All posts by Nilanj

Day 29-30 – La Caridad to Ribadeo

6/8/17-6/9/17 – 25.9/16.1mi from La Caridad to Ribadeo, and then a “rest day” in Ribadeo.

The walk to Ribadeo was nice but long, our feet pounding the pavement a solid 16 miles. Aside from a nice lunch stop in Tapia, we walked through farms and along roads. There wasn’t all that much to the hike apart from great ocean views, which we know we won’t have once we leave Ribadeo and turn south toward Santiago. Once we crossed a loooong bridge over the river separating the states of Asturias and Galicia, we stopped briefly at the Ribadeo marina, and realized that the crew was hurting. The trail has taken its toll on a lot of knees and feet, and we resolved to take a “rest day” in Ribadeo to allow everyone to recover.

On the first evening, the boys slept mega early while the girls went out and got LIT. I heard stories of vodka after vodka after vodka! I heard stories of buying to-go magnum-sized wines at the bar in water bottles (because the stores were closed)! I heard stories of multiple hotel guests asking them to quiet down! I can’t believe the guys slept through it all, but that’s just how tired your body gets on this journey.

The next day we all went to a truly special place, the As Catedrais beach. It’s a remarkable place where, during low tide, the waters retreat so low that you can walk beneath all kinds of brilliant rock formations. On those rocks we could see all kinds of sea life including mussels, crabs, and lots of other shellfish. In the little pools that remained were families of brine shrimp and countless other creatures. You could also climb to the top of the rock formations for some great views and photo ops. It was a truly spectacular place. We all got a chance to go swimming, and had a great time as we got ready to say goodbye to the beautiful northern Spanish coast. Tomorrow, we turn south and inland for a final weeklong push to Santiago.

Of course our beach trip was not without its… interesting points. We took a train to get from Ribadeo to the beach, which is about 5 miles outside town. The train station was in the middle of nowhere. We exited the train to a 10-foot long platform surrounded by farms. There was nothing connecting it to the road, nearly a half-mile away! What the heck? And it got even better on our return journey. While waiting for the train to take us back to Ribadeo, we saw a real-life nature documentary unfold right in front of us: a bull decided to make amore to a cow. Right next to the train platform. The Camino continues to astonish.

Day 28 – Luarca to La Caridad

6/7/17 – 33.3km/20.7mi from Luarca to La Caridad, with about 1313m/4310ft of ascent and descent.

We knew today would be long so we got up and shuffled out early from Luarca. It was another day of mixed forest, farm, and road walking, with nothing really spectacular. We walked under a major highway and marveled at how high it was… until we had to climb a path that pretty much led all the way up to that highway. Ouch! Lotta climbs today.

Today we saw the companion to last week’s “Fabio Horse – “Guns n’ Ponies,” with lead guitarist “Slash Pony.” We had a great time putting that photo together! And of course we had yet another fun dinner (complete with lots of wine). We sang a few songs, and we had a movie night! We bunched up in one of the rooms of our albergue and watched “The Way” – as one does when on the Camino! Tomorrow we head to the beautiful town of Ribadeo, and we finally steer away from the coast for the final days to Santiago.

Because I don’t have much else to say about the day, I present to you a list of Camino euphemisms that David and I have developed. Basically, body parts are like car parts. Our feet are the tires, and a blister is a flat. Knees and hips are the shocks & suspension. The stomach is the fuel tank – don’t let it go empty! And bodily functions are like municipal departments – as if you’re playing SimCity. When you’re hungry it means the “power plant” is running on reserves. And then you’re mentally hazy, so the “control tower,” or your nervous system, is on strike. When you have to do a #1, you call the “fire department.” And its companion number two is “emptying the payload.” You gotta keep the payload crew happy – their job is mission critical!

Day 27 – Cadavedo to Luarca

6/6/17 – 26km/16.2mi overall from Cadavedo, to Luarca, with only 1-2 major climbs. The actual walk was fairly short, but I loved Luarca so much that I walked for several miles all around it for photos and sightseeing, bringing my daily mileage fairly high.

The day began with a leisurely exit from awesome Casa Carín – some of us needed the extra time after last night’s massive birthday celebration!! – and a peaceful walk through forest paths and small villages. Yesterday we added another member to our “Camigos Del Norte” crew, Anne, who joined us and brought the team back to 8, although of course our departed friends Katharina and Joe will be missed. Every now and then we got a glimpse of the sea, as the path remained close to it the entire day. We stopped for lunch at a little bar in Barcia where we met Arturo, a delightful (and talkative) local who told us about his previous Camino experiences, and much much more – and we understood about 20% of it… David and I are speaking and understanding Spanish well enough, but some people have thick accents!

