Friday, September 18, 2015. In Gijon we each wake up in our little cubes in what Ria has come to call the “Spooky House”, Pension Gonzales. We take turns in the not-so-clean bathrooms, and quickly go out to the vegetarian restaurant, which has ham and eggs for breakfast . . . go figure, but I’m happy.
I MUST get caught up with these posts, because I don’t like being too behind. My actual journal is catching some of the details, and when I look at those, I can remember much more. But today I’m looking for a real place to sit, one that has wi-fi and doesn’t require that I continue to buy coffee all day. A library would be good. I ask someone who points the way to the Cultural Center. Next door is a biblioteque, and I enter the large doors, ask for what I need, am sent to the fourth floor where people are sitting with their computers.
Password, all is explained, and I cannot get onto the internet without getting that dreaded message: “THIS IS AN UNTRUSTED CONNECTION . . . ” I try again and again, and none of the librarians speak any English, so I can’t really make myself understood A young man tries to help, and asks some of the other men who are working on PC computers. They tell him the wi-fi in this enormous, official Biblioteque does NOT work with Macs. WHAT??
I have spent nearly an hour trying to solve an unsolvable problem. I pack up my toys and move on. Around the corner there is a Mac store, with the Apple prominently displayed. I walk in and explain my dilemma. The employees are astonished, as I was. One of them tells me about a restaurant/cafe two blocks away. He knows the owner and I can surely go there, buy one coffee or water or something, and work all day. I go in search of the place and actually find it fairly easily. When I explain my situation to the owner, he is so gracious and tells me I can go upstairs where it is much more quiet. I do so, and spend three hours writing.
It is now 3:30 p.m. and time to go back to the Spooky Pension to see where everyone is. Ria has been napping, since she feels like shit (I know the feeling from days before). Larry is ready to go back to an outdoor store to buy a new backpack. Erika wants to go as well, and now Adriana, who has shown up this morning, has yet another agenda, which I won’t even begin to describe since I ducked out of the search at the backpack store.
Ria and I tag along for awhile, and then find a nice quiet place to get dinner. Delicious “sopa de ave”, I think. “ave” is “bird” but sure tastes like chicken. Lots of noodles and rich broth, and enough in the serving bowl for five people though we are only two. Sorry we ordered a salad, since it’s way too much for me.
I want to get a good start in the morning, so I pack up most everything tonight. On to Avilés tomorrow. But here are some retro photos for you, taken as we walk back to the Pension Spooky:
Saturday, September 19, 2015. Today begins and ends with those unlovely industrial areas, first out of Gijon and then into Avilés, but the walk is pretty manageable, and meanders through the countryside. We pilgrims are much slower than the participants of the bicycle race that seems to be running here and there as we walk. The last one was in San Vicente de la Barquera last weekend, and today the bicyclists zoom past us, occasionally yelling, “Buen Camino!” as they ride. Then the countryside is peaceful and I walk with ease for a change.
I feel something on my right upper arm and swat away what I think is a normal fly. Immediately after that, Ria swats at one on my left upper arm. Those flies with the grey lined wings . . . at the time, I think she caught that one before it bit me, but by evening, this is what it looks like . . .
After a long walk through easily rolling hills, I look for a place to stop, though I know there is only one bar along the way. I approach it and Ria is waiting, boots off. I remove mine as well, to let my feet breathe. The old woman who runs the place apparently lives there because when I ask for the bathroom, the woman shows me THROUGH what must be her bedroom to her bathroom. Geez!
She is so sweet . . . giving me cookies with my cafe con leche, as she did for Ria, and Ria got some sort of chips with her snack. When we leave, looking for the arrows, this is what we see:
And as we pass through this overgrown space, we look more carefully at the arrow . . . some enterprising soul has been here with his little stickers:
As we cross the road to continue, our first steps are crumbling ones.
But again, the way is smooth today. I continue to move in the direction of the shells and arrows, though I laugh when I see THIS sign:
Generally, what I see to guide me is something like this:
There’s one important detail to make note of. I had heard about this but wanted to check it, and on someone’s blog whose name I couldn’t “get”, this is written: “In Asturias, [where I am now,] the camino points in the direction where the shells converge. In Galicia it’s the opposite. So in Asturias this means take a left but in Galicia it means take a right.
It’s a little nutty isn’t it? I guess if one didn’t know this, they could spend their entire time going back and forth on the bridge that separates Asturias from Galicia.”
I will have to pay close attention as I walk out of Ribideo in a week or so, to make sure I take the right path! But today, I’m still getting to Avilés. While the second half of the day is mostly flat, it also takes me on the road, the sidewalk, concrete and asphalt, again hard on the feet. And as we approach Avilés, we smell the oil and gas industry’s “perfume”. I see the sign ahead for the pension where we have reserved rooms. We skip it, and when we get to the old center, the Plaza de España (almost every city has one of these), we find something nearby and cancel the Pension Puenta Azur on the outskirts. Ugly.
As we walk into the center, whom do we meet but Larry . . . he too has canceled his room at Pension Azur and found something in the old center, and once we are each settled, we meet in the Plaza for wine. Ria has also found an Italian restaurant around the corner in a beautiful little square and I have pasta bolonese and ensalata caprese for dinner! Yes, I know I will be in Italy in three weeks, but I really get tired of the general fare in the Menu de Peregrino, as I’ve said in the past.
