02/01/23 – 08/01/23 125 km
There are some things in life that you can’t plan. I still can’t believe how lucky I was, that after four months on the road, I was in exactly the same place as Cristina for New Year’s Eve! It really is remarkable when you think about it.
I didn’t walk for the first three days of Week 19. In fact, I did very little. It was bliss! Cristina and I spent the morning of January the 2nd in Gijón completing admin tasks that would get me through the final leg of the walk. The most important of which was picking up my fourth pair of trail runners. Hopefully they’ll be the last! I also made one final trip to the Post Office in the hope of lightening my pack. The previous day I had stripped out all items deemed surplus to requirements. I had to get the weight down as my back was really beginning to feel the strain.
Then, after a wonderful, if somewhat, brief stay in Gijón with Cristina, I moved into her aunt’s house for a couple of nights. I was treated like a king. It was a real privilege to be able to live with and learn more about her extended family. In particular listening to her abuelita (grandmother) recount stories of her youth. In fact it was an honour. These are the kind of moments that stay with you.
Unfortunately nothing in this walk lasts forever and it was soon time to move on… However, there was still one more treat in store for me. Cristina would accompany me on the first stage out of Gijón to Villaviciosa. We left late on the morning of Day 127. Neither of us wanted to leave. The walk out of town turned out to be a real trip down memory lane for her. First we walked past her primary and secondary schools. The latter, a stunning building known as La Laboral, is well worth researching (Google it – you won’t be disappointed).
Next our route took us past her aunt’s old house where she spent many a day playing with her cousins. Here I was treated to countless tales of her youth including an in depth analysis of all the treats she managed to obtain from the neighbours. It sounded idyllic.
Eventually we broke out of the city limits and dropped into a stunning valley with epic views. The sun was out and we felt blessed to be able to see Asturias in its full beauty. Having lived in Spain for seven years now, I am always grateful to see green! After a never ending descent into the valley, we stopped in a restaurant where we were drawn in by the cheap Menú. Needless to say I ate my body weight in food before repeating on Cristina’s behalf!
Full but content we left. Die to the incredibly slow service we had lost two hours, so were now against the clock for the remainder of the day. Despite this we couldn’t pick up the pace as the climb out the otherside of the valley was tough. When we finally reached the top we had to do it all again in order to get back down to sea level. The way down was far steeper and led us into increasingly muddier paths. We didn’t mind, we had spent the whole day chatting nonsense and it was brilliant. Finally as the sun was setting we made it into Villaviciosa, just in time to see the crowds gathering to watch the Cabalgata de Reyes parade.
It had been a lovely day and it felt different when we said goodbye. I guess we were both reassured by the feeling that the next time we would be together the walk would be over. As soon as Cristina left I was back to the grind. I forced myself to complete my chores before collapsing into bed.
I struggled to drag myself out of bed the next day. After a quick breakfast in a cafe I was back on the road and climbing out of the town heading east, criss-crossing the motorway before eventually descending towards Colunga. There I stopped for a quick lunch of empanada and a slice of pizza. As I left Colunga I rejoined the coast where I was treated to stunning views of the sea and surrounding mountains. The weather was stunning and I couldn’t believe how lucky I had been. I had never seen the sun so much in all of my previous visits to Asturias.
That evening I arrived in the small village of San Esteban de Leces where I would stay in the Albergue. After a cold shower I was on the road by 9am the next day. There was a light drizzle that soon made way to yet more glorious sunshine. The sunrise was stunning. By the time I arrived in Ribadesella the wind had picked up and I was blown across the bridge spanning the estuary. I followed a small gravel path for the rest of the morning, stopping once to eat lunch on a bench in Nueva.
Despite remaining dry, the wind whipping in off the sea was brutal and progress was slow. As night was drawing in, I struggled on through the villages of Celoriu and Poo before arriving in Llanes where I would sleep in a Pensíon. This would be the last bed available until Santander. It started to rain when I arrived.
The next morning it was chucking it down. I left wearing my waterproof gear for the first time in over a week. The path followed one of the old Nacional roads all morning and remarkably, despite the rain, my feet remained dry.
After a quick coffee stop in San Roque I climbed up to the stunning town of Colombres that marked the end of my time in Asturias. The village was built using the wealth of returning merchants from South America and some of the buildings are incredible. I didn’t stop to take photos as I had visited the town recently on a trip with Cristina.
The rain subsided briefly as I dropped down to the Rio Deva and crossed into Cantabria. The first town, Unquera, is famous for its corbatas, a sweet pastry in the shape of a bow tie. Here the locals confirmed that all of the Albergues were closed so I began to prepare myself for a night in the tent.
I headed out of town and started to climb towards Serdio where I had planned to camp next to an old church. It was raining hard again and apprehension was creeping in. Fortunately, I found an ideal spot just after I left Pesués. It was a small layby set back from the road that had a water fountain.
I hid under a bridge and waited for the rain to subside. It was still too early to set the tent up without attracting the attention of the Guardia Civil. Whilst I was waiting I met a young German who had been walking for seven years with his dog Frida. At around 5pm I pitched my tent and readied myself for a night of torrential rain. I just hoped that my new tent would perform better than the old one. I hadn’t tested it in conditions this bad since making the switch.
Just before nightfall the German returned and pitched up next to me. At least I wasn’t the only crazy one braving the elements that night. The forecast was ominous…