An hour or so later we arrived in Luarca, about which I cannot say enough! Its town center and marina is nestled between 2 peninsulas that keep the ocean more or less at bay, but the town also constructed a major breakwater to ensure that its beach remains peaceful. We had lunch/dinner at Bar Cambaral, which is named for a legendary pirate who was captured in Luarca but then entered into forbidden love with the mayor’s daughter! It’s worth reading the full story here:…/isarevi/the-kiss-bridge-carmen. At the bar, what was legendary was the chicken fingers! Totally homemade, with an incredibly tangy sauce, and gluten free as they were breaded with corn flakes! Someone ordered them while Victoria and I got salads, a piece was shared, then another piece was shared, and next thing you knew we had 8 orders of the things poppin’ out of the kitchen. I couldn’t tell if the lady cooking them was flattered that we liked them so much, or exhausted from all that chicken-makin’.

After that I went strolling around Luarca as I mentioned, hoping for good photos and views. And it was awesome – I climbed up through the fishing village of Pescaderia for stunning views of the Ria Negra that snakes through town, as well as the 2 beaches nearby. I climbed back down, and then climbed up the other side, to go to the 1862 Luarca Lighthouse, and the Church of the White Virgin and the sea-facing Luarca Cemetery nearby. I was surprised to learn that Severo Ochoa de Albornoz, winner of the 1959 Nobel Prize for medicine, for his discoveries on the workings of RNA and DNA was buried there, alongside his wife! He couldn’t have asked for a better view into eternity. Finally I checked out the breakwaters and the marina again before heading back to our albergue to rest up for a 20-mile day tomorrow.

Day 26 – Soto de Luiña to Cadavedo

6/5/17 – 23.9km/14.9mi from Soto de Luiña to Cadavedo, with about 1524m/5000ft of total ascent & descent.

Today was technically shorter and had less climbing and descent than yesterday. But, every climb and drop was super steep. As a beloved character from “Rick and Morty” would say, “ooooooooo-weeeeeee” – it was tough!

Today we were sometimes on roads alongside quaint villages, and sometimes on beautiful wooded and fragrant paths. As soon as the path left the road, we had steep descents, all the way down to sea level, and then all the way back up again. I wound up doing one more of these than the others – I stayed a bit at the bar where we had breakfast, and told the others to head out and that I would catch up. I left about 20 minutes later, and fully expected to see them either in the next town, or after a few hours. But as it turned out, I took one of those steep drop & climbs while they took the road. As I came up from the climb, next thing I knew, I was surprised to see Keith and David! When the others arrived, I told them I teleported. Camino shortcut! We also came to a beautiful beach called the Playa de Silencio – its name possibly because of the natural stone formations breaking the waves well before the beach, making it a blissfully quiet place to sit and contemplate.

Later in the day, we ran into our Italian friend Giovanni, who we have been seeing almost every day for the last week or so. Turns out tomorrow is his 69th birthday – so we made a “peregrino promise” to celebrate well with him. The town we stayed in, Cadavedo, was small with not much to do. But our albergue, Casa Carín, was fantastic! Everyone got double rooms, and we had a massive kitchen. We took advantage of it by getting together to make a huge dinner with a caprese salad, brown rice, sautéed spinach and veggies, chimichurri chicken, and apples with Nutella for dessert. Oh and of course, at least 14 bottles of wine meant Giovanni’s 69th was a smash(ed) hit. It was a truly memorable day!

Day 25 – Muros de Nalon to Soto de Luiña

6/4/17 – 25.9km/16.1mi from Muros de Nalón to Soto de Luiña, with about 1700m/5577ft of total ascent & descent.

After yesterday’s rain festival, today was one of the loveliest days we’ve had on the entire trip. Sunny but not too hot, great views, beautiful paths, and manageable ups and downs. Muros de Nalón’s claim to fame is a centuries-old wall which we stopped to admire on the way out of town. And because the “official route” from Muros de Nalon to our destination, Soto de Luiña, is fairly short, we added on a few miles by taking a detour to a seaside town called Cudillero. And oh boy what a treat. It was beautiful, opening up gradually in front of us as we navigated narrow spiraling streets slowly but surely downhill, until they revealed an absolutely gorgeous marina. We weren’t the only ones who thought so – the town was packed with Spanish tourists, out for a Sunday jaunt. We stopped there for lunch and saw something curious while seated: dozens and dozens of people with greyhounds. It felt like the set of a bus commercial. After speculating for a while on what the greyhound convention was all about, we finished our lunch and moved onward, and then saw the reason – a dog show! As we walked by, it was the turn of miniature-sized dogs to be shown to the crowd. Too bad, it would’ve been fun to see the greyhounds in action! Not to be outdone by dogs, Felines played their part today too – on the way out of tiny El Pito, we saw a literal cathouse. An old abandoned house had literally dozens of cats living in it.

