What an absolutely fantastic walk today, in every respect. It was long but when we finished, I felt I could have gone further, if not for the fact that it was already 4:30pm and we needed to bath, wash clothes, write the blog, eat dinner and get to sleep by 9:00pm. I guess there was also the fact that I had called and made reservations at where we are staying tonight in La Espina. Maybe the additional fact that the next town with a place to sleep is 12km away also makes a difference, but really, I did feel strong enough to carry on at least to the bar down the street.
The morning fog today was quite thick and reminded me that I did not say something in yesterday’s blog. Remember how we decided to stop in an earlier town than planned? We almost never do that but when we walked past the tourist booth in Grado, Melanie decided to ask if the town had a hotel – which I had just confidently assured her that it did not. Okay, I was wrong but so was Google, maps.me and booking.com. So we changed plans and stayed there. After checking in and having a shower, we heard an almighty crash. Looking out the window, we realised it was a tremendous thunderstorm. It was pouring and we never would have made it to our original targeted albergue without getting drenched. Melanie has a good guardian angel.
The paths and roads today we awesome. About 45% of the route was on dirt, rock or gravel and again, most of the rest was on quiet country lanes. For good long stretches, we were actually on the road or gravel path named the “Camino Primitivo”. Of course we were always on the Primitivo (well, almost always) but usually, that is just what we refer to the yellow arrowed marked trail, not the actual street name. I guess we are really on the right path.
Some graffiti caught my attention today. Usually, I don’t really like seeing it. This particular piece of work may have been done by a hoodlum, but he is an intelligent hoodlum. He wrote my favourite math equation of all time, which is due in equal parts to its simplicity and implausibility. It was considered by the person who originally proved it as mathematical proof of the existence of God. I didn’t need the proof but I love it anyway. If you like math and care to explore it further, Google “Euler’s Identity” or ask me over a beer. I’ll warn you though, I get pretty excited talking about it.
Back to the senses from yesterday, another sound that I will always associate with the Camino is not necessarily always a good one. We often hear the crunch, crunch, crunch of gravel under our feet while walking and I do like the rhythmic sound of it. We have walked one Camino where we had nothing but gravel all day which was a bit much but that is not normal. The problem is when we are not on gravel we hear the crunch. That usually means that there one less snail in the world. Even if he survived the trauma, he is at least homeless. There are lots of the little guys around northern Spain and I managed to avoid them until a few days ago when I got my first one. Crunch! Today, I saw dozens climbing a wall so I went over to get a closeup photo of one. Oops. Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! God, please forgive me.
Speaking of forgiveness, we were walking in the late morning and I was getting a little tired and needed food. At one stretch of the trail, we saw it heading upwards some more so I looked at the GPS on the iPhone. Hmmmm… we could cut out that hill and a few hundred meters of trail by walking about 200m out to the main road and then parallel to the trail for a kilometre. That’s exactly what we did and I felt a little guilty but I also felt better physically. Later in the day, after just emerging onto the road from the most beautiful of forest trails, a somewhat challenging one, we saw a pilgrim just in front of us. There was no way that he just walked our trail or we would have seen him. I looked at the GPS and figured that he just saved a kilometre by walking straight up the road from Salas. I was actually mad that he cheated. I sped up to walk past him just to let him know that he got caught. Fortunately, just before I caught up to him though, I realised my own hypocrisy as well as the fact that how he walks his Camino is none of my business. So I just turned, smiled and said the usual “Buen Camino”. I looked back at him though. He was having trouble. We asked if he was okay but he just nodded and said “Francais”. French, huh? We kept walking but we both kept looking back. Every twenty steps on the steep climb he needed to rest. Despite the chilly air, he was sweating profusely. We waited for him, offered some sweets for the sugar rush, then walked slowly with him the final two kilometres to the next albergue where his friends were waiting for him. I don’t like walking at someone else’s pace but this was my penance for being a mean hypocrite. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive who trespass against us”.
More about the trails for those following us, the climbs today were often steep and not nearly as steady as the Gronze website suggests. The Gronze site also understated the length of today’s walk by at least 2km. The hill out of Grado, both up and down provided some really stunning views of the countryside. That took up much on the first 8km. There is a highway being constructed across the path of today’s walk and, if you are walking this route soon, you may be tempted to shortcut a few kilometres by walking across the unfinished bridge over the Rio Narcea valley. Don’t do that though. There are workers that may be on the bridge on the other side and they will just send you back; you will miss a slippery, rocky descent down to a major road and then the 1km along side it; you will miss the grouchy barmaid in Cornellana; you will miss the sad and abandoned 11th century Monastery de San Salvador and its attached albergue; you will miss the steep climb to Sobrerriba… Actually, maybe it’s better to try your luck crossing the bridge.
Most of the way from Cornellana to Salas are beautiful dirt (and today, muddy) trails. Salas looked like a boring modern town until we peeked inside the ancient church and walked through the doorway to the old 12th century castle. The trails up the mountain behind Salas were the highlight of the day. They were climbing the whole way, mostly gradually but occasionally quiet steep. They were on dirt and small rocks and covered by the forest about 5km. The final section still had some climbs up to near the windmills but then it was fairly flat into La Espina.
We are staying in the delightful rooms above the Dakar Restaurant. For 30€, we got a decent sized room with a double and single bed in it and a bathroom that is larger than our last two bathrooms combined. A menu del dia dinner cost us another €9 each. The hosts are very friendly and helpful too.
That’s enough for tonight. Manchester United are winning and we’re hoping it stays that way. Peace y’all.