The last of the coast?

Friday 31st July, 27.4 km, Aviles – San Esteban de Pravia

A frustrating day. We didn’t seem to be able to move more than a couple of hundred metres before having to refer to the guide. Arrows are intermittent. It seems that four hours seems to pass in the mornings before we can cover 10 km. Then, in the drizzle, off route somewhere on the outskirts of somewhere or other, I noticed that my rear tyre was soft (as it had been in Gijon-Deba). Re-inflated the tyre, found the route, pushed up a ridiculously steep concrete track as someone’s sadistic idea of a short diversion, and found the rear tyre down again. There was a flat area outside someone’s garage and I located the leak, on the sidewall by the valve. The whole tube looked to have rough abraded sections, maybe from the tyre itself. Patches wouldn’t stick, either due to an old patch kit or to everything being wet. When it looked like the patch was sticking, I put the tyre back on and inflated it; there were bubbles coming out of the sidewall of the tyre all the way around – I’ve never seen that before. Clearly, these Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres wouldn’t work tubeless. I decided it was time to use my spare (new) tube.

While doing the repair, a couple pushed by on their bikes and asked whether we’d ridden it. They were young and fit-looking, relatively lightly-laden, so I doubt that we would even consider riding what they hadn’t. They seemed to be surprised by how difficult they were finding it. They had even ridden on to the autovia where cars honked at them until they turned around and went back off the forbidden highway.

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Later in the afternoon, we pulled into a bar forecourt to check the adjacent hotel but it seemed to be abandoned. The two cyclists we’d seen earlier were in the bar; apparently, he had left his papers or valuables where they had had lunch and they were negotiating a taxi ride back to pick them up. They did tell us about an albergue, a little off the route, in San Esteban de Pravia. The taxi driver gave us directions how to find it.

San Esteban de Pravia is down at sea level. The albergue was just across the road from the quay where a couple of small fishing boats were tied up. It was very nice.

Later on, the couple we’d seen earlier arrived at the albergue after a very reasonable taxi ride to retrieve the lost documents (40€ for a round trip of 56 km). They had had a full day, having started in Gijon and expecting to ride 83 km this day but had only managed half of that. He (from Barcelona) was concerned that she (from Germany) was doing better on the hills than he was. Also, there was an interesting story from the taxi-driver who had seen the ‘craziest thing since he had started driving a taxi. This morning he had seen two cyclists riding down the A-8 the wrong way!’

Saturday 1st August, 42.3 km, San Esteban de Pravia – Catavedo

All the other guests seemed to have left by the time we had breakfast. Nothing new there. We attempted to do the honourable thing, following little yellow arrows, until they led to a narrow track with nettles on either side. Our guidebook author, Eric Walker, emphatically instructed cyclists not to follow this route (two kilometres of jungle, apparently) so we went back to the road. The road was quiet (the nearby autovia seems to claim virtually all the traffic) and forested so it was more peaceful riding like the day before. Up and down, up and down, with occasional glimpses of the sea.

We were resting by a church in a little town when Rolando came by. He’s someone whose path we keep crossing since sharing an albergue in Buelna. He had a couple of girls with him, as always. And always different. He was planning to take the train (‘tren’) to the next place: Catavedo.

An older couple of ladies (Dianne from New York, Catherine from Australia) referred to him as Romeo but albergue life does not lend itself to ready romance. Or, at least, consummated romance.

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Lunch was at 5pm by a tiny chapel in a clearing in the forest, quiet and tranquil until a procession of motor cyclists roared by. It was getting late (7:00 pm?) when we arrived in Catavedo. The hotel was full, as were the bungalows at the campsite, but we could camp there. We’re not camping often but it’s nice to get into the tent. If it weren’t for the desire to shower after each day of riding, we’d be quite happy to spend every night in the tent.

Sunday 2nd August, 46.7 km, Catavedo – Cartavio

A great night’s sleep in the tent set us up for the day. We stayed on the highway, ignoring the camino arrows indicating tracks that took off steeply uphill or downhill for a hundred yards or so, went around in a circle, and rejoined the highway a bit later. There were still good views from the N634.

