Saturday 25th July, Buelna, going nowhere
At 1:00 am, Bev woke me up to tell me that almost everyone was up and moving as a result of my nocturnal orchestra. We moved into an adjoining and empty dorm. In the morning, deciding to spend another day, we learned that there were a couple of double rooms so we re-located to the other end of the building. This also meant that we didn’t have to vacate while they cleaned the albergue.
Today is Dia del Apostol Santiago, the feast of Saint James. (The caminos are all the path historically taken by pilgrims to the burial place of Saint James in Santiago.) Spent the day wandering around, not doing much but enjoying the relaxation and recuperation. Bev bought some locally made goat cheese at a house in the village. The penultimate day of the Tour de France was showing in the adjoining bar; I followed the live updates from the Guardian while watching these guys fly up hills. Looks like Froome is going to make it!
Wine is not included in the 5€ dinner but we can get a bottle from the bar for another five. Maybe last night’s bottle and the cider made my snoring worse than usual.
This machine is for aerating the cider, or ‘sidra’, made locally. The plastic tube is inserted into a bottle of cider and the bottle is held in place by the handle at mid-height. An empty glass in placed in the inclined holder at the bottom. Pressing the big button forces air through the plastic tube, which forces cider through the inverted metal U-tube at the top. The cider pours into the glass. Magic.
Sunday 26th July, Buelna – Nueva, 36.5km
Bev is developing a rash on her arms and feet. There haven’t been any bugs to speak so it may be an allergic reaction to something. These hives or bites are itchy, so her night wasn’t that restful. :(
Out of the door before 8:30 (must be some sort of record!) and followed the camino along the coast on gravel double track, past the beach we’d seen from afar yesterday.
Pleasant riding, stopped at some ‘bufones’ (blowholes, a few metres in from the coast, where waves at the coast are accelerated into a vertical water spout) but the sea wasn’t rough enough and/or the tide was wrong. No impressive displays but the sound of air being pushed through sounded like a dragon’s roar (or what I assume to be a dragon’s roar), varied and quite loud. Nice place to linger for ten minutes or so.
The track continued, up hill and down dale, until we stopped at a viewpoint (Andrin), overlooking a nice looking beach a long way down (and back up after a long day of suntanning, I’m sure). The cliffs at one side of the beach had arches worn away by the centuries. A lovely morning.
We skirted around Llanes, not following the camino route proper through the centre, but along an alternative route to the quaintly named Poo de Llanes. The name on the road signs had been changed to Po but many had been changed back to Poo with the addition of the later amateur addition of the second ‘o.’ (It reminded me of riding through Poo in the Himachal Pradesh, northern India, last summer, where the sign ‘Turn Left to Poo’ had been removed.)
On route and off for rest of the afternoon. The on-route was harder but more fun than trundling wearily along the ‘asfalto.’ Bev was not sure that pilgrims in albergues were up to another night of my snoring just yet so we stopped at a hotel in Nueva. The first room I looked at fronted on to the road where there is a fiesta tonight so I asked (in my best Spanish sign-language) for a room at the back of the hotel instead. We’ll see (and hear) shortly what it is all about.
A hot sunny day but it’s just starting to drizzle as we head out to eat. We were going for pizza but the burgers looked good and filling for half the price. The square in front of our hotel was beginning to get crowded; an old couple showed off their considerable ballroom/street dancing skills. A band on a large portable stage was belting out something at max volume. Small children seemed more excited than the adults; it was 11:00 pm and they should have been in bed.
Monday 27th July, Nueva – La Isla, 30.5 km.
Had breakfast at 9:00 outside the hotel, packed up, and headed out to Ribadasella.
Pleasant riding under cool grey skies along the road. Hilly, of course. Stopped for lunch at Esteban de Leces, a peaceful location where there was an albergue. It was only 1:00 pm and we hadn’t covered enough distance to halt for the day…
A couple of shortish climbs (up to San Esteban and then to Caravia Alto) of about 120m each exercised our thighs without too much pain. We started to notice old structures, balanced on large flat rocks which were, in turn, balanced on wooden columns.
Yellow arrows point out our route at irregular intervals. They are not always clear as one would like.
