Via Regia 2016

Day-148, Sep 16, Gondán to Mondoñedo, Spain

I welcomed today’s rain over the short 14.2 km (8.9 mi), knowing it would stop the next three days. Lots of up-/downhill but all decently mild (10% or less). Bob went ahead and we met again at the Cafe on Cathedral Plaza in Mondoñedo near our goal. After a brief pause, we toured the cathedral and museum where I spotted an unusual painting: the descent of Jesus from the cross. Although others have painted the same theme, I think this is the earliest stage of descent I’ve ever seen painted. Jesus is still on the cross with only one hand freed and they’re removing the nail from his second hand. It’s a daringly bloody depiction so early in his descent that it focuses on the body and mechanics of freeing it from the cross rather than on the agony of those around him usually shown in other “descent” paintings (see the quad pic). I’d welcome comments.

Although we wanted to stay at a nearby special albergue two km further that was advertised to highlight authentic Galician country life, the Office of Tourism talked us out of it, and another couple of pilgrims that went there and changed their minds corroborated it–supposedly it wasn’t recognized as an official albergue–lots of hype–no rules! Anyhow, the municipal albergue here rates as one of the best: elevators, handicapped equipped, spacious and clean. Now at 5:00PM it’s only 1/3 filled.

Day-147, Sep 15, Ribadeo to Gondán, Spain

With a 7:30 AM start and leaving a town of around 10,000, Bob and I figured we’d find breakfast. No such luck! Walked the 19 km only to find an albergue we both wanted to pass on–the shower, the toilet, and sink were in little outhouses. And besides, the little village had no store and no place to eat. We found a better albergue just a few km down the road with 16 beds and a restaurant and bar. Looking forward to some good Galician food.

The temp. has dropped into the 50s but the rain will stop for a while after tomorrow. We have only about a week to go, this being our first full day in Galicia. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s 6-bed albergue whose advertising we found at the one we passed up–picture attached. We get to experience authentic Galician country life!

Day-146, Sep 14, Tapia de Casariega to Ribadeo, Spain

Today was extremely easy but also the most frightful aspect of my entire trip (equally so for Bob my walking buddy). We had only to cover 10 km (6.3 mi) under the threat of rain that didn’t materialize for me until after I arrived at our Hostal Galicia in Ribadeo. My problem started when my bicycle path took a huge detour that I wanted to avoid, so I chose to walk a little over a mile along the A-8 Freeway–a HUGE no-no. I managed that, all the while rehearsing my story for the police that were surely going to stop me, but I arrived unscathed at the bridge crossing a deep and wide estuary that lead into Ribadeo.

This crossing was one of the most hair-raising experiences in my life: walking into a 40-knot wind (look at the wind sock in the top photo) in a 3-foot wide lane bounded on my left with a six-foot high fence grating and to my right with a railing only waste high. The wind was blowing me side to side–my poncho became a sail–and I imagined it blowing me over the railing and down into the estuary over 100 feet below! I carried both poles in my right hand so as to free my left one to grab the grating in case I was about to lose my footing. My head was looking down at my feet the whole time, lest I step on something that would cause me to stumble! Bob had the same experience, except some two hours later because he didn’t venture the freeway shortcut and found himself walking an extra 12 km.

Luckily it all ended well. Good Pension (Hostal), great meal at lunch, accomplished chores with cell phone Internet extension, bank, and grocery shopping for tonight and tomorrow’s breakfast. And tomorrow we start heading southwest through the autonomous community of Galicia in Spain with rain expected for the next two days.

Day-145, Sep 13, Navia to Tapia de Casariega, Spain

First day in a long time I wore my pancho the entire 20 km (12.5 mi) during drizzling rain, but the good side was the absence of any steep climbs. Leaving Navia in the dark on a long gentle climb was the hardest, but a nice coffee break afterwards rewarded the effort.

I reached our albergue (donativo–donation only, which translates to about 5€) at about 12:30, while Bob beat me by an hour and he had already gone to the information office to get the key. We got settled and had the luxury again to have lunch as the big pilgrim’s meal at about 2:00 PM with lentil soup for course 1, fried sardines and salad for course 2, and rice and creamy milk for desert, along with wine–all for 10€ (about 11 USD).

The ocean view from the albergue is breathtaking as you can see from the posted pictures. The top picture is taken about 200 meters before reaching the albergue and the lower one just catches our building. It’s nearly 6:00 PM, and our 20-bed hostel still has 5 or 6 beds vacant.

Day-144, Sep 12, Luarca to Navia, Spain

Today may have been the last of the dry days with rain forecast for the next three days! Covered 19 km  (11.9 mi) of moderate hills–only burning a bit the last hour. We both arrived a little after noon, so we took advantage of the earliness and enjoyed a super-sized lunch and then skipped supper. No albergue here in Navia, so we’re staying at Pension Cantabria for 20€ each–a nice treat again.