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Not much else to say about the day except it got a bit dull in the afternoon; the landscape seemed a bit characterless, there was an abandoned feel to places we passed through, empty car dealerships along the road but out in the middle of nowhere.

We did occasionally take off on side roads for some variation when it looked like the diversion was long enough to be worthwhile.

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The road crossed river valleys so we’d repeatedly lose our painfully gained elevation and then have to regain it. The autovia (A-8) maintained its elevation with some expensive bridge work that reminded me of the highways I remembered from hitch-hiking in Italy in 1973!

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We dropped down into Navia and checked out a hotel that had good reviews in our guide. But, when we found it, it appeared to be out of business with ‘cerrado’ signs at each entrance (despite ‘abierto’ on the front door and the sound of a dog barking inside). Bev banged on the door but there was no reply.

Navia is at sea-level so we slowly chugged back uphill with eyes peeled for somewhere to stay. We didn’t see any campsite signs (probably our best bet at this time of day and now that we’re in high season). One hotel alone on the highway looked promising but was full; the girl at the reception (or was it the bar) called the Hotel Kayce on our behalf and found us a double room with a big bed (‘matrimonial’) a few kilometres further on. With a bit of help from someone in a gasoline station, we located the hotel. Very nice, in a country setting, outside the village. Our room had two twin beds :( but was nice (Bev was less impressed by some mice droppings on the floor). We went down to the restaurant, hungry and tired but now showered and clean, to be told that the restaurant wouldn’t be opening. We sat in the bar and had some basic but satisfying bocadillas, each from half a loaf. The three beers I had were excellent.

Monday 3rd August, 32.5 km, Cartavio – Villaframil (just west of Ribadeo)

An anticipated casual day, little climbing and not too far. Too far to head inland and climb south of Ribadeo which is where the Camino del Norte takes us (or doesn’t, read on)

With time to spare, we stuck to the marked camino way wherever possible. Slower, and much more circuitous, but quiet and pleasant. Quite a few pilgrims on the route today.

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Just before Ribadeo

Just before Ribadero

A long bridge with a narrow walkway (and high railing!) across the Rìa de Ribadeo, from Asturias  into Galicia, required sustained concentration with only a few centimetres to spare on either side of my handlebars. The albergue was just below the end of the bridge and had only 12 places; it had filled up just before our arrival. Anticipating this, we had booked a hotel three or four kilometres west of Ribadeo. Bit of a treat to ourselves. It’s my birthday in less than three weeks, our thirtieth wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks, and why not?

Tuesday 4th August, Villaframil 

Day/night two of our splurge in the very comfortable (58€) Hotel El Pinar. We’d only booked for one night so to stay for another, we had to change to a smaller room. Ten euros cheaper, though, so it’s all good. And my legs are saying ‘thank-you’ for the day’s rest.

Across the road from El Pinar is a restaurant where we ate last night. Wow! Two menu del dias: starting with about 20 mussels on three pieces of toast (Dave) or a plate of mushrooms in garlic (Bev), followed by tasty hake steaks (two each) and potatoes (B&D). For desert, fresh peaches in syrup (D) or cheesecake (B). Together with a bottle of very nice Rioja for me and a bottle of equally fine white for Bev, the price came to 19.80€! An excellent deal.

The camino heads south from Ribadeo but we’re pretty much decided (if nothing changes before tomorrow morning) to continue around the coast to Ferrol (where the Camino Inglès starts). We probably won’t have time to do the Inglès so the trip is becoming more of a coastal cycle-tour than a camino. It has been good to see the camino albergue life although I should try to get something sorted out for my sleep apnea before deciding on too much dorm sleeping next time.

So, it isn’t going to be the last of the coast after all. We’re both looking forward to just heading forward without a guide to follow. There is some mention of a Camino Del Mar that goes from Ribadeo to Ferrol; we’ll try a bit of that if we can find it. If not, we’ll stick on the road.

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