Wednesday, September 23, 2015. Today I leave Soto de Luiñes for Luarca, and the sun is finally out just a bit, so here are some photos of this little place before I go.
The bus to Luarca comes on time and I forget (again) that I need to get some motion-sickness pills for these bus rides. The driver expertly swings the vehicle back and forth over these curving mountain roads, while I fix my gaze on the horizon outside and do my old Lamaze breathing. I haven’t thrown up YET, at least not on this Camino. I truly walked to Santiago last time, but the bus to Finisterre really got to me and to Ria . . . several bags were needed from the bus driver two years ago on that ride out to “The End Of The Earth” . . .
I disembark in the center of Luarca at the bus station and I walk only one block before I hear my name. Yep, it is Ria, who has come into town on her feet at exactly the same moment I got off the bus. We laugh about the perfect timing, find our austere hotel owner, who has to come across the street to the Albergue to check us in. He has one line he delivers to non-Spanish people. “NO ENGLISH!” A friendly sort of guy . . . not.
We are among the early arrivals, so we pick our lower bunks across the aisle from one another, near a window. I decide to wander outside a bit while she takes her shower and gets a bit of a rest. Luarca is another sea town, and the coastline is quite curvy, with boat harbor, walkways out to a point, and a set of beaches just around a couple of corners.
I stop at the Tourist Information center, where a sign says it will be closed until the middle of October. Hmm . . . these places clearly don’t have tourists in mind when they choose their open hours and days. So I head for blue horizon and walk through the end of the day’s open market, where merchants are taking down their tables, packing up the goods they had displayed to sell today. Taking a left curve, I come to the first glimpse of the water, then turn a U-turn corner in order to walk back to the Albergue to get Ria. She’s ready to wander, and we take a different path hoping to arrive at one of the beaches.
Sitting on a stone wall, we watch an ecstatic black Labrador jumping up on the beach and diving toward the wet sand, over and over again. His keepers are young women who have doffed their jackets and nearly as happy as the dog to e frolicking in the wet.
Ria and I make our way around the various walkways that separate the sea from the harbor, and see Dutch Carla and Danish Lene exploring as well. But we head for the path in front of the colorful boats collected together in this little harbor, and Ria asks if I would like her to take my photo. I almost never get a photo of myself, so I hand her my camera and am delighted that the pic actually is a good one for a change.
We find an old bar, the kind full of old sailors, and a very old woman behind the bar. She grins at us as she tries to find the bottle of tinto for my order. Finally she pours, and along with Ria’s glass of blanco, tells us it will be Euro 1.40 for both. When was the last time you got a drinkable glass of wine for under a dollar USD?
As we wander back into town, I notice that there are bakeries all over the place. Tempting but I am trying to wait for dinner, which can’t be had before 8:00 p.m. Eventually we each buy some luscious thing with filo dough, a sweet almond filling, and granulated sugar on top. Ria eats hers. I virtuously take one bite . . . no, two . . . before I go back to the same store and get two more “for the road” tomorrow.
We find a place we want to eat, but it doesn’t open at all, not even for wine, until 8:00. So we walk all over the center of town, working up a bigger appetite. At the spot of eight o”clock, this place finally opens its doors, and we sit outside, since the soccer game is on inside the bar and the volume is so loud we can hardly hear ourselves think.
Soon two men show up to look at the menu. They are Americans Ria met earlier today, and she asks that they join us. The chat turns to where we all live, and these two live in Todos Santos, Mexico, on the Baja Peninsula. I remember going there with Neil about 15 years ago, when the big deal was that the town was about to refurbish the “Hotel California” of Eagles’ fame. Apparently that’s been completed and was a good job.
But they begin to talk about Fort Collins and a very controversial project involving Colorado State University and some big developers. I googled it and it reminds me of the great controversy in Fort Collins about the stadium, which has apparently broken ground despite strong opposition from townspeople and many faculty members. Sigh . . . can’t escape my local politics, even in Spain.
