We had another strong and lovely walk today so all is good. We kind of regretted leaving Unquera as it turned out to be a very good place for us. Not only did we find many things we needed, we stayed in a very good and inexpensive hotel and we had a very good, but different dinner last night.
I don’t recall the name of the restaurant we ate at last night but it was the closest one to the bridge. When we went in and asked if it was possible to eat dinner early (7:30pm IS early in Spain), the little old woman who runs the place says “Por supuesto!” (Of course). Of course, after that, everything that we asked for was not available but we eventually found something she had in stock for the main dish. For the appetiser, she stopped us from guessing what she had by directly addressing it, “You eat ‘Judias’ (a bean salad) because that’s what I have.” She also came over to sit and chat with us as we ate.
We left the hotel late this morning because they served a light breakfast at 7:30am. Being as cheap as I am, it didn’t make sense to start the walk and look for a place with food while the hotel breakfast was free. The hotel owner really made sure that we were comfortable and happy before leaving.
Finally on to the walk, after crossing the small bridge to Asturias, we immediately started climbing the steep 120m into Colombres. I’m happy we did this in the cool morning at the start of the day rather than in the hot sun at the end of yesterday’s long walk. The climb and all through the village was on a dedicated flagstone walking path.
Near the top of the climb, just before entering the village, we saw an old man going into the small religious shrine through its grill door. He emerged and locked the grill just before we got to it. We smiled and greeted him and he happily started chatting away. He asked if we were going all the way to Santiago and also where we started. He then pointed out the sign that said we had 427km to go on the Norte Camino and also said that he had something to show us in the shrine. He unlocked the grill and meekly pointed to a statue of Mary before grabbing one of the three unlit prayer candles and suggested that he light it for me for he long journey. Before he finished his sentence, and long before I was able to translate it, he already had his lighter out and working. Ka-ching! This was going to cost me a couple of euros. While I fished around in my pocket, he got a little greedier. In the same motion that he put my candle on the little altar, he grabbed another and stared to light it telling Melanie that this one was special for her. Ka-ching! Another couple of euros! This guy is gooood! He actually counted the money that I “donated” before shrugging and closing the grill doors. Melanie and I walked away chuckling at ourselves for falling for an old gypsy trick. Ten meters down the path, I tuned around to have one last look and the old guy was opening the gate again, we assumed to blow out the candles and get ready for the next pilgrims. You have to love enterprise!
After Colombres, we must have been still talking about the old guy at the shrine because we missed the arrows telling us to turn onto a path. We kept walking merrily down the road until we got to the petrol station at the A-8 Autovía. Fortunately, there was a Camino arrow there telling us to make a U-turn and cross the highway on a bridge about 350m back up the service road. Oops.
Back on the route, we walked parallel to a trunk road for a bit before getting on a nice dirt path down a hill under the A-8, crossing an old bridge over a stream then climbing a bit through forest back to the coastal trunk road. Here is where we messed up again and I blame the old guy at the shrine. Leaving the forest trail, we were supposed to walk about 200m on the shoulder of the trunk road before crossing it and heading out to supposedly gorgeous paths overlooking the sea. When we got to the road, we were admiring the yellow line they painted down the side, to lead pilgrims. They had painted a shell every 20m or so so that we would know it was for the Camino and not some random road marking. We followed that for 500m, looking the whole time for the place we were supposed to cross the street and go to the coast. By the time I figured out that we obviously missed the trail, we decided to keep following the yellow line until there was another entrance to the coast, over the railway line.
It was 1km past where we should have gotten on the good paths but it was better late than never. The walk along the coast was certainly stunning at times and we passed many cave entrances, cows and even a malfunctioning blow hole. What was funny though is that we couldn’t always see the coast on this “coastal” alternative route. The gravel and dirt trails made it worthwhile anyway. I don’t understand how some people would have chosen the apparently “official” route of just walking along the road shoulder for so many miles.
In Pendueles, we stopped for a shared jamon bocadillo (ham on French bread) and Kas de Limon (lemon soda which is petrol for my Caminos). We met a Spanish lady there walking the Camino with her dog. Two other young Europeans also arrived, just as we left. Shortly after lunch we also met up with two young German woman who we met in Guemes. One of them was the one we found wandering around looking for the ferry to Santander.
Our final drink / pee stop for the day was in a Esther’s Bar in Andrín. I only remember the name of the bar because it was advertised on so many trees and posts before the town. Normally, I would be loathe to stop in a place that litters the trail with adverts but this was the only bar open before Llanes. In addition to the dog lady and the two German girls, also at the bar were two German men and three Spaniards. Sometimes I think that Spain’s whole economy is based on pilgrims.
Finally, after the biggest of today’s climbs, we followed the Spaniards in taking the direct route to Llanes through the interesting village of Cue. We saw no need to head back down to the A-8 again. This saved 900m but we were ready to get a shower and rest. The town of Cue looks cool for the architecture of their houses is very cool but the best part of the village is that the original street plan used a bowl spaghetti as a guide to how to connect all the streets.
We arrived at the Hotel Puerto Rico at exactly 4:00pm. As much as we loved Unquera as a pilgrim friendly town, the arrival at the hotel announced that we were not going to like Llanes. First, I should say that our room is fantastic and at €44 for two is a great bargain. We are on the top floor and have a balcony overlooking the small boat harbour. Unfortunately, we took an immediate dislike to the manager of the small hotel. He was rough from the word “ir”. (that’s a Spanish joke). Normally when we check in, we have to produce a passport. Mine is easily at hand that is normally enough. Occasionally they say they need both passports but Melanie’s is always packed in her backpack and hard to reach. Every time a hotel front desk needs to see her’s, they quickly say, “No problem; bring it down later”. This guy, however, snarled back that he wanted it right away. Also, I went to pay the bill in cash but he would not accept anything but exact change. We asked for a stamp for our credencials and he suggested that we go to the tourist information booth. We forgot to get the wi-fi password but we could not ask him again later because he closed up reception and went home after we arrived. He did leave his phone number in case of emergency but we found it easier just to ask another guest. One last hotel issues was the room key. They don’t want you accidentally walking off with this thing. The keychain is connected to a block of wood that probably weighs 1kg.
At dinner, we wanted to eat early if possible but 8:00pm dinners are early enough for Spaniards. Service was very slow as the place soon got very crowded. We (I) wanted to be finished by 9:00pm to watch the Celta Vigo vs Manchester United game. I don’t think there is a word for “hurry up” in Spanish. It wouldn’t work anyway. We finally got out of the restaurant at 9:30pm. They had a television on there but not showing the Importent game. We rushed back to the hotel and it’s not on here either. I don’t like this town. Nothing works right.
We are happy with the walk though and I saw on the internet that ManU is up 1-0 over the Spanish side. That makes me even happier. Peace y’all.