The Road to Santiago.

October 12, 2004

Photo of San Vicente Market.
San Vicente Market

San Vicente de la Barquera to Colombres

On my way out of the town I stopped at a small grocery store to buy some mandarin oranges in case I needed to raise my blood glucose. I was amazed at the size and quality of the lettuce heads and the other vegetables. I commented to the clerk and she told me they were from her own farm and that it was all organically grown with no pesticides. She said that most people don’t want to pay for quality food. They want to pay the same as for lettuce which tastes plastico (plastic).

Later, as I climbed up the hill and looked back with a little sadness, I wondered if I would ever again get back to San Vicente de la Barquera.

Although the sun was out, the wind made me quite chilly, so just about noon I stopped at a bar to get a cup of hot coffee and drag my sweater out of the pack. Inside the customers were glued to the television set.

It was a live presentation in Madrid: Columbus Day, a national holiday, and the king was reviewing the troops. I was shocked at his appearance. He looked old and tired, especially in comparison to his son who was standing next to him. I remember when Juan Carlos was crowned. To me, he was young and vibrant, kind of like his son is now. In fact, I think that he was the same age as don Filipe is now. The Crown Prince looks like a young Mel Gibson, only he’s about 6 feet, 6 inches. That don Filipe is so much taller than don Juan Carlos only made the king look that much older.

After the troops had passed, there was a flyby of six jets. As they passed overhead, the exhaust from the jets was suddenly colored. Each of the outer jets emitted red smoke while the inner pair emitted yellow. The result was a giant representation of the Spanish flag — their version of red white and blue.

I soon came to a ria (fjord) that cut through the mountain to the sea. I was tempted to take the coast road around the headland, which goes along some of the nicest beaches on the coast. They are small coves with smooth white sand. The beaches have to be reached by rough gravel roads; consequently, they are practically unpopulated. Since I was on foot and didn’t know how much it would add to my day’s trek, I kept to the high road.

Eventually I came to the town of Unquera which, according to the guidebook, has an albergue. But the town had an industrial smell (creosote, I think) and staying there was out of the question for me. The next town with an albergue was Colombres, only 1.5K away.

Photo of bridge over the river Deva.
Rio Deva border

So I crossed the bridge over the river Deva, left Cantabria, and entered the Asturias. I followed the signs to Columbres. But it was the hardest 1.5 K. I had to walk in a while. It was a very steep road that wound back and forth in tight hairpin curves. Since there was very little edge to the road — the mountain to one side and a steep drop on the other, I kept crossing from side to side to place my self in a position of maximum view to the oncoming traffic. When I reached the crest of the hill, I came to a nice little park with picnic benches. Since I didn’t know how much further it was to the town, I stopped to rest a while. When I tested my blood, the glucose reading was 86 – pretty low for me. I ate a couple of mandarin oranges and waited about 15 minutes for the citrose to kick in.

What most people don’t realize is that citrus fruits have citrose and other fruits have fructose, both of which are types of sugar and, like table sugar, should be used sparingly. I have to laugh when I see a mother take a soft drink away from her child and replace it with a “juice” box, thinking that she is doing the right thing for her child. Kids who drink so much juice could become future diabetics.

When I started walking again, I discovered that I only had to go another 200 yards to reach Columbres. I knew that I was there when I looked to my left and saw la Quinta Guadalupe, the most famous of the houses known as casas Indianos (houses of the Indianas). The Indianas were local Spaniards who immigrated to Cuba and other Latin America countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to seek their fortunes. After making it big in the New World, they returned to their homeland and built ostentatious houses to let their neighbors know of their success. There are many casas Indianos in the Asturias.

Quinta Guadalupe

There wasn’t a pilgrim albergue in Columbres, but there was El Cantu, a private tourist albergue, which offered inexpensive beds for outdoor sportsmen who spend the weekends or their vacations riding country trails, canoeing, backpacking, or whatever.

When I found the place, it was — altogether now — cerrado. I called the phone number posted on the door and a man said abrimos a los cuatro (we open at four). So I decided to go and have my meal of the day. I returned at 4:15 and no hospitalero.  By 4:45, I was getting tired so I stretched out on the grass to grab 40 winks.

Just about when I dozed off, a dozen or so motorcyclists pulled up — with very loud motors — to retrieve their belongings and head back to the city. So I decided to read a bit but couldn’t hold the book — my hand had cramped. When this happens, the tendon on my thumb tightens so much that my thumb crosses my palm and touches my little finger. It’s very painful and the only way to stop it is to clench my fist to prevent my thumb from crossing.

This is similar to people who have arthritis and their fingers distort or clench. I don’t have arthritis, but diabetes does affect the connective tissues. I often have carpel tunnel pain or numbness in my fingers. The result is that my fingers don’t have a lot of dexterity. I really sympathize with people who have arthritis.

Therefore, since I couldn’t read, I lay on the lawn watching the clouds and the jet trails. At one point, I saw a jet pass over. It was tiny and silver. I wondered if it was heading to the U.S.

Eventually the hospitalero’s son came and let me into a room of my own. After a hot shower, I began to feel a lot better.

Previous. Next.