DAYS 4 & 5. The Train and Rain in Spain.
After yesterday’s morning start in the mountain mist and rain, today the sun was back! So were the hills! Our hardest day yet. Eventually we found a bar for elevenses, coffee and cake. No puncture this time for Ewa, who was really struggling up the hills. But a bit of metal work to a binding rear mudguard, and her power immediately returned!
Next stop, lunch at Colunga’s Playa de la Griega. A beautiful sandy bay for a bit of sun bathing, and Irena and Yoshi even braved the cold, Biscay brine.
Then we had a picnic in the park, before getting back on the road towards Gijon.
The Camino now following winding country lanes, more steep ups and downs through scenic woods and fields. Eventually we came to a main road and a big sign showing that we were indeed on the right road towards our final destination at Santiago.
But of course this flat bit did not go on very far, before there was a long high speed descent into yet another river valley at Villaviciosa. Time for coffees and coke (bottles, not white powder!) at a riverside café, before – you guessed it – a very long, very hard climb, back to the high ground. Another 30k and more hills later, we arrived in the early evening at the city port of Gijon. We stopped to ask the locals where the pilgrim hostel was. But could we find this hostel?
First we were directed this way, then that way, then up there or was it down there. Twilight came and darkness fell and still we were scooting round, until finally, we found some one who did know where it was. Ask a policeman!
The hostel was tucked away at the back of the police station. It was originally a monastery, with a stout, metal studied door. Not sure if that had been to keep the monks in or the Spanish ladies out. But Ewa pulled the metal chain beside the door and we heard a real brass bell ring in the distance. After a long wait we heard heavy footsteps approaching the door, followed by a clunk as a small iron barred hatch opened so that we could just make out a face. No welcoming smile, just in Spanish “we’re full up” or words to that effect. But just before the hatch was slammed shut, Ewa gave a big smile, showed a bit of suntanned thigh and the door was unbolted so we all stumbled in!
Actually they were full up, having a big party of crippled children staying on a summer holiday. And once inside we were very well catered for – and all for only 3 euros each. for the night!
The area from Gijon and beyond to the next city, Aviles, is heavily industrialised. So come morn, we took a train, west, along the coast and then cycled on to the small fishing port of Cudillero. Here, in the harbour we had a rather expensive meal. With more Asturian cider!
But why do I keep mentioning Asturian cider?
Not only because it is a very tasty drink, but due to a long tradition that enhances it’s special and unique flavour.
The way in which cider is poured in Asturias is a true art form. To pour cider the traditional Asturian way, hold the bottle high above your head with one hand and the glass in your other hand near your knees – try to get the maximum distance between the two. Then start pouring! Like this!
After pouring several glasses of the flavoursome Asturian cider down our throats and like the waiter, not spilling a drop, we went to explore a bit of this old Spanish fishing harbour. The Spanish love fish – all sorts of fish. So the ladies wanted to see what culinary delights were on offer. All I can say is that it was a bit more than my local Chinese fish and chippy in Purley!
And then the sunshine changed to rain, lots of it!
It is said, that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains – not true. It buckets down mainly on the hills! So after more wooded hills and steep sided valleys, we arrived, very wet and bedraggled, at Pension Prado. Here we opted for the special pilgrims’ accommodation in the “horreos”.
An horreos is an ancient, traditional barn, built up on stone pillars. Very twee! And very cheap!!! We could now hang up our wet clothes to dry, rest, relax, eat and drink more Asturian cider, and sleep like babes until the sun came back in the morning.
It was this, our memorable, shared night in the horreos, that in hindsight for me turned out to be truly memorable! The evening meal was taken in the restaurant of the Pension Prado. And as I have earlier mentioned, the Spanish do love their fish. So Ewa, Irena and Yoshi had freshly caught fish. Instead I chose Lomo de Cerdo from the menu, only because “cerdo” was the only word that I understood. Cerdo being pork and I am a carnivore! But the effects of this choice did not arise until later! So read, in next month’s Gazette, Part 3 of our expedition into the unknown!