join the main road, you see the sign telling you that you are entering the city limits of La Robla. There is now a sidewalk to keep you safe along the busy road.
Walk under the road way, the N-630, turning left at the next intersection onto the Calle Ramón y Cajal, following the yellow arrows. This road leads you into the city.
Within several hundred meters, come to and pass under some sort of industrial use overpass, with the letters S.A.N.V.L on it. Here is where industry merges with the city. Stay to the right side of the street to come to the blue pedestrian bridge that takes you up and over the highway, shown in the background of this photo below.
The town of La Robla is an aging industrial town, a bit beaten-up-looking. Walking through the industrial park on the southside of town didn't edify this place, and the town itself does not do much more to improve your impression of it.
Once across the highway, you are walking on the main street into the heart of La Robla on day one of the Camino de San Salvador.
About half-way through town, come to the economical Hostal Ordóñez de Celis on the right. This is where we ended up staying, instead of the albergue on the extreme north end of town. (It has 20 rooms, teléfono: (+34 987 572 342.)
Finally on the north side of town, come to the orange arrow on a pole, with an "A" for albergue, leading you to the left. If you miss this one, the next pole has the A in yellow!
We checked out the Albergue Municipal de La Robla, (+34) 659 093 647, with 16 places. It was a bit tight and stinky, so Rich made the decision not to stay here. Instead we returned to the Hostal Ordóñez de Celis, (+34) 987 572 342.
For 40 Euro, we got a comfortable apartment with a kitchenette, a central kitchen down the hall with an espresso machine and a washing machine that the proprietress let us use for no additional charge. We were able to cook our dinner and boil eggs for our breakfast. It was oldish, but clean and comfortable.
Also in town, a few steps off the main road is the Pensión Mundo Bar Yosumar, (+34) 987 570 733.
There are lots of restaurants and cafés in town, when you find the main plaza to the west of the main road, and also grocery stores if your preference is to cook. La Robla has all the services that you should need.
Our day was without incident, and easy enough. I had experienced some twinges in my left knee, but all-in-all it was not worrisome at this time. So far, so good!
We took many breaks, took it slower than on Caminos in the past, and met a group of Spanish pilgrims with whom we would keep pace in the coming days. I was happy and enjoying the scenery. We were back on the pilgrimage road, once again. What could go wrong?
May your own day one on the Camino de San Salvador be filled with reasons to pause and ponder your own journey. May you catch every view, every rainbow and keep on stumbling onward, however that looks for you! Ultreia!
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