A street musician is fiddling just outside our patio table and Larry is mesmerized. He goes out to talk with the man and comes back grinning. They will meet for coffee tomorrow morning and Larry will spend another day here. Not a surprise. His plans change minute by minute, and he is such an affable man, he makes friends everywhere. I know where I’m headed tomorrow . . . to Muros de Nalón and a highly recommended private albergue called Casa Carmina, about 25 kilometers from Avilés. Tomorrow will be a much longer day, with no stopping places for the first long while. These are the tough stretches and there will be many more down the road.
Sunday, September 20, 2015. The Camino path out of this city is no easier to find than almost any other I’ve encountered. Ask five locals and you’ll get four or five slightly different answers. But as we leave the old section, the beautiful walkway leads us out past some historic architectural structures.
It’s hard to find coffee at 8:00 a.m. in Avilés, but a bar across from the train station is open. We see some young people getting ready to board the train with their packs, and today I feel virtuous again. My cough is still wholeheartedly with me, but not the illness, and my feet are doing well so far.
It takes more than an hour just to get out of town, but then the path meanders up and through the suburbs, through very nice middle-class neighborhoods with tile roofs and lovely landscaping, one after another. Once I’m back in the countryside, the “meandering” takes on a sharper meaning, though the elevation drawings in my book don’t seem as hard as the rise actually is. Still, I walk and the 25 km day is sunny, which means hotter than the temperature would suggest. I trudge up the wrong hill at one point, only to come up against three houses clustered together, four dogs chained outside, and no way through. Down the hill again, and up the one ten feet away. I saw the arrow, but it was between the two roads, and I . . . well, I guess I had taken the one “less traveled by.” (And I’m telling this with a sigh.) I would love to have some fresh water so I can soak the “magic cloth” I bought at Target before I left. “Ask and ye shall receive.” I turn a corner and see:
Just as I’m beginning to get tired, I see a long caterpillar or centipede, about the length of my middle finger, on his own Camino. I can just hear him . . . “Geez, can this get ANY harder? And now someone has put a boulder in my path! How does anyone expect me to get around that?”
About 9 km from my destination, I meet three women who have just begun a week’s worth of walking. They’re marching along, having the rested time of their lives. And of course they’re about 25 years younger than I am. But I perservere. Another 3 km to El Castillo San Martin, over an ancient stone bridge, up another hill, and yet another, and I meet them again at the only bar on the whole stretch, 20 km from Avilés, and 5 km from Muros de Nalón
After walking another 4 km UP, I see Muros off in the distance. Also UP. Trudge trudge trudge . . . and I begin to see signs for Casa Carmina. Today has been a very long day for me (have I said that already?), and I’m relieved to see that the Casa is at the early edge of this uphill village. I walk into the reception area and am greeted by a man about the age of my children, with the demeanor of my adorable son-in-law, Justin. He smiles at me when I say, “I’m Joannah . . . ” and he says, “Yes! From Colorado!” Apparently I had made my reservation with him yesterday and he had asked where I am from. I’ve forgotten, but then I’ve forgotten many things lately.
Ria is already here, of course, but the man, Jesus (yes, that’s right), has put us in a six-bed (three bunk sets) building by ourselves, so far. There is also another building, right next to ours, with eight bunk spaces, all full. And then I see what everyone has been raving about when they write about this place, in addition to the absolutely warm and friendly atmosphere. An enormous grassy yard, perhaps half an acre, with lawn chairs all around, clotheslines, and a large tee-pee (like the kind you can buy in southwestern Colorado).
Looks like a family reunion, with everyone relaxing after a day of walking. The Casa set -p is new, though the property is clearly old family property. The parents are on the premises, and Jesus says this venture is his and his sister, Sara’s. Mom serves breakfast in the mornings, wet clothing can be hung in the furnace room so it will be dry and warm in the morning, and everything has been very well thought out.
Each bunk space has its own little reading light and its own plug. The bathrooms are immaculate, with two showers and three stalls, two sinks AND paper towels!!
Such a delightful place, and I’d love to lie on the grass and eat apples. But it’s dinner time, or nearly so, and it is Sunday, so almost everything is closed. All but one restaurant WAY up the hill at the top of the town.
I wish I could describe how I feel at the end of my longest day, looking up high in the sky toward the church steeple, and realize that if I want anything to eat at all, I have to go there. Changing into my sandals after my shower, I walk up with Ria and a French man named Jilles.
Of course the “restaurant” part of the establishment doesn’t begin serving until 8:00 p.m., but the “bar” part will surely bring us some wine. The owner is very happy to accommodate us, and it’s 7:45 so after our wine, we go inside for the Menu del Dia. A decent but very overly-fishy sopa de pescado, some sort of main dish heaped with french fries, of course, and a delicious peach tart for me as dessert. Wine, water, and bread accompany the meal for 9 Euro per person.
At least after dinner I know I only have to go DOWN the hill to my bed, and when I arrive, I see Jesus has put two male bicyclists in the bunk room with us, one younger, one older. I’m asleep very soon. Sorry I didn’t take any photos of this place, but I was too tired. Perhaps I didn’t mention that enough.
Tomorrow, a promised shorter day, about 15 km and one really big hill part, another smaller one, but after today, manageable.