Day 17 – Cuerres to La Isla, 24.0km, 8.0hrs, 6 May

A lovely walk today in the hot, hot sun.  I’m still looking at the good side!  Today’s walk was about 40% on dirt, mud, gravel or rocky paths and most of the rest was on quiet country lanes except a nervy 1km along the side of the winding and shoulderless N-632 trunk road and the final 1.5km on the sidewalk along a later stretch of the same road.  There were beach views and some forest walking but, in general, it was a good day made challenging by the sun and the late start.

The start was late today because our hosts at Villalen offered us breakfast.  At 6€ for each of us, I thought it was going to be too costly for coffee, juice and toast – a normal Spanish breakfast.  The problem was that if we didn’t have it there, it would be 7km before we could get coffee in Melanie and that wouldn’t do.  They said they could have it ready an hour earlier than normal so we settled on a 7:30am breakfast, better late than never.  I was wrong about the value of the meal though.  A plate of three fried eggs with ham was followed by crepes, huge croissants, toast and delicious homemade marmalade (that made us eat all the toast), all washed down with fresh-squeezed orange juice and, sadly, not so good coffee for Melanie.  We didn’t roll out of there until 8:30am.  That’s not a time I usually associate with a Camino start.

No one else we knew would have been staying in Nueva or Cuerres.  All our fellow pilgrims walked all the way to Ribadesella yesterday for a long 31.4km day.  We try to avoid those type of days but it now means that the people we knew had a 7.2km head start on us this morning as well as a likely 90 minute earlier departure time.  We didn’t see a single pilgrim while walking today because of that.  Most of our friends probably did a long stage again today so I bet they are in Sebrayo by now, 15km in front of us.  We will have to decide in three days whether we continue on the Camino del Norte or split off to the Camino Primitivo.  We are definitely walking to Oviedo to see that city and we’ll make the choice there.  Some friends may be taking a different path as early as tomorrow to stay on the Norte, bypassing Oviedo.  It’s sad but maybe we will meet them again in Santiago.

Today’s walk, once we got out of the hamlet of Cuerres had a good 2.7km stretch of dirt path trails through farm land.  Normally, that’s a nice trail but with yesterday’s rains, a fair bit of the path was muddy, covered with puddles, or in a few places, completely flooded.  We managed to negotiate all that though without a lot of difficulty.  The rest of the way to Ribadesella was along extremely quiet country lanes.

One of the benefits of walking into a bigger town like Ribadesella after 7kms and a late start is that all the stores are open when you get there.  I was still desperately trying to replace my lost cap.  We followed the arrows into this cool old fisherman’s village to the church, as directed, even though that meant doubling back to get to the bridge we needed to cross to get out of town.  The church was closed but after a quick whispered prayer, we headed to the nearest bar for a pee break and lemon soda.  I told Melanie to rest for a moment while I had a quick look up and down a nearby street for a sports store.  Guess what I found in a store about 20m from the place we were sitting?  I’m happy now!  (Okay, happier)

Leaving Ribadesella, a new route took us along a newly beautified river park on a nice boardwalk.  Sadly, that only lasted about 600m then we had about 3.5km of street walking including a steep hill into Abéu. Another kilometre of nice trails through a green valley got us to the hamlet of Vega where no one has yet thought to start a bar in case pilgrims need a Kas de Limon or a pee break.

We finally did find a place for a soda and something to eat.  By that time we were ready for food.  Our plan was to share a bocadillo sandwich but the restaurant Güeyu Mar didn’t sell them.  They suggested a hamburger with fries.  Were we still in Spain?  With no other bar in sight,  we threw caution to the wind and ordered that to share.  Several other people in the place said that we would not be disappointed.  Really?? I’m American and burgers and fries are kind of our specialty.  It turned out that the fries were incredibly good (10 out of 10 marks) and the burger was a solid 9/10.  I would have given that a 10 too but they still don’t have the bun right.  At least it wasn’t served on French bread like last time.  We then had a 1.5km stretch overlooking Vega beach before going through the hamlet of Berbes and hitting that ugly section on walking along the side of the N-632.  There was no road shoulder but there were many blind curves so we needed to be on our toes at all times.  

Some of the best trails came after the highway but started with another steep climb.  These trails on grass, dirt or hard sand went through forest, along beaches and through farmland overlooking the sea.  Again, some of the views were breathtaking.

Finally we ended the day with a boring 1.5km walk up the N-632 but this time it was straight as an arrow and had a dedicated sidewalk.  The only thing of interest on this section was what went on in our imagination, trying to explain a random detour and some fresh but unofficial arrows.  For some reason, the official Camino route detours off the N-632 to a parallel road for about 250m. It didn’t make sense why they did that but next to the official shell sign telling us to detour, there are several slightly off colour yellow arrows painted, pointing us straight up the road and skipping the detour.  I bet Melanie that we would see a bar in that 250m and sure enough, just before where the official route rejoins the N-632, there was the Taberna de Peregrina.  Okay, you got us here, Mr. Bar Owner.  Why are you closed on a Saturday afternoon at 4:00pm???

We are staying at the Hotel La Isla.  For 40€, we have a nice room, wi-fi if we stand in the hall and hold my iPad up next to the router and a lovely hot shower as long as I hold the drooping shower head pointing towards me.  The closest restaurant is also 700m away.  It’s all good though.  
Peace y’all.

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