Tuesday, September 15. Erika, Ria and I wake up in our bunk room, listening to a downpour. We quickly finish our morning rituals across the hall in the women’s bath and shower room and pack up, heading for coffee and any sort of breakfast. We pass the building in which Larry is staying and call up to him, reverse Romeos to his Larry-ette, but there is no response from the third floor, no window opening.
After breakfast in one of the only open cafes, we walk to . . . (it’s raining, remember) the bus station, headed today toward Ribadesella. These rain days do make figuring out how to chop that 225 km off my walking distance. The bus station is easy to find, and soon we are on it, with some other wilted pilgrims. We watch the sodden walkers bravely march on as our bus passes them, first one small group, then a solo pilgrim, then a few more, dotted poncho-covered figures. I am happy I am not one of them. I’m still coughing, though it’s residual now, and don’t need more wet if I can help it.
In Ribadesella, we walk to the harbor, an inlet at the middle of the town. The Tourist Information office gives us a list of pensions and I call Pension Aridel to see about rooms. They have some. We three woman walk a few blocks to see what’s available and at what cost. Ria and I decide to share a room, a very nice little room with private bath, at 20 Euro per person, but Erika isn’t so sure she wants to stay here. She’d rather be at the Albergue, so we settle our packs on the floor of our room and go with Erika to find a place for her.
The Albergue is a Youth Hostel, and is booked completely for the next week to a large group of military young men. So Erika will walk to an albergue in San Esteban, not far away. Perhaps we will meet her somewhere down the road. She sends me an e-mail so I will have hers, and Ria and I walk back to town.
Larry sends me a message: “Where are you?” I respond, and he asks whether I can get him a room at the Arbidel as well. I call, reserve the last room, and e-mail him back. He’ll arrive later today since he’s been walking but will pick up a bus somewhere along the line. This day would have been nearly 34 km, from Llanes to Ribadesella, and no one loves a long day in the rain.
Back in our room, Ria reads and I write for awhile. It’s a day of hanging around, since it’s still raining, and in the early evening we gather with our male compadre for wine, cheese and crackers, and eventually dinner.
The only photos I take are these . . . apparently it’s a tradition in Ria’s family never to pass up one of these little characters, so we both play with it. I love that little left foot, toe turned up.
We will walk somewhere tomorrow, separately. La Isla or Colunga, and perhaps one or the other of us will meet up with Erika Not a terribly long day and it looks relatively “flat”, if anything in this neck of the woods can be called flat . . . 16-20 km.
Wednessday, September 16. Right out of Ribadasella, I meet a peregrina walking toward me. She says something about looking for a laundry, but we are already in the middle of the countryside. She turns around and begins to walk with me. Great. If I slow down, she waits for me. If she stops to fix her shoe, I walk on, and she catches up. I finally get to the one bar on the entire trail (this will be an upcoming trend for the next 50 km or so after Colunga . . . almost nothing) and she joins me. Her name is Rain and she’s from Ottawa, Canada, though her book is in French.
After the bar, I’m gratefully alone again, and the path opens up to another beautiful beach, with strange “crop circles” in the sand below me. I can’t figure it out, and my photos don’t really do justice to the vision. I see a few young pilgrims, mostly from Germany or Holland, from the sound of their conversations, and the day is easy.
Though I wanted to get to Colunga, I begin to look for the albergue in La Isla. Three different construction workers try to direct me to it, but each has a different version of where it is. I get to the Hotel Monte y Mar, where there is a woman waiting for a bus, the manager of the hotel at the entry door, and a pilgrim on her balcony in a room on the second floor, all trying to help. The pilgrim says, “I know where it is. I’ve been there. But consider staying here. It’s nice here. ” I ask how much. She and the hotel manager say, almost in unison, “25 Euro, desayuno incluso.”
“Sold!” I say. $25 per night for room and private bath, and breakfast! Walked 7 hours today, and I guess that is enough. I find cafeteria/diner sort of place down the way from the hotel, and I order a Plato Combinaçion for 9 Euro. Ask the waiter/owner what Tenera is. He says “beef”, but actually it’s veal, though I don’t know that when I order it. I don’t eat veal. But apparently I do on occasion, when I am clueless as to what’s really on the plate. As my friend Larry says, “It might as well be donkey.” The rest of the plate is: A high pile of French fries. The filet of veal. A quite large salad with tomatoes, lettuce and cubes of cheese. And a fried egg. Go figure. I can’t eat more than half of it, and I leave nearly all the potatoes. EVERYTHING comes with patates frites.
Thursday, September 17. La Isla – Colunga – Gijón The walk from La isla to Colunga is easy, after I get out of the cornfields, obviously a wrong turn. Scurrying through brambles (the book warned of brambles), I realize that book or no book, I am in the wrong place. I climb over two wire fences, happy they aren’t electric fences, and find myself in a ditch behind someone’s back yard. Clambering through and over the ditch, I walk into the neighbor’s back yard, hoping for an exit, and find a nice tall, official looking iron fence and gate. Closed. A dog begins to bark, and the owner comes out, ready to load some boxes into the back of his car. He looks at me, gives a small smile and a shake of his head, and opens the gate for me, pointing left down the road. “Camino . . . “ he says helpfully. After that, getting to Colunga is easy.
Erika has e-mailed me to tell me she was in Colunga but will head to Gijon by bus today. She gives me the name and phone number for the Pension Gonzalez, 12 Euro per night. I in turn e-mail Larry, who has met up again with Ria, and they too will head there. To spend two nights in Gijon is worth the bus ride, since the walk from Colunga to the next stop, Sebrayo, is long and empty. Not a town, a bar, a restaurant, a store for any sort of food, ends at the Albergue Sebrayo, where there is also no food of any sort. And facing the next day, the walk from Sebrayo to Gijon is the same story. A very peaceful route, which sounds inviting, but our books all warn that there is no support of any kind, and no albergues any closer than 35 km. from Sebrayo.
Since I’m still trying to cut out more of that 225 km, this seems a perfect place. The fact that Larry and Ria are already on a bus to Gijon is comforting. We all arrive at the Pension Gonzalez at nearly the same time, and the woman who lets us in seems unable to comprehend even Larry’s pretty damned good Spanish. She greets us with a blank look and some keys in her hand. We all nestle into one corner of the building. Ria and I are in #1, Larry in #3, and apparently Erika is already situated in #4, though she is not in her room. Probably at the beach. She has a touch of the flu, now that her knee is healing. Ria is getting a sore throat. Walking wounded, all but Larry.
Larry heads for the beach, and Ria and I get settled, then do the same a half hour later. This Pension is very weird, and the bathroom floors are filthy (two bathrooms for seven rooms in this corner of the place). The woman and her husband must almost live here, and the smells of old garlic and musty socks pervades the hallway. The beach is one block away. That and the cost are the only pluses in this place.
As we approach what was a long, deep beach before the tide came in, we hear a familiar laugh down the walkway. Erika had been lying on the sand w-a-a-a-a-ay out around the bend, and saw Larry gazing out to sea. She called to him and then ran up and gave him a huggy greeting before they walked back up the boardwalk and found us. The Four Muskateers are back in business for 36 Hours in Gijon.
We walk to the end of the water’s curve, above the crashing waves on the stone wall below us, wander into a beautiful church for awhile, and find a place for wine and dinner.