The rest of the day took us up and down several times through fragrant forests, on just beautiful paths. One thing I have absolutely been loving about this Camino is the sweet smells of eucalyptus, jasmine, rosebushes, and so many others. Sure, we’ve passed a few farms with strong “fertilizer” smells, but “stop and smell the roses” really means something here.

After one long and final downhill, we arrived in Soto de Luiña. Again I did a bit of yoga, which I’m finding truly helpful for muscles and joints – thankfully, I haven’t had any real issues yet, and I believe the daily stretching and yoga is a reason. Afterwards, take a guess! games, wine, and a great dinner!

Day 24 – Avilés to Muros de Nalon

6/3/17 – 25.9km/16.1mi from Avilés to Muros de Nalón

Our larger group stayed in different places last night so today Team Vegas and Wooju headed out early while David, Keith and I brought up the rear. We woke up and prepared for a full day of rain – but at least that allowed me to put on my ridiculous new pink poncho, which I lovingly named “Big Pink.”

There were some beautiful things to see today, even though the visibility was quite low. On the way out of Aviles, we passed the Cathedral, which had its doors open with a clear view of the altar within. As we headed out of the city, it started completely pouring on us. David and I both tried fashioning makeshift gaiters (they go over your ankles to keep boots from getting wet) from first aid tape and plastic wrap. They worked OK, but they made us look like low-budget MacGyvers. In the end, water always wins. We had several stops to change socks – you never want to risk blisters on a rainy day – including an Irish pub where we took a picture in our nostalgia for Joe. Other than that it was just one long, wet, slog all the way to where we were staying, except for a few nice views as we busted out of forests and saw pretty towns like El Castillo

Our albergue in Muros de Nalon, Casa Carmina, was both beautiful and delightful. The owner inherited it from her mother and converted it into one of the absolute nicest albergues on the whole trail. I did some relaxing yoga after arriving, then spent the evening talking to peregrinos and locals alike – aided of course by wine!

Day 23 – Gijón to Aviles

6/2/17 – 30km/18.6mi from Gijón to Avilés.

Today had one big climb and was otherwise flat but relatively ugly walking through industrial and suburban areas. On the Camino Francès in 2014, The entrances to cities were ugly and industrial. On this one, almost every time we entered a city, it’s been to magnificent views of it from above, but through either nondescript or ugly industrial areas as we exited. Leaving Gijòn was no different – factories and smokestacks. I didn’t even really take too many photos. And, Keith and I both realized at our morning coffee break that we left some stuff behind in last night’s hotel, so we had to turn back. He and I were about an hour or two behind everybody else today.

After we exited the city, there was a short period of pretty views high up in a forest. We passed by an ancient burial mound, and through a few nice villages. But then I saw (and smelled) the complex for “FertIberia,” one of the EU’s major fertilizer and farm chemical companies. The next 4 or so miles were accompanied by an unappetizing scent of fertilizer plant after Smokestack after chemical smell after coal-fired power plant. I think a full pack of Camels would have been better on my lungs than that hour plus of walking through that.

Once we got close to Aviles, things took a turn for the better. We walked through a nice green riverside path before getting to the municipal albergue where Keith and I got cleaned up after a hot and dirty day. Then we met David and Team Vegas for a drink, then had a hearty dinner, and enjoyed the ambience of the old city on a Friday night. There was a phone booth in Avilés with an advertisement on it that basically gave me the impression that if I used it, I could speak to Tyrion Lannister. That was a bald-faced lie. OK, a bearded-faced lie.

We couldn’t enjoy the Friday nightlife too long, as we had a 10pm curfew at our albergue! So we had to zip back home before getting shut out! With a 100% forecast for all-day rain tomorrow, we fell asleep dreading the morning.

Day 22 – Deva to Gijón

6/1/17 – 7.8km/4.7mi from Deva to Gijón, short and simple!