Check out the site called truthsantos.org/csu as well as todossantos.colostate.edu if you are interested. Most of you will understandably not be interested if you’re not locals, but it looks like our tax money is being thrown in a bucket AGAIN. I hope I’m wrong about that, but I’ll check it out more closely when I get home.
For now, dinner in this restaurant was okay, though the Tarte de Santiago, one of my favorite things on the Camino, was dry, dry, dry. Things WILL get better, since in a couple of days we will be in Galicia, where I can get more of this delicious dessert. And I will be looking for Caldo Gallego, a Galician broth and hearty soup made with cabbage, collard greens, potatoes, sometimes white beans, and a vegetable or chicken broth. But that’s for later.
After dinner, Ria and I return to our albergue and settle in with the other 30 or so pilgrims, and we’ll be up and out early in the morning. I passed a bar just down the block earlier today that advertises breakfast with EGGS, and they told me they’d be open by 7:30 a.m. Can’t wait!
Thursday, September 24, 2015. Ria bolts out of the albergue and I am not sure why, but I will see her on the trail. I get ready to go, and walk over to the breakfast place. The one that is supposed to be open by 7:30. It’s now 7:40 and there is no sign of life behind the glass doors, so I go back to the corner and follow Carla and Matthé (he had dinner with us the night I met Erika) and another man out of town, since there are no signs yet.
My book says the day is relatively flat (do I dare trust it?) but that the climb out of Luarca itself will “break a sweat”. It does do that, but luckily it is still almost dark and a bit cold. Plus I’m fresh from a couple of days of rest, and I manage the steep climb uphill quite well, thank you very much.
Aa I turn back at the top to look at the city far below, I also see this, and the color is just as I shot it, with no enhancements from iPhoto:
The sun comes up over the little villages outside Luarca, and I see a crumbling stone building.
Next comes a big farming operation, with loud machinery even at this quiet hour, but on the side of the huge metal building is this sight . . . I think these are peonies . . . one of my daughter’s favorite flowers. If I’m incorrect, please let me know. Marilyn M?
The path is indeed fairly easy, though not too flat, but I realize there will be NO bar to get food or drink for several hours and I didn’t buy anything last night at the grocery store. Add to that the fact that the breakfast place was closed, and I realize I have had nothing since last night. I have plenty of water, but nothing else but half of my sweet from the pastry shop and that’s not a good idea without some protein or fruit at the beginning of the day. I pass fence posts with wire wrapped around them. And encircling the tops of every post are snails, clustered together. Where do they think they can go from the top of a cut tree stump? I thought snails only hung around water, but these must be on their own Camino de Fencepost, and they all feel as stuck as I did the other day walking down to Soto de Luiñes! Sympathy floods through me. I am a snail, yes indeedy.
The girls who started the “closet” conversation way back at the Covento in Zumaia pass me, and one of them offers me her nectarine. I take it gratefully. Someone else offers almonds, but I decline. I walk through several little villages with no bars, and then find myself out above the highway on a ridge that looks pretty new. Did I miss an arrow or shell? After about a mile, I begin to worry that I’m really on the wrong road, because I see the sea off in the distance and the book says nothing about the sea on this stage. So I walk back to the last marker, perhaps nearly that mile, to make sure. An older man is walking his dog, and I ask whether I’ve made a wrong turn. My book says nothing about this road high above everything either.
The man assures me that this road is new, that the construction the book talks about has been completed, and this is the “new way”. So I retrace my steps again and continue up and up, and then down and down, a series of switchbacks that makes this easier than it might have been in another form. A narrower and narrower path, more stony than the rest of it, and then I see the highway and my signs.
Cross the highway, climb a hill into a small settlement community (or take the road, but I am not crazy about the road in this case), and at the top is a house whose occupants must think very kindly toward the pilgrims. There is a series of benches across from their house, and a few steps later is a fountain with a sign that says “Agua Potable”. I have enough water, but I was sad to leave that generous little area. After the community, the path goes through farmland.
