Week 18: Mi Vuelta a España

26/12/22 – 01/1/01/23 180 km

For the first time in weeks it wasn’t raining when I left the Albergue. I found a nice little bar and made sure I had a filling breakfast before leaving, as I knew I was unlikely to find anything open along the way. I also bought myself a piece of the local cake that the village is famous for. Thankfully I was able to wear my trail runners as the blister on my heel had worsened to the extent that any progress in the boots would be impossible.

I spent the day climbing and descending into a series of valleys that marked the outer edges of Galicia. The views were massive and I was grateful to be able to enjoy them after the endless weeks of grey skies. The vegetation was a luscious green and it was unusually warm for this time of the year. So much so that I was walking in shorts once more. After completing the last lung bursting climb of the day I was finally in view of the Atlantic Ocean once more, locally known as the Mar Cantábrico (Cantabrian Sea).

The descent into Ribadeo was easier than the climb and I arrived at the Albergue as the sun was setting. It was a quaint little building overlooking an enormous road bridge spanning the mouth of the Riá de Ribadeo. This would be my last night in Galicia and despite the rain I knew I would miss it! The next day I was up early and left the town via the bridge. When I stepped off the other side I found myself in Asturias, my eighth region, and more importantly the home of Cristina.

Despite my excitement things didn’t start too well that day. I was running extremely low on food and every single bar, shop or restaurant that I passed had either closed for the holidays or shut down. It wasn’t until the twelfth kilometre that I finally found a shop that was open. I hadn’t eaten anything all morning. After wolfing down some junk food, I was good to go again and spent the rest of the day walking through hamlet after hamlet. I soon found out why everything was closed, the levels of depopulation in this part of Spain were palpable.

I arrived at the Albergue early and fortunately the host had left the door open for me. The village of La Caridad was much bigger than I had expected and you can imagine my relief when I found out that the supermarket was open. After stocking up for the next few days I returned to the Albergue, where I promptly stuffed my face, stopping only to talk to the owner.

I left early the next morning and spent the majority of the day walking along or parallel to the main road. Despite the fact that this particular Camino largely follows the northern coastline, I had seen very little of the sea. At least the weather was holding out. After an uneventful day I dropped into a deep gorge cut by the Rio Negro and the town of Luarca. It was an impressive feat of engineering and one of those places where photos don’t do it justice. That evening I was grateful to have company in the Albergue and spent the best part of the night chatting to a pilgrim from Tarragona.

I woke the next morning to the sound of knocking on the window of the Albergue. It was a young pilgrim who had set out from France without any money. He had tried to stay in the Albergue the night before but was turned away when he revealed that he would not pay. I had every sympathy with the owner, times have been difficult since COVID for the hospitality sector… God only knows where he had slept. It had been raining on and off throughout the night and it must have been difficult for him, however I struggled to feel sorry for the chap. I do question the wisdom of someone who attempts to do anything these days without having saved and prepared first.

It was raining again when I left. Despite this I didn’t put the boots on. I consoled myself with the thought that it is better to have wet feet than a blister. As soon as the path left the main road and took me over wet grass my feet were soaked. I could feel the water squelching between my toes. My trail runners were so worn now that they barely had soles let alone grip. I was sliding all over the place but I didn’t care as no matter how uncomfortable I felt, I never got a blister!

Finally after days of following the road which was situated about ten or twenty kilometres inland, I was back on the coast. The views over the sea and coastline were spectacular. I spent hours that day watching the waves crashing against the cliffs. Despite the joy of being next to the sea, the walking became difficult again as I was soon climbing and dropping back down to sea level. The task was made more difficult by the rain and the state of the waterlogged paths. After about thirty kilometres I cut inland and started to descend to the village of Soto Luiña where I would be staying in yet another converted school house.

The Albergue was filthy. The worst I had seen so far. To compound matters there was no heat source and I knew I would not be able to dry my shoes before setting off the next day. Despite the state of the place I slept well. When I awoke the next morning and opened the door to check the weather I was met with a warm breeze that must have been at least ten degrees warmer than the inside of the Albergue. I should have left my shoes hanging outside as they were still drenched. As a result I was forced to use the boots again. At least the weather had improved. I headed off with my wet shoes and socks dangling off the side of my bag.

It was another unspectacular day on the road. I stopped around two o’clock in a church to eat lunch and change into my shoes. They were still a little damp but I had had enough of the boots by then. I then spent the remainder of the day descending into the town of Avilés. After months of waiting, I was one day away from Gijón and a long awaited reunion with Cristina.

I couldn’t sleep that night, I was too excited. I left as the sun was rising the next day and followed the river out of town. Avilés is industrial and it felt like I was walking in the north of England. After leaving Avilés I climbed up to the peak of a hill which marked the midpoint of the route that day. I stopped once to watch a neverending procession of cyclists go past. I couldn’t work out if it was a race or a New Year’s Eve jolly. There must have been over a thousand cyclists. When I finally reached the peak it was boiling. It must have been at least 15°c! Fortunately it was all downhill from there. I spent the next hour I snaking my way around an enormous power plant before entering Gijón through the western suburbs.

It took me another hour to get into the heart of the city itself. Then, after all the waiting, there she was. I was grinning from ear to ear. Struggling to hold back the tears of joy that had been building up over the course of the day. Being apart has been more difficult than I could have ever imagined. Apparently I smelt worse than a tramp…

For the first time since setting off I am about to put my feet up for a few days. I will set off again on the fifth of January where I will walk the first stage to Villaviciosa with Cristina before she returns to the south and her job. I still have over a thousand kilometres to go but for the first time since setting off, I am starting to believe that the end is in sight!

Happy New Year to everyone!

2 thoughts on “Week 18: Mi Vuelta a España”

  1. Happy New Year! So pleased you & Cristina got to spend a few days together ❤️ You are doing amazingly well & in such challenging conditions, hope the rain stays away xx

  2. Great to see you, and your feet, had a well-deserved rest, Mike. Having said that, if you’re still keen to keep up daily averages the poor little blighters have got some extra work ahead. Also, and it’s very easy for me to say this sitting comfortably at a bar, 1000km seems very doable for someone whose already skipped 3/4 of the perimeter of Spain. Good luck on the next section, mate!!


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