We had intended to carry on to Calunga but checked out a couple of hotels in La Isla. No luck, everything was full. We tried the algergue and got the last two spots.
This wasn’t a simple as it sounds. We found what looked to be the albergue (it had camino shell signs on it) but there was no-one home. A neighbour came out and she spoke no English or French and sign language wasn’t getting us anywhere. Fortunately, three pilgrims came down the road, one of whom we had seen in Buelna. One of the other pilgrims with him spoke Spanish and English so we learned that we could stay, that the albergue was up the road, left at the white house, down the road a bit, then right at the green house. And that we should hand over our pilgrim credential booklets and come back at 7:00 pm to register, pay and get our credentials stamped.
We didn’t find the green house but a nice stroll along the road, separated from the sea by a narrow field, brought us to the albergue. We couldn’t find any free bunks but there was a pull out couch in the dining area. A covered porch outside, with a couple of picnic tables and four bikes had room for my thermarest so I decided to sleep outside, as far away from the sleeping pilgrims as possible.
It was a good choice to stop here. The village is beautiful. We walked back to the village centre for a meal of pasta with chicken in tomato sauce, stewed beef and fries, all accompanied by a bottle of wine for me and water for Bev. Ice-cream to finish – not bad for 9€ each.
We saw a lovingly maintained old bike in the village on the way down to eat. It looks like an Indian Hero Cycle, same solid rods instead of cables for the brakes, the same shape to the brake levers. I’d seen a picture of a similar bike in one of the albergues we stayed at previously (in Bezana, I think) and had assumed it was Indian. It appears that the same model was also available in Spain at one time too. I saw an elderly gent (well, about my age) riding it in the village while we were eating so it is in regular use. :)
La Isla, a lovely village by the sea, old houses, post-supported buildings: probably the nicest place we have seen. I’m glad we stopped before Colunga; even the name sounds better.
Tuesday 28th July, La Isla to Gijon-Diva, 44.5 km
A quick run into Villaviciosa on the road, just a couple of gentle hills. Somehow we lost some time and our momentum in the town. Then a biggish climb on narrow roads (with virtually no traffic) under a hot sun. The steepest grade was 16% but lots of it was in the 10-14% range which, with my load and legs, is not cycleable so there was much pushing and shoving involved. Bev did very well, riding much more than I did. I reach a point where it is less strenuous to push than to pedal. Also, my bike is misbehaving a bit; there is a bit of a grating sound when pedalling and back-pedalling feels rough. We stopped for lunch in the shade of the autovia (A-8) and I unloaded the bike and turned it over. Neither wheel seems to be running very freely. That is somewhat due to the dynamo on the front and the Rohloff on the rear and it’s hard to tell whether it’s much worse than usual. I adjusted the brakes but that didn’t make much difference. I hope it’s not a problem with the bottom bracket; anyway, I’ll just have to carry on in the hope that it doesn’t get any worse.
Back to struggling up the hill, topping out at around 460m at the Alto de la Cruz. Even the bikes were exhausted.
A long downhill through eucalyptus to 80m and Peon, where we decided to eat. It was getting late (5:00 pm), there was another pass to cross, and we both needed some energy from somewhere. I’m not sure the salad we had provided it but we didn’t want to eat anything heavier. This would be a perfect place for an albergue, a hotel or a campsite, I thought. Even for a welcoming barn. But there was no alternative to continuing and we hadn’t seen places to stealth camp along the way; narrow roads separated from field by impenetrable brambles.
A stiff ride/push back up the 260m and a bar recommended by our (sometimes) trusty guidebook. The view to the coast and the city ahead looked taken from a postcard but we didn’t stop for refreshment or photos, but continued easily downhill into the outskirts of Gijon. A father and teenage son (the son spoke good English) directed us to the Camping Gijon-Deva resort where they have some cabins s reasonable rates for pilgrims. We paid more, for a cabin to ourselves so I can snore away in peace. The cabins are grubby, small and just fit six bunks with room to swing a very small cat in. We pulled a couple of mattresses off the floor, effectively using up all the floor space. We are both very tired.
Woke to rain. Why not have a rest day!