Navia (pop. 9,000) is undoubtedly an old fishing village and still has a port with a small dry dock and a marina with smaller power boats. It looks like a sleepy little town with not much going on.

I’m still infatuated with the hórreos and their various incarnations as you can see in the picture, as well as Spanish villas that always have one or more palm trees at their side. And then there’s the suspended interstate highway way above me. I also captured the rough backwoods trail that Bob took as a “shortcut” for part of the way and I decided to bypass taking the bicycle route instead; my tendinitis would have screamed for help at this incredibly steep stony portion!

Day-143, Sep 11, Santa Marina to Luarca, Spain

While doing my 29 km. (18.1 mi) with relative ease–no big ascents–I never even thought about today being the 15th anniversary of that unforgettable 9/11 terrorist act. It took our daughter’s Chris’s email to remind me of it. It also shows how the Camino demands of us to focus on it to the exclusion of everything that isn’t in our field of view.

Today was marked with more glimpses of the ocean, more typical hórreos (those grain storage structures, none of which were functional), and more typically Spanish houses with several palm trees, striking bright colors, and blooming plants, as well as the interstate freeway floating high above us. Some of these I’ve captured in these pics.

Day-141, Sep 9, Avilés to Muros de Nalón, Spain

It never made it above the 60s during my walk today with Bob, as we covered the 18 km (11.3 mi).  AND, from here, Muros de Nalón, it’ll be only 300 km to Santiago de Compostela–that’s not much compared to the 2637 km that I’ve actually walked thus far. We basically took the bicycle route to be kind to my Achilles’ tendon and plan to continue that for the rest of the journey, some 15 or so days.

The eucalyptus tree, according to Wikipedia, is the town tree. But I’ve noticed along my walk the last week or so many eucalyptus trees and have wondered about their story. It turns out they were planted post WW II mainly for paper pulping. But in Spain environmentalists complain that eucalyptus is crowding out indigenous forests of native oak and beech in Galicia and La Coruna. Ecologists say that traditional rural lifestyles, while not as profitable, provide more employment. By one study, an Iberian olive grove requires 199 worker-days per hectare (2.47 acres) to maintain each year, vineyards 128 worker-days and a eucalyptus plantation four worker-days. So there you have it and here’s a picture of one along the  path:

Day-140, Sep 8, Gijón to Avilés, Spain

Heaven today–a down-day going from Gijón to Avilés by train for just 1.90€ to cover 24 km (15 mi). Bob and I arrived at our albergue at 10:00 AM and had 3 hrs to enjoy a bit of the city but mostly the exhibits at the Niemeyer Cultural Center. The  exhibit, “Seeking shelter for my children,” was a photojournalist collection of deeply touching pictures of the refugees captured by Javier Bauluz. Having met and talked with a number of aid workers in Germany and France involved in the effort of helping the refugees, I felt closer to the crisis  than before my walk.

Rest for the remainder of the day is doing wonders for the body. Am trying to keep the days down to 25 km, but that’s not always easy and it will stretch the schedule out a bit. Even at 25 km, it seems that the extreme hills take their toll.

Bob took a picture of me at my bunk in a bay of 40 stacked beds–so far not too crowded, maybe half filled at 4:00 PM.

Day-139, Sep 7, Villaviciosa to Gijón, Spain

It was a hard 27 km (17 mi) that started out with a 90-minute climb I thought would never end. There were a succession of climbs, and downhills, and luckily the day was relatively cool. 

At breakfast five of our group went separate ways: Lisa and Susanne headed down the Primitivo, Hildegard by bus started her journey to Diva, and Bob and I headed to Gijón. We had arranged to meet at a restaurant about 5 km before Gijón, but he never made it–his guide book just didn’t do the trick compared to electronic technology. I waited at the restaurant for three hours, then gave up and headed to our hotel. Luckily he arrived at the hotel in Gijón just twenty minutes after I did! We won’t do this again, pitting paper against electronics.

At the restaurant, I rehydrated with mineral water and ended up having a special regional dish of squid (see picture). 

Day-138, Sep 6, La Isla to Villaviciosa, Spain

The early fog and low-hanging clouds kept the weather cool for most of the21.7 km (13.6 mi), but the BIG hills today heated me up as if it were in the 90s. My burning tendinitis was unrelenting. I’ve been resting all afternoon. That is after I had my phone fixed (SIM card passcode from my carrier) and chores done.

The reward for the big hills was another super albergue in the middle of town. Lots of room around my bunk, clean and good amenities. At the reception, I was greeted with a glass of orange juice–how cool is that?

Had to include a great fixer-upper as potential investment property and a few pictures of the path, one quite a bit under the freeway system, and a picture of city hall here in Villaviciosa. The last two are from dinner tonight with the five of us and me pouring cider that’s available almost everywhere.

Two ladies, Lisa and Susanne, are peeling off tomorrow to go on the Primitivo, and Bob (retired Air Force) and I are continuing on. Hildegard is also leaving to go by bus ahead to Santiago. We’ll try to meet up in Santiago and celebrate.