The Road to Santiago.

October 13, 2004

Photo of Llanes.

Colombres to Llanes

Despite the fact that the weather was nice, there were a couple of bad omens. When I asked at breakfast where was the camino to Llanes, the woman told me to go back down the mountain to la carretera (the highway). Well, there was no way that I was going back that way. The walk up the mountain was too hard to even think about going back down. Besides, my motto is never turn back.

I asked someone else and he sent me off in another direction. When I reached an intersection where a decision had to be made, I went into a tienda (shop) to ask which way was el camino. Niguin, alli en el otro lardo (Neither. It’s over there, on the other side.) So, I asked a fourth person and he said to take este calle (this street) and, within a few hundred meters, I would see la concha (the shell).

I found the shell icon but there was a problem with this shell. It was different than those that I had been following up until now. The shape of the shell in other sections of Spain looked like a real scallop, similar to the Shell Gas logo. These shells in the Asturias are different. The central spoke sticks out longer than the rest. To me this gives it a spearhead shape which I took to be the point of the arrow.
Photo of la concha.
La concha — which way?

I saw that the direction was pointing from whence I came. I was so confused. So I flagged down a police car and asked for directions. I was right in that I was wrong. The central spoke is not the central point of the icon. The hub of the shell is the indicator of the direction, which means that it’s pointing in the opposite direction. Very confusing. I suppose that it represents Santiago, as “all roads lead to Santiago.”

Once I realized how the system worked, I didn’t have much of a problem finding my way. The route kept changing, however. First is was an asphalt road, then it veered off to a footpath, only to eventually return back to asphalt. The guidebook called it el Camino Royal, which means the King’s Road. But this road wasn’t very regal. Maybe a few hundred years ago, yes. But now it’s a rocky, narrow horse trail that meandered through the woods. Since the weather was good, I didn’t mind the stroll under the chestnuts, elms, and sycamores. Had it been raining, the path would have been very slippery and difficult.

Photo of Camino Real.
Camino Real

At one point, the path came to a place were the eucalyptus trees had all been cut, trimmed, and stacked. In many parts of Spain, eucalyptus trees are planted on the sides of the mountains. I know that they are planted as a crop to harvest but I was never sure what the end purpose was. My question was answered when I reached the road and there was a truck parked with a full load of eucalyptus logs. When I asked ¿para madera? (for wood?), he replied no, papiel (no, paper).

Once, when the path was near the road and was on the edge of the sea, I saw a man in a wet suit dart across the road with a net in his hand. When I rounded the bend, he was sitting on the ground with a large sack in front of him. When he saw me, he jumped up, grabbed his sack, and started to head toward his car. Then I saw that there were actually two men there. When I asked what they were catching, they said percebes (goose neck barnacles). These are ugly-looking crustaceans, but supposedly, they taste good. They must, for those two to collect them illegally.

The path soon turned back to a farm road. I passed a lot of hórreos (small barns) which are small, one-room buildings on six-foot columns of stone or concrete to keep los ratónes (mice) and las ratas (rats) and other critters out of the corn. The corn is stored inside the hórreo. Around the outside of the building, on a small balcony, strings of beans are hung to dry.

In many areas where Spanish yuppies have replaced the farmers, hórreos are often spruced up to be a getaway, a den, or TV room.

Photo of yuppie horrero.
Yuppie horrero

Soon I was back on the highway with cars whizzing by. Fortunately, it was only for about 2 K when the cutoff for Llanes appeared. It was an easy walk into town and took only a couple of inquiries before I found the tourist bureau.

It was situated in an odd place — the watchtower of the old medieval wall, which once surrounded the city but now only remnants remain. The lady gave me a map and showed me where the albergue was — next to the train station — and the location of an Internet café.

She said the albergue was next to the train station? Well, it was the train station, or at least the old one. (I don’t know where the present station, if any, is located). The sign said closed until 6:00 p.m., so I decided to find the Internet café and answer my email. After six, I started back to the albergue. The shops were reopening after siesta time and I noticed one sporting goods store that had warm-up jackets similar to the one I lost in Gernika. I wondered if they had my size. Wonder of wonders, they did and I bought a nice one for only 25 euros. I figured I would need it by the time I got to Galicia with its rainy weather.

I was quite pleased with my find and decided to wear it back to the albergue. On the way, as if on cue, it began to rain.

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