Today was pretty much a “rest day” even though we had some walking to do. We all slept in, had a leisurely breakfast at the awesome restaurant at Camping Deva-Gijon, and set off toward Gijón also at a leisurely pace. After a nice entry alongside a riverbank, we got to the city’s long crescent shaped beach, where David and Serrina spotted… a Burger King. And next thing you know, almost everyone stopped in to get something at the “Home of the Whopper.” All our take-out bags had the words SABOR SABOR SABOR! (flavor flavor flavor!) written on them. No matter how good the food is here in Spain, sometimes you just want a taste of home. Otherwise there wasn’t much to the day. We relaxed, we walked around, we checked out the city’s main seafront park, cooked dinner, and I crashed well early. My body needed that. Sometimes – as I learned on the last Camino – you actually gotta give yourself some rest on “rest days.”

Day 21 – Villaviciosa to Deva

5/31/17 – 24.1km/15mi from Villaviciosa, to Deva, with about 1340m/4396 feet of climbing and descent.

After yesterday’s epic 28 mile hike, today was supposed to be mercifully shorter at just around 15 miles. But when you throw in Herculean climbs, it was no easy day! In addition, let’s just say I celebrated my birthday *well* yesterday, and that the first two hours of the day were what one might call a beautiful struggle.

The day was beautiful too, however. Lower areas featured farms and fun conversations with farmers, as well as excitable dogs who wanted to escort us along the path. Higher areas after the 2 huge climbs of the day featured fragrant eucalyptus forests and nice cool breezes. I cannot describe to you how great that smell is, it’s marvelous.

After a fairly tough day, we stopped for the night at Camping Deva-Gijon, a massive complex of tent fields, bungalows, a soccer field, playgrounds, a pool, and a “Main Street” with a game room, “social hall,” and a laundromat… which led to one highlight of the day. It was a sunny day, so after we washed clothes, we hung everything out to dry instead of using a dryer. But since all the drying racks were taken, we used a chain-link fence to hang up 5 people’s sets of clothes. The result was super classy.

Day 20 – Ribadesella to Villaviciosa

5/30/17 – 45km/28mi(!!!) from Ribadesella to Villaviciosa.

WOW – we just hiked 28 miles!! Some people’s trackers said 24, 26, but I’m sticking with my calculations. We set off at about 7:15am and got to where we were staying just around 6:45pm. 11 and a half hours on our feet! And the best part – it felt good! While I changed socks frequently because my feet were “running hot,” I felt strong at the end and even triumphantly jogged a couple hundred yards as we entered Villaviciosa. Today was my birthday, and I felt truly special receiving birthday wishes from our entire crew, all day long.

The day was great. It began with a beautiful exit from Ribadesella and through rolling hills until we had breakfast at La Tiendina de Vega in a village called, you guessed it, Vega. A couple houses on the town had great murals, and I continue to be impressed by all the artwork and small details that one might miss when just driving through places like this. There, we also met a huge group of Irish travelers – a few students and some of their relatives – on a university trip led by the college chaplain. He and his wife had always wanted to hike the Camino, but never found the time. Then in 2001 they suggested that, given its religious significance, it might be an interesting trip for students. So, they’ve gotten to do a 7-10 day Camino every year for the last 16 years – AND be paid for it! I gotta figure out a scheme like that. Anyway they learned it was my birthday and they all burst out into song, which was awesome!

A few hours later, after seaside hiking with beautiful views, we broke for lunch at a great beachfront bar right outside La Isla. But then came an endless stretch that brought our day from 12 to 28 miles. Whooo it was long! But one thing that’s absolutely amazing about the Camino, is you often discover strength you didn’t know you had. On the trail it’s boosts of physical strength that give you the juice you need to trudge onward a few miles more. Once you get home you realize just how much you can accomplish if you just commit and persevere. We often say “the Camino provides,” as you somehow find what you need at opportune moments. But the Camino surely strengthens also. And David and I felt that boost towards the end of the day. We high-fived each other as we arrived into Villaviciosa, proud of one massive accomplishment.

And of course, the crew took me out for a great birthday. We decided to call it a night after ending up at a bar where a very intoxicated local fellow offered to bring us all to his home for an “after party.” “I promise, my wife won’t mind!” We diplomatically turned him down.

There was one highlight of the day that was as memorable as it was awful, and as the saying goes, it was “smelt before it was dealt.” We smelled what had to be manure or fertilizer but didn’t know where it was coming from. Shortly after, a truck whizzed past us, turned into an empty plowed field, and literally sprayed gallons of poop all over. What a scene!