When I meet the road again, I am nearly in Villapedra, only 3 km from my planned stop for the day. My right foot is beginning to ache badly, as is my ankle and hip joint. These are new problems, just since this Camino. I had hoped an extra day in Soto de Lueñes would help, but here we go again. Ria had passed me earlier, after the nectarine but before the new road, and we agreed to meet in Piñera, where there is supposed to be a grocery store but nothing else. The woman who gives you the key to the albergue supposedly will make a dinner if you ask. It’s a short day this way . . . about 15-16 km of pretty good pathways.
But then as I get to Villapedra and head for the restaurant, I get a text from Ria saying she arrived in Piñera and it’s too early for her to stop so she’s going on, another 10 km. I don’t think I can do that. Food first.
The couple who own the bar are so sweet. The husband hears me coughing and coughing, and hands me a half roll of Halls mentholyptus drops. The square ones, individually wrapped inside the tube. The wife tells me there is a bus stop just next to the restaurant. The waitress brings me just what I asked for . . . a plate of jamon and queso, no pan (no bread), and some orange juice.
The American men from last night show up at the bar, with reservations here in this town. They don’t stay in albergues because they don’t have to, and they can share a room. I decide I might as well just go to Ribadeo, stay for three nights, catch up on whatever, and give my right lower limb all the Arnica cream it can handle. But the bus doesn’t come for another 90 minutes. I get out my computer. The husband hauls out a huge extension cord, climbs a ladder to plug it in somewhere, and drapes it over the chair next to me at my table, offering the female end of the cord for my computer plug. He and his wife are so accommodating, I want to take them with me.
When it’s time for the bus, I walk to the stop, but when I say, “Ribadeo?” to the bus driver, she shakes her head. “Navia” she says. The bus to Ribadeo doesn’t leave for yet another 75 minutes. So back to the restaurant I go and order a cafe con leche until the time passes.
When I get to Ribadeo, I go to the Tourist Information Center, this one actually open, with a very helpful young woman working. She gives me a list of pensions and hotels, and calls one of them, the Hotel Linares, just across the Plaza de España. They have a pilgrim’s rate of 22 Euro per night, and an extra 3 Euro for breakfast. I walk across the Plaza and one of the hotel employees gets me settled.
Larry is at the Hotel RosMary, just down the street. I saw the sign there, and was tempted, since my mother’s name is RosMary, but Larry said the room was “adequate” and a bit run down, and I didn’t want to stay there for multiple days. Hotel Linares will be better. We agree to meet for wine at 7:00 at the outdoor tables that belong to my hotel. I take a shower and settle in. Same drill, different town, better room.
When I walk out to meet Larry, who is sitting across from the hotel but the three young people I met in Soto de Luñes. They live in Cambridge, the boy, Thomas, is British with an American grandmother, I think, and the girls, Monika and Olga, living and working in Cambridge for the past five years, are from Lithuania. They drink their coffee, Larry and I have wine, and then I offer to buy a round of wine for everyone. Unless they are tired of hanging out with oldsters. They seem genuinely interested in staying with us, more wine or not. And here in Spain, a round of wine for five people costs me about 11 Euro. Comes with trays of good salted peanuts. Such a deal.
Eventually, we wander to the water’s edge (yes, Ribadeo is another seacoast town) to see about a decent restaurant, one with more delicious varieties than the Menu del Dia, and we find one. A big long restaurant with glass all around, and they have . . . caldo gallego! A delicious version of it, as well as not-stale Tarte de Santiago! Monika chooses the wine, I order sea bass, the others a variety of things like pulpo soup (octopus), pulpo salad, ensalate russo (potato salad), and on and on. The entire bill is just barely 20 Euro each, and we have a fabulous time. I feel as though I am having dinner with my kids and their friends.
We begin to walk back up toward the centro and pass one of many bars.
Larry says, “Let’s go in and have a glass of rum” and everyone nods. But me. I’ve already had three glasses of wine, more than my usual, and rum is the very last thing I want! So I say good night to all of them, we exchange hugs, and Thomas kisses me on the cheek, like a good son. All is well.